The very first thing you need to know about America’s Pastime is – it’s back. Professional baseball is set to return on July 23, with no fans, when New York plays Washington in what the league is calling an “Opening Night” ceremony. But, with the obvious obstacles of playing games amid a global pandemic, this season will look much different. Beyond the regulations put in place to keep players healthy and safe, baseball has changed its game fundamentally to adhere to this unusual, shortened season.
60-game schedule: With almost two-thirds of the baseball season cut, each game will matter so much more. The most talented pitchers will be called upon more frequently, and teams will be more aggressive with their strategies as the margin for error minimizes during this condensed schedule. Every team will play 10 games against each of the other four teams within their division. The remaining 20 games will be played against teams in their corresponding interleague division (East vs. East, West vs. West, etc.) in hopes to make travel safer and more manageable.
Universal DH: For the first time in league history, no pitcher will step up to the batter’s box during the 2020 season. Every team will use a Designated Hitter, and it’s believed that this rule could carry over into the 2021 season and beyond. A change that some fans have pushing for years.
Extra inning = Extra runner: In hopes to speed up the game and lessen the time players spend in the ballpark, all extra innings will now start with a runner on second until one team wins. This rule was adopted in the minor leagues two years ago and has been successful in shortening extra inning games.
Bring your own everything: In addition to the banning of traditional high-fives, fist bumps, and other miscellaneous team-oriented celebrations, players will be responsible for taking care of their own personal equipment. That means batters will have to bring their own pine-tar rags and bat donuts to and from the on-deck circle, and pitchers will now have to bring their own rosin bag to the mound and only use their own baseballs when throwing a bullpen session. Baseballs used in batting practice will be washed, sanitized, and stored for at least five days before they can be used again.
Suspended games: Remember the good old days when games could get rained out for the fifth inning and they would be replayed? Those days are long gone, well for this season at least. Any game that’s started and subsequently stopped because of weather will be picked back up right where they left off on a different day, no matter what inning the game was originally called in. The reasoning behind this new rule is to avoid long weather delays and get players out of the ballpark as quickly as possible.
Illustrations by @floppyaction on Instagram