Of all the statistics and numbers used in baseball, the ones associated with time have the least relevancy.
The scoreboard at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium doesn’t have a space for such numbers. It shows runs, hits and errors. It makes space for the inning-by-inning score below the balls, strikes and out indicator and even finds room to display the speed of each pitch thrown.
But there’s no room for a clock.
And the fact that baseball is the only major sport that doesn’t let a clock tell it when to end can be an issue when the NBC World Series has four games nearly every day for two weeks.
“It’s a challenge,” NBC general manager Kevin Jenks said. “The weather doesn’t bother me because we can deal with that, but it’s when you have teams and games that get pushed that makes it difficult.”
Ideally, a baseball game will last somewhere around three hours, though the clock has little to do with how quickly the innings will go by. And occasionally nine innings aren’t enough.
Such was the case over the weekend when the Kansas Stars – the tournament’s most popular team – was scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Saturday in the third game of the day.
But the schedule became meaningless when the day’s first game went 17 innings and took three and a half hours. The Kansas Stars didn’t take the field until more than an hour and a half after their originally scheduled first pitch.
A little more buffer was worked into the schedule Monday. The Stars were again slotted into the third game of the night, scheduled for a 7 p.m. first pitch, and the games before them didn’t get in the way. They were moved up an hour to 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. starts, and even when the first game went to extra innings again there was still plenty of built-in down time to accommodate the delay.
The Kansas Stars game, televised by ESPN2, had almost two hours between the end of the second game and its scheduled first pitch Monday night.
The timing issue isn’t a challenge exclusive to the NBC World Series. Major League Baseball has long discussed – and recently implemented – rules to speed up the pace of play. The NBC World Series instituted timers long before Major League Baseball.
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium has a clock positioned over the left field wall – far from the scoreboard – that counts down from 90 seconds between innings and 20 seconds between pitches. Batters who aren’t in the batter’s box by the time the clock expires receive an automatic strike.
“It’s weird; I was coming in from center field and leading off the next inning and I had to make sure I was in the box,” Colorado Cyclones outfielder Matt Burkhart said. “I don’t mind it, but it is something you have to look at.”
Burkhart went 2 for 3 with an RBI Monday in a 3-1 win over the Liberal Bee Jays that ended up being the fastest game of championship week so far at 2 hours, 5 minutes. Thank Cyclones pitcher Braxton Lorenzini for much of that pace. Pitchers must also be ready before the clock hits zero at the risk of an automatic ball. Lorenzini’s rock-and-fire approach rendered the clock irrelevant as he allowed just one run on two hits over five innings.
“Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t feel too rushed,” Lorenzini said. “It doesn’t bother me too much. When I’m in the zone, I typically move faster and that’s when I’m doing better.”
The Cyclones (1-1) lost to the Kansas Stars Saturday night and will play the Everett Merchants Wednesday.