Baseball fans rejoice! It’s the day you’ve been waiting for since last year: Opening Day 2023.
The crack of the bat and the smell of hot dogs and peanuts at the ballpark will be a welcome relief from the doldrums of everyday life.
Like past seasons, there will be changes in 2023 to America’s pastime.
First up: All 30 teams will play Thursday
This year, it isn’t just a handful of special teams that will be playing. All 30 MLB teams, from the Boston Red Sox to the Atlanta Braves to the Pittsburgh Pirates and even the Seattle Mariners, will all be taking the field on Opening Day. It’s the first time it has happened since 1968, MLB.com reported.
There are 15 Opening Day games scheduled, starting with the Braves at Nationals and the Giants at Yankees. Both games start at 1:05 p.m.
For a complete lineup of today’s games, visit MLB.com.
On Deck: New rules
A new rule will be in play for the first time during the regular season. While a pitch clock was part of the spring training, Thursday’s games will mark the first time that the clock will help tighten up gameplay, The Washington Post reported.
Pitchers now have 15 seconds to throw the ball when bases are empty. Five seconds are added when there’s someone on base, according to ESPN. But the play clock doesn’t just apply to the pitcher. A batter must be in the batter’s box by the time the clock hits 8 seconds left. If the pitcher doesn’t start his motion before the clock runs out, he’ll be charged a ball. If the batter is late, he gets a strike.
The changes were approved last September, ESPN reported. A board of four active players, six people appointed by the MLB and one umpire agreed to the changes, according to MLB.com.
In addition to the play clock, there are now bans of major shifts in the outfield, and pickoffs will be limited.
When it comes to the shift, infielders must stay in the infield with two players on each side of second base, ESPN reported. They can move after the pitch is thrown but not before. When an inning starts, the players must stay on the same side of the field that they started on unless there’s a mid-inning substitution. If there’s an injury, the infield can be reset.
The final new rule covers a pickoff, or what is called a “disengagement.” Pitchers can either pick off or do a fake twice in each plate appearance without a penalty, with a reset if the runner or runners advance in the same plate appearance. If there’s a third pickoff, an attempt or a fake, then the pitcher is charged a balk unless one offensive player advances or there’s an out.
In the hole: Bigger bases
The 2023 season has brought a change to the actual field this year. The bases are bigger when compared to seasons past. Instead of the former 15-inch base, the size has increased to 18 inches.
The larger bases may not seem like much of a change, but MLB.com said that the 18-inch base will reduce the distance between first and second, as well as second and third, by 4 1/2 inches. It will also stop oversliding, or when a player loses contact while sliding.
The reasons for the bigger bases come down to preventing injuries and having more stolen bases. It seems to work, since the minor leagues already had a base-size increase. Making the base larger at those levels decreased the number of injuries while seeing more stolen bases, ESPN reported.
Strike out: Robot Umpires
One thing that baseball fans won’t probably see this season is the “automatic ball-strike system,” or robot umps. While the robo-umps and their counterpart, the ABS challenge system, have been tested in the minor leagues, they are not expected to make their way up to the majors, MLB.com said last month.
But it’s not that MLB is calling a strike on robot umpires. Sports Illustrated reported that the automated strike zone will be in effect at independent leagues and across the minors — specifically at all 30 Triple-A ballparks this season. SI speculates that the introduction is inevitable in the majors eventually.