What do MLB fans think of baseball's new rules?
SCOTT DETROW, HOST:
Major League Baseball looks a bit different this weekend. Big rule changes went into effect as the season began this week, including a pitch clock aimed to speed up games. Baseball is also trying to counter the statistical revolution that has led to fewer hits and more strikeouts. It's barring what's known as the shift, the practice of clumping infielders together, where certain batters are most likely to hit the ball. Now two infielders need to stay on each side of second base, just like the old times. There are other new rules too, all aimed at drawing younger fans to the game. And that's a gamble, though, because if there's one thing baseball fans love, it's tradition. To see what fans are thinking, we decided to leave the studio and head to the stadium. We went a couple of miles south of NPR, to Nationals Park on opening day.
BRICE: Missing science class, but...
BETH BLINSTRUB: Oh, come on, before your teacher hears this (laughter).
DETROW: That's 11-year-old Brice Blinstrub and his mom, Beth. Brice plays baseball, and he's got thoughts on the shift.
BRICE: I think that could help a lot because it would be help just keep them in the same position, like keep baseball as it was and as it should be.
DETROW: Do your teams ever shift in Little League?
BRICE: No, we do not. We like to keep it same as the new MLB rule.
DETROW: A lot of fans we talked to were like Mack Jones - baseball fans who worry the game's gotten too slow and stale for their kids to love it the same way that they do.
MACK JONES: Whoever complained about a game being too fast?
DETROW: That's a good point. So you're on board?
JONES: It can't hurt.
JONES: Yeah. I mean, especially for these little ones...
JONES: You want them interested in the game. It can't take four hours. The younger they are, the more they want to be on devices and do different things, and baseball is a game that takes very long.
DETROW: Once the game got underway, we headed across the street to one of the bars surrounding Nationals Park. We're at Dacha. It's an outdoor beer garden with big-screen TVs showing the game and a bar made out of an Airstream trailer. There's fire pits because it is a little bit chilly, as it sometimes is on opening day.
HENRY RAYMOND: It just feels weird, you know, like all growing up, going to Nationals games here and playing Little League and travel ball and high school ball, it just - you know, the clock was never something you had to worry about. And it kind of feels chaotic, in my opinion.
DETROW: Henry Raymond was one of the few people we talked to who isn't into the new pitch clock. Kelly McGuire and her friends were hesitant, too - for different reasons. The group all works in construction. They go to about 10 games a year together, but they're at the park to network and have fun.
KELLY MCGUIRE: I think it's exciting because it's going to make the game more exciting. It's going to make it go quicker. And she said she's mad it's going to make the game go quicker because...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Because I enjoy it. Like, I want to be out for longer, you know? I don't want it to end faster.
DETROW: So for you, hanging out at a baseball stadium for three hours is the point.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.
DETROW: At a nearby table, Ted Atwood and Owen Hopkins were in deep discussion.
OWEN HOPKINS: Pitch clock?
TED ATWOOD: Yeah.
HOPKINS: Major pro. Not even close.
ATWOOD: Personally, con. I think if you're at baseball, part of the experience is just hanging out with your friends and being there.
HOPKINS: Ted, it's still, like, a 2.5-hour game with the pitch clock.
ATWOOD: Yeah. Yeah. And you're there for the 2.5-hour game, and you have a great time.
DETROW: Those two couldn't even agree about arguably the least controversial change, the bigger bases.
ATWOOD: Let them have their bases.
HOPKINS: You want bigger bases or smaller bases?
ATWOOD: Let them be bigger.
HOPKINS: No, no, they shouldn't be bigger.
ATWOOD: Let them be bigger.
HOPKINS: They shouldn't. It makes it too easy.
ATWOOD: Let them have it.
HOPKINS: They're big enough as it is.
ATWOOD: It's more home runs. It's more moments. You're there for 3.5 hours.
HOPKINS: No, no, no, no.
DETROW: So maybe the rules are a good thing because to paraphrase a famous baseball quote, the one constant through all the years is that baseball fans love to argue.
ATWOOD: The higher the score, the more fun the fans are having. I don't see an issue here.
HOPKINS: I think you're soft.
(SOUNDBITE OF NANCY BEA HEFLEY'S "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.