For as long as I can remember, and probably long before that, baseball has been a part of my life. I’ve played the game since I was four years old. I grew up watching it almost every day on TV, watching movies about the sport like “The Sandlot” and “Field of Dreams,” and I absolutely loved it. I became almost obsessed with it, always thinking about it, working as hard as I could to try and be the best baseball player I could be. This love didn’t form out of nothing, though. It was instilled in me since I was a baby from my parents.
My father also has a deep love for the game. He has taught me everything I know, pitched at the college level for Grand Canyon University and professionally in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) organizations. This is an obsession that goes back for many years, but the game that is beloved by way more people than just me and my family is shifting dramatically.
In the last year, the Major League Baseball (MLB) home run numbers have been unlike anything that we have ever seen before. So far this year, almost 6,300 home runs have been hit, and the number is still going up by large amounts daily. This is a ridiculous number, and to put that into perspective for you, according to the MLB, last year only 5,585 home runs were hit. If you go back to the steroid era, where drugged-up sluggers like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were in their prime, only 5,458 home runs were hit, which makes the average person wonder what happened. Why are these ridiculous numbers coming out of nowhere? Many people, including Cy Young, winner, and future hall-of-famer Justin Verlander believe the balls are “juiced” or were changed to fly farther than they once had. Verlander blamed the commissioner of changing the balls to create more offense, which would increase the “excitement” of the game. I, for one, think that is exactly what happened.
It does not seem like a coincidence to me that last year, Major League Baseball purchased Rawlings, the company that manufactures and provides the MLB with all of their baseballs, and out of nowhere, there is a huge spike in home runs. I have watched baseball almost every day this season and have watched these balls carry out of the ballpark unlike any way I have ever seen. Players will barely hit the ball and it seems to never fall. It became very apparent to me when I was watching the outfielders, trying to learn something for myself as an outfielder, and realized that long-tenured outfielders were misreading balls back and forth, which is not something that happens often or even at all with experienced professionals. Something is definitely up.
This has been an ongoing trend in professional baseball lately. People at the top have been trying to speed the game up or make it more exciting. They have implemented new things, like a pitch clock and limiting the amount of mound visits in an effort to eliminate long pauses to keep people’s attention. They have even suggested getting rid of extra innings altogether and instead to hold a home run derby between the teams. Proposals like this absolutely terrify me because, slowly, the game that I have loved forever is changing right before my eyes.
It is making the life of a MLB pitcher awful because former routine fly balls carry out of the ballpark, increasing their earned run average (ERA) and making it that much harder to keep their team in the game. It is also making pitchers’ duels increasingly rare, which is something that a lot of true baseball fans love to see, but perhaps the average viewer finds boring. The attempt to change the game and make the league more about the long ball might seem like a good idea for the highlight reels, but to me it’s like a slap in the face.
For someone as passionate as I am about the sport — not only the game, but the fans, the players and the culture — this really hits deep. I don’t like the way that the game is changing to create a more flashy and entertaining environment, and I really hate how it’s all for the sake of the MLB’s wallet. It seems like everything that I grew up loving is slowly being changed and taken away for the sake of viewership. If I had the choice of how to handle the matter, I wouldn’t make drastic rule changes at all. If somebody doesn’t like the sport, they don’t have to watch it, but at the end of the day, the decisions are always about the money.