Yesterday I decided to keep my tour of professional baseball parks going with a jaunt to Waldorf, Maryland, to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs host the Long Island Ducks. I’d been there before, and I knew this wasn’t exactly AAA, but it’s still nine men, nine innings, and an enjoyable day at the ballpark. This is the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball—you know, the one where you can “steal” first base on a wild pitch? (Actually I’m not sure whether you can still do that. Despite my suggestions from the stands the catchers never let one by.)
The “independent” Atlantic League has some kind of arrangement with Major League Baseball to act as a laboratory for potential rule changes. Stealing first base is only one. There’s also electronic balls and strike calls, 18-inch bases (as opposed to 15), and, among others, the “double hook,” where a team loses its DH when the starting pitcher is removed.
Most notable yesterday? Sixty-one feet six inches. Sixty-one feet six inches. Yup, as of two days ago the mound is now one foot back.
Does it make a difference?
Well, the first pitch of the game was a home run.
And the Ducks scored six before a Crab touched a bat.
But let me elaborate. That first pitch of the game was actually mine to catch, as I was the only fan sitting in right field. The ball happened to find concrete and bounded over my head and into the parking lot. Luckily there was another home run a few batters later and I picked up the ball off the grass. Thirty-nine years of watching games it was home run ball I ever caught. Well, “caught.” Ordinarily as an adult you give up a ball to a nearby kid, but the closest kid to me was about 100 yards away, sitting with a thousand other campers and teenage counselors. This was one of those 11 a.m. “Camp Day” start times. I was not about to make 999 young enemies, so I kept the ball. (For a further description, check out today’s offering at Math and Musings.)
The Ducks ended up winning the game 13-6, anecdotal evidence of a game tilted too far in favor of the hitter. Maybe 61 feet flat would be a good compromise.
Still though… nine men, nine innings, and an enjoyable day at the ballpark.