Chicago Cubs: Players Association, MLB may change pre-game batting
Major League Baseball is looking for new ways to engage fans and draw them to the ballpark. A new change is in discussions now, but don’t look for it to be added soon.
A day at the ballpark is always enjoyable. At least for me, and I am sure it is for many of you. Get to Wrigley Field early, watching the Chicago Cubs take batting practice, try to get the attention of a few players to sign a ball. Grab a hot dog and beverage, find your seat, and cheer for the National Anthem.
It is a great day. But the flow of pregame activities may be changing. As reported by Joel Sherman in the New York Post, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players’ Association are discussing switching when home and away teams take batting practice. Their goal? More fan interaction. The cost may be on the health of the team.
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The change is pretty simple. Commonly, the home team will take batting practice about two and half hours before the game. This is followed by the visiting team for an hour. The timing provides for the home team to rest, go to indoor cages, watch videos, or get extra treatment before the game starts. It also gives the opposing team an extra hour to relax and recuperate from traveling. Seems rather fair.
The change would be to switch the times of batting practice. The visiting team would take hacks, then the home team. The justification behind this is rather straightforward. First of all, it allows home team players to stay home for an extra hour. Thus, more family time. Secondly, with the home team second in batting practice, more fan would be willing to come and watch. More fans in the stadium, more concessions and merchandise can be sold.
As with any change, there are negatives. First of all, the away team’s accommodations in the park are commonly not great. Space is cramped and training areas are lacking. Maybe there are some amenities, but nowhere near what the home team enjoys. Secondly, ball players are often creatures of habit. They stick to routines. If Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo arrives at Wrigley Field at 1:30 pm for a 6:30 pm start, he will still come at that time. The extra hour is not going to change much in the way of routine.
Finally, there is timing for the home team. MLB Network Analyst Harold Reynold made the point on Hot Stove this morning that the hour later for home teams does not allow them time to refocus. After taking batting practice, there would be 30-40 minutes for players to cool down, get treatment, or head to the cage to work. If the change occurs, little time would be allowed to take off the jersey and relax before needing to head back to the field. Nor, does it help in trying to make game-time decisions on players.
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What I do like about the change is the chance for more fan interaction. The chance to take my daughters to a game and see Kris Bryant and Addison Russell (her favorite players) take BP and get an autograph will be a highlight for me. However, the cons outweigh the pros in my book. I doubt it will happen everywhere, but I am certain a few teams will try it.