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Can’t figure out why MLB wants to speed things up

Commentary

As a new Major League Baseball season begins, the league is making an effort to speed up the game, with things like managers signaling intentional walks and clocks ticking down time between pitches and innings.

But is changing the pace of America’s pastime really necessary? Perhaps.

We are living in an age of technology, where the events of our day take place faster than ever before. We have become accustomed to immediate gratification and sensory overload. Our phone contacts are accessible 24-7 by text; and we have the ability to watch two or three screens at a time, with our TV’s, tablets and phones. In some cases, the technology is interconnected, with fans following shows on Facebook and television programs ticking tweets across the bottom of the screen in real time.

So maybe we as a society can no longer slow down and just enjoy the pace of a baseball game.

But maybe we should try.

One of the great things about baseball is the patience it teaches. We tell young batters to wait for their pitch…to be disciplined in the batter’s box. Fielders have to stay loose and alert at the same time. They may only touch the ball a few times during the game, but it could be at a crucial moment.

In the stands, fans enjoy leisurely watching the innings unfold, the games supplemented by conversations with friends and visits to the concession stand. It’s a sport that is so innately relaxed it needs a seventh-inning stretch.

While America loves the brutality of football, baseball reminds us that not everything has to be high-impact, speed of light, rough-and-tumble to be enjoyable. Comedian George Carlin’s riff on the differences between football and baseball comes to mind. He described football as “rigidly timed…it could go to sudden death.” While baseball “has no time limit, we don’t know when it’s going to end.”

As a society, we are losing the ability to slow down and enjoy the nuances of sports like baseball, and soccer, for that matter. It may also be why young people aren’t hunting and fishing as much as generations before them. These are sports that require a tremendous amount of patience, often with little to show for our efforts. They lack the action of video games action movies, but that in itself may be what makes them worth the time.

The very nature of sports like baseball, and of outdoor recreation like hunting, fishing, hiking and biking, are exactly what we need in this plugged-in, tricked-out world.

Wouldn’t it be great to turn off the constant noise of technology and traffic, and trade it in for the bubbling of a trout stream or the sounds of songbirds?

And wouldn’t it be nice, on a warm spring afternoon, to enjoy a baseball game without worrying about what time it is, and without anyone feeling the need to rush the action along?

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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