Features & Entertainment

Mask Up: Batter Up

Corona virus has impacted everyone and everything this year, including the nation’s favorite pastime – baseball.  The regular season has now concluded after a few hiccups, and now is the time for playoff baseball. In the spring, there was a lot of debate whether or not players would even take the field.  The season was modified, but like everything else this year, nothing remained traditional.

The biggest, most noticeable, and most upsetting difference is that fans are not allowed to attend any games.  According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins says, “That would definitely be different.  It would be crazy. I love seeing them in the stands. I love when they’re there. I love playing in front of them. But I want to protect them, as well. I want to protect us as a team, I want to protect us as individuals.” 

Baseball without fans is like peanut butter without jelly.  The two things are naturally better together.  There will be no pregame tailgates, no rushing to find your seats, no autographs to be collected, no foul balls to be caught, and no seventh-inning stretch.  Taken for granted before, these activities are sorely missed now.

I had a coming of age moment after sitting home for several months with little to do.  I hopped in the car and drove to Ace Hardware to purchase a grill for my own mini-tailgate.  While no one could get together, I thought that I would try to mimic some game day experiences which I had been so accustomed to over the years.  I was ecstatic when I was able to use my grill prior to the first Phillies game in late-July.  After some trial and error, I was able to perfectly grill my own hotdog.  It was a little dark but not too much where all you would taste is the charcoal.  This was a highlight for me since I tried something new.  Maybe being out of our comfort zones means we need to work harder to reclaim our comfort zones?

The most traditional sport needs some new rules as a result of the shortened season and public health restrictions.  The purpose of these changes is to speed up an already slow game.  The rule changes range from roster limits, a minimum number of batters a pitcher must face, double headers condensed, and extra inning changes.  In regard to health restrictions, personnel, from umpires to players on the bench, are expected to wear a face covering to mitigate any spread of the coronavirus.  Despite the home plate umpire having to wear a face covering underneath his protective mask, we can still hear the shrill of a called strike three!

Anyone not actively participating on the field of play needs to mask up.  Handshakes, fist bumps, chewing gum, chewing tobacco, and spitting are also discouraged.  These changes are monumental because baseball is steeped in tradition and change does not come easy.

The rule changes implemented for the 2020 season would most definitely astound the founders of the game.  Specifically, all pitchers have to face a three-batter minimum before they can be removed from the game.  The only exception to this rule change is due to illness or injury.  For the first time, a designated hitter has been added to the National League to take the place of the pitcher in the batting lineup.  This keeps the pitching fresh and, as a result, the game becomes more competitive.  If games get rained out, a double header will now consist of two seven-inning games.  When extra innings are needed, the beginning of every half inning will start with a man on second base with the intention of speeding up games. 

The playoffs are expanded from ten to sixteen teams since teams do not have as many games as they normally do in a 162 game season.  Major League Baseball may have thought outside the box with these rules, but at the end of the day, they have everyone’s safety in mind.

Managers are not allowed to come within six feet of umpires when arguing over a call.  This is comical to anyone who knows “in your face” interactions can be quite entertaining.  Violators risk immediate ejection and a potential suspension if they do not social distance when speaking with umpires.  Additionally, pitchers can use a wet rag to better grip the ball since they may no longer lick their fingers.  At the end of the day, this is all for the sake of continuing to play America’s pastime during these unprecedented times.

All of these changes are due to one thing – the coronavirus.  The season was not allowed to kick off at its original start date due to local and state restrictions. There was a big question if there would even be a season.  The players and staff agreed to have minimal contact in order to play.  In the field, no one is close together.  Dugouts are able to be expanded into the adjacent media area because no media is allowed to come down to the field.  After an outbreak on a few teams, the adherence to all of the protocols proved integral for the games to be able to continue successfully.  Stakeholders moved ahead with the season in this new way because they love the game.  It would have been devastating without baseball.  Time will tell if the 2020 Major League Baseball season will be able to reach the ultimate goal of crowning a World Series Champion.

Robert F. Costello III is the Executive Editor of Tri-Lite which is Holy Family University’s student run newspaper.  He is in his third year at HFU and is studying Secondary Education-English.