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Image by Annie Spratt
  • Writer's pictureEthan Voss

A Little Bit Of Change Is Okay: Baseball Is Fun Again

As you walk through the door of my home and up the stairs to the right of the entryway, you begin to enter a collection of baseball memorabilia, each boasting its own unique story with a tale of its acquisition. Take a right turn, then a left and you find yourself immersed in a room covered floor to ceiling in Kansas City Royals banners, posters, helmets, bats and art. In the middle of the room sits a desk, covered with crafting materials, most of them blue.

At the desk sits a chair, once owned by five-time Gold Glove Award winner and World Series MVP Salvador Perez. Across the back of the former locker-room chair there is one word: “ROYALS,” stitched in blue and white, a permanent reminder of the team this family cheers for in the awful seasons and in the champagne celebrations. 

If you exit the office and travel two doors down, there is a small and contained pocket of rebellion lurking inside. You enter my room and witness an overwhelming amount of orange waiting for you. On the walls you find flags, pennants, plaques and hats celebrating a team foreign to the rest of our household. My room stands as a lone island, passionately supporting the Baltimore Orioles. 

In our household, you do not mess with tradition — but somewhere I fell far from the tree. 

For my mother’s sake, at least I am not a Yankees fan. 

This season, in an effort to appease a culture that strives for instant gratification and which has a worn down patience for a three hour battle on the diamond, Major League Baseball instituted new rule policies to cut down overall game runtime. 

After being tested and tried across the minors in the past few seasons, the nightmare of change became a reality for many traditional baseball fans as the Pepsi advertisement behind home plate transformed into a looming digital pitch clock signaling a countdown till a free ball or strike is handed out.

At first I was confused. Why would they change America’s pastime for unloyal fans who do not care enough to recognize there is more to the sport than simple entertainment? 

Then I sat on it. I stuck it out. I watched the games. I continued to live and die on each pitch and set down the pen that almost wrote Commissioner Rob Manfred a letter of frustration. 

As the players settled into life with the pitch clock, two rubber disengagements, the Manfred-Man in extra innings and bigger bases, it felt like life was normal again. While spring training games ending on pitch clock violations terrified me, the regular season felt somewhat normal.

Along with the new rules, my new and improved Baltimore Orioles were finally good. 

As veterans like Mike Trout, Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom finish their seasons on the Injured Reserve, young stars such as Adley Rutschman, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr. have had full custody of the recent spotlight. 

While Acuña Jr. has reached 70 stolen bases faster than Joey Chestnut could snarf down another hotdog championship, I am left pondering if he is truly the fastest man alive or if this impressive season is due to the new larger bases and pickoff rules. 

We were promised that the new bases would help prevent injury and support player safety, rather than change offensive strategy, but clearly Acuña has shattered that ideal by ripping off almost twice the number of stolen bases as last year’s league leader Jon Berti.

Users of X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) complained, while Braves fans rejoiced, on Wednesday as Acuña removed and hoisted the physical bag high over his head in Atlanta after stealing second base to reach his seventieth theft of the season.

This moment was a great picture for baseball.

I currently sit in my bed writing this piece in the dim reflection of the Baltimore broadcast as my heroes stand on the mound draped in a flag emblazoned with the ‘AL East Champion’ logo for the first time since 2014. Next week I will wake up and know that for the first time in seven years I will have the opportunity to care deeply about the MLB postseason. 

The story of a young team, all on rookie contracts, taking down powerhouse franchises like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox is a sign that baseball is healing. As the champagne was cleaned up in the Baltimore locker room, so were my frustrations towards the new rules and regulations. 

The heart of the game has not changed. 

This season has allowed fans to remain on the edge of their seats while wanting more at the end of a quick game. The electricity is back as stadiums improve fan experience through tech, music, smoke and lights to bring America’s game back into our culture through each home run celebration, closer entrance and seventh-inning stretch.

I look forward to the playoffs more than ever, and while the game may look different, I will still lose my mind over every home run, walk-off and late game rally.

I am reminded of the lesson my parents taught me when I decided to root for the Orioles over their hometown team. A little bit of change is okay — but it is never allowed to take over the whole house.

This article was originally published as an opinion piece in the Cardinal & Cream.

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