Coppola: Back To The Future

By William Coppola: Contributor Bronx Chronicle

As I watched the Long Island Ducks doubleheader Friday night vs. the Lancaster Barnstormers that began the second half of their season in the Atlantic League, I looked for any sign of all the new rules effect on the game. The biggest question was going to be the calling of balls and strikes. Well unfortunately “TrackMan,” the device used to assist the home plate umpire, was not used last night and no information as to why was being made available. 

The first time it was used in league play, after its introduction at the ALPB Allstar game July 10th at Peoples Bank Park, home of the York Revolution, was in the first game of the second half in that stadium. It saw High Point Rockers pitching coach and former CY Young winner Frank Viola tossed in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes.

Viola later twittered, “‘Problem was was it trackman, or was it human strike zone?!  That was problem.  Who or what was in charge??  Major problem.”

In the two games at the Ducks park last night it was the normal slight disagreement on balls and strikes in the crowd. Dave Hagar of Amityville told me from the first batter, he could tell that the umpire was making the calls unassisted. Hagar being originally from Boston and a Red Sox fan made me question his judgment. He did say that, “The game will never be the same if this stuff is implemented at the Major league level.”

Ok I admit it, there are some smart Sox fans out there, some.

The fans got to see their first steal of first base in the top of the seventh inning in a tied game when Lancaster’s  Joey Terdoslavich on a 1-2 count, took off from home when the pitch went to the backstop. Officially it is ruled a fielders choice and I noted that in the box score they had it down as a walk.

Guess there will be some getting used to this stuff as we plod along with some of these new rules. 

Some fans I spoke to were in favor of some of the changes but questioned other new things. Ed Scott from Central Islip was in favor of anything that would speed up the game but questioned some things like starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Others like Jerry German and his wife Martha were miffed at the fact that the Ducks lost a game after said runner placed on second base in the top of an extra inning scored. 

Brett and Kathy Betke thought that some of these rule changes could actually lengthen the games, a concern shared by a number of fans. The rule changes to the game was not a concern as much as the length of the games to the fans I spoke to. 

Another thing that was confusing to some of the fans was the trips to the mound. There was confusion as to just what the rule is. Ed Scott wondered why the umpire always accompanied the catcher to the mound on a visit. I explained that no one could visit the mound unless it was for an injury or to remove the pitcher, and that the umpire had to make sure they didn’t talk about anything related to the batter.

Season ticket holder Chuck Vinciulla of Amityville thought that Ducks starter Pedro Beato got into trouble and said that, “No one was able to either give him advice on his mechanics or give him a chance to catch his breath!” Chuck feels that this will be the biggest impact on the way the game is played now. 

One thing that became obvious though was with the “Stealing” of first base. After seeing it for the first time, a number of fans were questioning why some of the Duck’s players were not running out of the box on numerous passed balls as the game went on. Some of the same fans who didn’t like that new rule were now beginning to embrace it. 

In 1954 , MLB said that the players could no longer leave their gloves on the field when they came to bat. They were totally against that new rule and wanted to revolt. After two months they weren’t talking about it anymore and had gotten used to bringing their gloves back to the dugout. 

Have a feeling that we will see the same thing here with any rule changes in baseball. Like a new stop sign in the neighborhood, people will just get used to it.  

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