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Major League Baseball games last too long for kids – try a pitch clock to speed up play

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 24, 2021

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol reacts after the last out in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of baseball’s National League Championship Series on Thursday in Los Angeles.  (Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol reacts after the last out in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of baseball’s National League Championship Series on Thursday in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong)
By Fred Bowen Special to the Washington Post

In the MLB playoffs, the best professional baseball teams go head-to-head to see who will make the 2021 World Series. The MLB playoffs mean fiery fastballs, game-winning home runs, diving catches … and long games.

MLB games have been getting longer for years. Pitchers stand on the mound staring into home plate. Batters step out of the batter’s box and adjust their batting gloves even though they haven’t swung the bat.

Playoff games are often longer because of more ads between innings and players taking even more time between pitches.

All this fiddling and waiting means that kids often miss part of the most exciting and important baseball games of the season. If a game starts at 8 p.m. and lasts 3½ hours, there’s little chance even the most devoted young fan will be allowed to watch an entire game on a school night. That’s no way to get kids to love baseball.

Help may be on the way. Baseball’s minor leagues have experimented with pitch clocks for the past few seasons. In certain lower leagues, pitchers have 20 or sometimes only 15 seconds to start their delivery, or the umpire can call an automatic ball.

The batter is required to be in the batter’s box and paying attention with 8 seconds on the pitch clock, or the umpire can call an automatic strike.

This past season, the Low-A West League enforced a 15-second pitch clock. The result? The average Low-A West League game went from 3 hours, 2 minutes to 2 hours, 41 minutes. That means the average game was 21 minutes shorter. Some games took just a little more than 2 hours.

In addition, the Low-A West League games had more runs and more action with fewer walks and strikeouts.

Don’t expect pitch clocks at MLB games soon. The players and their union would have to agree to the changes. Some pitchers and batters may not want to hurry up because they might think every pitch and swing of the bat is important. After all, players make millions of dollars playing the game.

But they make that money because fans watch the games. The fans, and especially kids, may not want to watch the games if they continue to slow down.

Maybe it’s time to speed the games up. Maybe it’s time for a pitch clock in baseball.

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