Cricket is without a doubt THE most boring sport on the planet. It’s so boring that I used to say to my friend Paul, when we attended games at Lords one of the most famous cricket grounds in the world, “It’s more exciting to watch paint dry!” He would laugh and tell me that I didn’t really understand the game and that if I took time to investigate its nuances, I might enjoy it better. That never happened, but what did is even funnier.
When, in 1986, I attended as an exhibitor, a trade show in New York, our whole exhibit got stuck in US customs. We were left high and dry and ready to go back to the UK having shelled out thousands just to be at this Promotions show in the then new and very shiny Jacob Javits Center on 34th and 11th Ave. A reporter from the NY TImes came by our ‘empty’ booth and suggested the we just stand there dressed in our full Highland Regalia and look good. We did, and he put us on the front page of the following day’s business section. He also suggested we catch a NY Yankees baseball game in the hope that once the game ended our issue with US customs might be resolved. Dressed in kilts and armed with a real DIRK (a knife that slips in the right hand sock), Andrew, Tim and I went to the Bronx,to find solace, not trouble, at Yankee stadium. It was 85 degrees that day, we were still semi-jet lagged, and having purchased cheap seats and then being upgraded into better seats just because the admissions guy took a fancy to me in my kilt, we sat dumbfounded as we watched what had to be, the second most boring game on this planet. Baseball! I recall falling asleep in the middle of the 2nd inning and waking up at the top of the 5th, burnt as a cinder down the right hand side of my face where the sun had conveniently been shining and had decided to slow fry my pretty white skin. “Never again!” I vowed. 4 hours of complete and utter snooze ball. My cousin, who lived in NY, told me that baseball was actually a great game and that if I learned its intricate plays and discovered how much of a ‘chess’ match it was, I might really enjoy it! Now where had I heard that before?? Yep, Paul had said exactly the same this to me whilst watching cricket!
Fast forward some 20 odd years. Alan, no longer dressed in Scottish regalia, is living here in CA in the San Francisco bay area, and has a 5-year-old daughter who wishes to play softball, AKA baseball for ladies! The league was asking, no they were begging, for parents to volunteer as coaches and with time on my hands, a desire to be more involved in my daughter’s life and knowing absolutely nothing about softball, I accepted. About the same time, The SF Giants professional baseball team was moving into or indeed had just moved into a new ball park up in the city of SF. It was named AT&T park, and everyone who went to visit came back with glowing reports. Baring in mind that the Giants had never won anything in the history of their existence here in SF, and due to the fact I despised the game of baseball, I was reluctant to go and watch, no matter what anyone else said to me. To drive an hour up to San Francisco, pay $35 to park my car and $100 for a ticket to watch a game with the team in orange and black supplying 4 hours of sheer boredom, well that just wasn’t cricket!. Things however were about to mysteriously change, and this is what transpired.
In 2002 the SF Giants made it to the World Series. The world championship of baseball, though how they have the gall to call it world series when it’s only US teams playing I will never understand! At the same time my daughter has just started playing softball and I had begun my coaching career. Put two and two together, and suddenly my understanding of the game, even though I believed it was a slumber party for 40,000 drunken Americans, improved dramatically. Low and behold, with 2 free tickets offered to me for game 4 of what would become a 7 game series against Anaheim Angels, I decided to go and watch it live. My opinion of the game developed from it being immensely boring, to moderately interesting. I enjoyed the ball park, the atmosphere, the food, and the victory that night. SF lost the series in game 7,all due to a monkey they said,(another long story in that one!), but my appreciation of a game I had previously refused to watch, had now spiked. With my daughter enjoying softball and the Giants in a bit of a resurgence, suddenly baseball became interesting, so much so that I would attend at least 3 to 4 games a season, on top of the 20 or so softball games I had to attend as a coach.
As the years moved on and my daughter improved at softball, my attendance at Giants games became all the more frequent. Eventually in 2010 they won the world series and again last year, a magnificent achievement and very exciting to watch. By this time my daughter had become quite proficient in her sport too, without my help I hasten to add, (I had stopped coaching after a 6 year stint because I knew I couldn’t take any team she played on to the level required to be moderately successful), and she would come with me to the Giants in a father/daughter bonding session that even today is not only enjoyable but also necessary (ah yes, those teenage years!). She is nearly 16 and prefers to go out with her friends rather than me, quite understandable really. Another good reason for attending baseball games was this supposed ‘chess’ match and the way the pitcher battled each batter. It was actually intriguing! Coaching softball had really given me an appetite to sit and appreciate all the skills involved in the professional game of baseball but, and there was always this BIG but, what I failed at first to comprehend was the audience who came to watch never really watched at all. They would spend 4 to 5 hours, eating, and walking around the stadium looking at memorabilia meeting old friends and then eating some more!, ALL this, while the game was in progress! At soccer games, we are up and down and shout and scream, but rarely move from our seats until half time. Yes, there was an atmosphere, but it was by no means electric. Everyone wanted to be doing something else, mainly eating and drinking, as I’ve mentioned before, but very few of the spectators sat in their seats remained there from the first pitch to the last hit! I decided I had to look into ways of improving baseball to make it more exciting, just as they did in the UK with cricket, taking it from an all day spectacle (in one day matches the game goes from 11 am until well into the evening) to an event played over a few hours that enthralled and involved crowd participation and a willingness to come back night after night as an ‘addicted’ fan. Baseball teams play 162 games in their regular season and then they go to the play offs (if they are fortunate to make it that far), and I found that there were very few people indeed if any at all, who would come to all 80 odd games played at home. Most fans shared season tickets or families would buy seats for just one or two games a year. Loyalty was there, but no undying support. This led me to question exactly why this was happening and so, with that in mind and sitting in the upper deck at AT&T park earlier this week, as the Giants played the A’s from Oakland, our neighbors from across the Bay Bridge, I came up with this new and improved version of the game. Its called ………..
With the advent of 20/20 cricket, speed golf, Futbol Rapido and most people’s desire to live life in a very fast 21st century lane indeed, there are so few hours left in the day for wasting any precious moments that we may have as we check our emails, App’s, and social media updates. Why would anyone want to sit still for 5 hours, when there are so many other things that can entertain us? This makes RACEBALL, the perfect game to be the NEW favorite American past time. Let’s review the rules one by one, and I’m sorry in advance if you don’t know the rules of baseball because RACEBALL is going to be a derivative of that game.
The entire game will last 5 innings, or 2 hours, which ever comes first. If an inning has commenced and it’s not over when the time limit expires, then time will be allotted to allow it to be completed. There will be no breaks, no interval and no community singing in between innings.(AKA 7th inning stretch)
Each inning will consist of 4 outs for the hitting team, and not the standard 3 outs as we are accustomed to in todays regular baseball game.
A pitcher cannot be changed, unless injured, until the 5th inning of any game,. If no 5th inning is achieved due to time restraints, no changes can take place.
Fielders may rotate into any position on the field even while the game is in progress, except the pitcher and catcher, who must stay where they start the game. During the game the outfielders must change positions at least one time. There will be 4 in the outfield instead of 3.
Pitchers do not have to bat. There will be 6 hitters, 10 fielders, once a hitter is taken out the game, he can no longer field. The substitute bench can contain up to 6 additional players. No one player can re-enter the game after being substituted.
A lead off batter on deck in any inning, either left or right-handed, can hit the ball and run either from 1st to 2nd to 3rd base and then home or go in the opposite direction, but once he has made his decision, the rest of the players batting behind him in the line up must go the same direction. This will leave the fielders totally confused every time a leadoff hitter comes to the plate at the beginning of each inning not knowing in advance if he will run counterclockwise (the normal progression) or clockwise.
Scoring. When a player scores, the scoring team will be awarded 1 point. If the batter has runners on base and hits a home run, his score will double. For every strike out the pitching team will be awarded 1 point. There will be a bonus point for a strike out with no balls throw, only strikes.
No outfielder can wear a catching mit. Bear hands only.
If the fielding team manage a double play, they are awarded a bonus point.
The strike zone allowed by the officials shall be from the neck down to the top of the knee.
If during the game, and at any point in time there is a point differential that exceeds 10, the team leading must remove a player from their team until that differential is halved. Every 5 points after the initial 10 will result in the removal of one more, up to a maximum of 3. It can be a hitter or a fielder or both.
No game can end in a tie. If there is a tie then starting pitchers will be forced to bat in a ‘hit off’. The hit off will have each pitcher hit balls from a chosen pitcher who cannot be a pitcher that has played in the game. The hit off will consist of 5 throws by each pitcher to each batter, and the one with the greatest number of hits, including foul balls and bunts, wins the game.
With these rule changes, baseball, and all its long drawn out tedious innings would be revolutionized instantly. People will flock to see battles that will be unpredictable, exciting and most importantly, last only 2 hours. The attention span of most who will attend these games will ensure they keep their bums on their seats and will be less tempted to spend $10 on a beer or $5 on a bottle of water, both which actually cost less than 20 cents, for fear of missing some action. The owners will have to re think, the fans won’t have to think at all, and complete equilibrium could be achieved in the flash of a simple idea called, initiative! Try playing this in your local park, try it in the streets, but at least try it and then let me know what you think. It worked for cricket and I promise it will work for baseball. The new RACEBALL season is but only an out away!
I am taking a break for the summer.(Don’t fret, I shall return), and hopefully when I do come back, I will have some more exciting news, a change of format and at least a decent read for those of you who kindly follow me every week. Stay out the sun, stay healthy and be happy.