FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox tried to spice things up in spring training Tuesday.
After each pitch, it was mandated that the JetBlue Park public address announcer would announce the ball or strike call, and the count.
Here is what Dr. Charles Steinberg, the purveyor of the idea, had to say prior to the Red Sox game against the Marlins:
“It’s something we vigorously debated for more than a year in the offices of Boston. And rather than debate it in the abstract, we’re going to use the spring training testing ground to see if there’s any traction. The idea being that everything about a baseball game, particularly in recent years, seems to focus on the count, the difference between 2-0 and hitting 1-2, and in a way that imposed gently, brings people closer to the game. The announcer will update the count after each pitch.”
“I know Major League Baseball wants us to be sure to wait until after the umpire has made his call. It’s actually more of a purist idea just with an aural edition. We’ll see if it makes it till Sweet Caroline and if the crowd doesn’t like it we’ll probably view it as too small a sample size and try it again. I know it’s been done in minor league parks. I believe it’s been done in minor league parks. If you watch Bull Durham, you’ll hear the PA announcer play a more active roll in the game. I think that was reflective of some minor league parks. I don’t know about any other cultures.”
(Why do it?)
“It’s had some spirited debate. There were desires for us to try it last year and we didn’t so I think we’re not shy about being experimental or bold or innovative. This is not quite as traumatic as Charlie Finley’s orange baseball but one thing we can all agree on is spring training is the time to try it if we’re going to try it.”
(Possibility for Fenway Park?)
“If it would be effective in a positive way, then yes.”
(What will fans think?)
“Red Sox fans are really good about letting us know what they think. But it may be like Brussels sprouts, an acquired taste. You may need a couple games to try it out. Some people just don’t like Brussels sprouts.”
(Where do you take it from here?)
“There is no Step 2 after today. Today is one step after a testing period just short of that of an elephant.”
(Role of public address announcer)
“The debate that has ensued, that has taken place for more than a year will no doubt continue. It’s just that you now have a small test study under your belt. One of the things you want to make sure is that the PA announcer is gentle with it but that it’s not a partial interruption. Some of us like the idea that mom can have a conversation with her teenage daughter in this ambiance, but others would say, ‘True, but it’s not guns or butter. You can have that conversation.’ And be updated on the count so that perhaps your attention focuses on that 3-2 pitch.”
“Maybe you say ‘Strike 3,’ I don’t know. It’s not a desire to call play by play though. Whether you said Ball 4 or Strike 3, you can, but it’s not the point. I’m not certain whether we’ll be doing that or not. You can for the punctuation of it but that’s a different point. The point is as you’re enjoying the ambiance, you’ll know that it’s a 1-2 pitch, got them. I wouldn’t advocate going too far. I would say be gentle, like a spring training zephyr on your shoulder.”