The road to Chicago goes through Southern Maryland. A short 4 hour drive north from Durham, is Waldorf, Maryland, home to the Blue Crabs. I arrived about an hour before the first game of a double header, just in time to try out my grounds crew skills. I offered to help roll up the tarp and the Blue Crabs staff was kind enough to let me.
I've always wanted to try that and now that I have, I think I'm good. One tarp roll is all it takes to truly appreciate what goes into taking care of the diamond. After a short delay, it was time for game 1 of the double header to start.
The Blue Crabs play in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB). This is an independent baseball league. In this relationship, The Atlantic League also acts as a testing ground for the MLB. Before any major changes are made in the Major League, those changes are tried in The Atlantic. Here, new rules are implemented, new balls are tried, and they will soon move the pitching mound back to see what impact that has. A major project the league is working on right now is the Electronic Strike Zone or Automated Ball-Strike technology (ABS). With this system, the home plate umpire becomes more of a messenger than a judge. Using a computer to determine if the pitch was a strike or ball, a call is relayed to the ump who then announces the call. With new technology and implementing changes, there will be some issues and delays, but with the work that's being done in The Atlantic League, we could see this Electronic Strike Zone used in the majors in just a few years.
Here's one rule change that didn't make it out of the league: Stealing first base. Under this rule, a batter had the option to run to first after any wild pitches, not just a third strike. The runner could be thrown out still, but if he makes it on base, he has stolen first. Here is the first stolen first base. Although the rule didn't make it to the major league, the player who stole first now has his cleats in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Thanks to the Blue Crabs for having me out and letting me throw out a first pitch. I whiffed the first attempt so badly, the mascot gave me another shot.
Now, I'm back on the road headed to Lehigh, PA for some IronPigs baseball.