Summer Gets a Boost with MLB

by Tim Froberg

Play ball!

Those two simple words were delivered three months late by the men in blue, but Major League Baseball has finally returned to big-league venues.

Millions of sports-starved fans are welcoming baseball back like an old friend. Baseball has always been resilient, rebounding from player strikes and steroid scandals. It’s the one constant that James Earl Jones eloquently told us about in “Field of Dreams.”

The MLB season opened July 23 – nearly four months late – with a schedule whittled down from 162 games to 60.

“I’m happy it’s back,” said Tom Goff, an avid Brewers fan and Kaukauna resident. “You have to get something out of the season, even it’s just a little bit. For me, it means even more because I’m in a fantasy baseball league.”

Dan Kohn, a longtime Brewers fan from Appleton, added, “I missed it a lot. I’m a huge fan and was actually pretty angry with the owners – more than the players. I think they could have been on the field a month earlier.”

What makes this abbreviated season especially bizarre is that it started without fans in the stands.

Appleton resident Kyler Schadrie is a die-hard Brewers fan and a partial season ticket holder. He’d love to catch his usual summer slate of 20 games at Miller Park but is content watching the Brew Crew on TV.

“It’s definitely fun going to games and cheering them on, but I’m just excited there is some type of baseball this summer,” said Schadrie. “I would go back to Miller Park if they’d let us, but I’d definitely wear a mask, just to be safe.”

There are two major rule changes in MLB – the biggest being the introduction of the designated hitter to the National League for the first time.

“I like the DH because you don’t have to worry about your pitchers anymore,” Schadrie said. “Remember a couple years ago when Jimmy Nelson got hurt running the bases? Plus, you add another strong bat to your lineup. It’s a good spot for a guy like Ryan Braun, who may not be done after this season if they bring the DH back.”

Goff is also intrigued by the DH rule.

“I’m a baseball purist who grew up not having a DH in the National League,” Goff said. “But the more I think about it, the more I like it. It should be uniform. Have it in both leagues.”

Kohn isn’t a fan of the new marathon-busting rule that starts each extra inning with a runner at second.

“That’s not baseball to me because you don’t earn it,” Kohn said, “You start with a runner on second, then you maybe get a passed ball, or a guy steals third. The next guy flies out and you get a run. To me, that’s kind of a joke.”

Another new measure is the expansion of rosters – initially from 25 to 30 – along with the addition of multi-member taxi squads.

“That’s great for the Brewers,” Kohn said. “Craig Counsell (the Brewers ever-tinkering manager) has just been given his favorite thing. They’ve made playoff runs in the past because he’s had deep rosters and now, he has even more players.”