IBL Commissioner Weighs In On League Initiatives

In January, LondonOntarioSports.com was the first to report on new initiatives launched this season by the Intercounty Baseball League. You can read that article here.
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The eight-team IBL has decided to return to its traditional playoff structure after a one-year trial which saw the first-place Barrie Baycats and second-place London Majors earn a first-round bye in 2014. In addition, a new Pace of Play rule has been implemented. You can read about that here at the IBL website. As part of this effort to speed up games, the IBL aims to start games on time, as advertised.

Finally, the IBL is arriving at minimum standards for each of its eight parks and club operations. New rules will ensure that there’s a proper bullpen with a mound, clean and well-equipped dressing rooms, quality diamond and outfield conditions and dugout water coolers. Other issues will include jersey uniformity (deciding use of names, numbers and sponsors), and even if the national anthem should be live or recorded.

With the All-Star game returning this Saturday in Barrie, LondonOntarioSports.com editor Jeffrey Reed chatted with IBL commissioner John Kastner about the progress of the new league initiatives.

Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com: John, let’s first talk about the length of games. You can’t help high scores, nor weather delays. Nor can you eliminate the fact baseball is, by nature, a leisurely sport. Still, games are taking too long to play. So how has the monitoring of this progressed this season?

John Kastner, Commissioner, Intercounty Baseball League: We’ve enlisted a company that goes to ballgames, and we do it with our scorekeepers as well. And every game I go to, I pick five innings and put a stop watch on. And we only do five innings, because when you have on-field promotions, those innings don’t count. Every time I have done this, I have been 5 to 10 seconds every inning under the 2:45 mark.  Now, the last time I went to a game, I didn’t even do it because it is sort of a pointless exercise. It’s so much ingratiated now as part of the IBL, so in my mind we don’t need to monitor this for the next little while.  We may, next year perhaps, do some spot checks at games, but already this has become such a part of the (league) culture that we don’t really need to do it so much anymore.

Reed: That’s good to hear. It’s a start. Games still drag on, though. (Ed. Note: Minus extra-inning and seven-inning games as part of doubleheaders, games at Labatt Park this season are averaging 2 hours, 58 minutes). Maybe that can’t be helped. But with so many pre-game ceremonies in place – and don’t get me wrong, they are important – games are still not starting on time. Are you monitoring that around the league?

The 2014 Ontario Hockey Association Awards at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Kastner: Yes. And the results are not as good. We still have some issues, and there are a lot of things to factor into that. If I told you that speeding up the game has become part of the culture, I think it has. But one of the cultures we haven’t got away from is the idea of starting the games on time.  Historically we are a few minutes late here and a few minutes late there, and that is still the case. Part of it is us. Part of it is umpires. I was at a game in Guelph and teams had completed ins and outs – you complete infield and outfield drills. By the time they get off the field, and then the City wants to line it, etc., then all of a sudden you are 10 to 15 minutes late starting the game. So there are a few factors that play into it, including municipal workers. So this I a little tougher to manage because there is more than one issue.

Reed: And again, pre-game ceremonies are integral to embedding a team into the community. We’ve seen how the Majors have been overwhelmingly successful in this area. But perhaps it’s time to follow Major League Baseball’s lead on this one and start the ceremonies before the actual game time of , for example, 7:35 p.m. Because we do need to start games on time – and we need the pre-game ceremonies.

Kastner: There’s a perfect example. If the game is scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m., then you should start (pre-game ceremonies) at 7:40 p.m. I attended a Blue Jays game recently, and they had somebody delivering the game ball. Game time is 7:07 p.m., and at 7 p.m. someone comes out and brings out the game ball. So I think the pace of play is in great shape. But starting games on time is an area where we’ll really try to concentrate on for next year.

Reed: We spoke earlier about making sure each ballpark lives up to set-in-stone standards. Any progress on this movement?

Kastner: Right, we talked about eventually going to games and grading teams, similar to what the Ontario Hockey Association does, with a checklist. I would like to get to that at some point. We have independent people who do that, and that would certainly be one of the areas that we would look at.

Reed: So nothing has been implemented in that area as of yet?

Kastner: Correct. This is an observation year for us. We are going to send out questionnaires to teams and say, here are eight, nine or 10 areas we want to concentrate on, and then start to build the standards next year. It’s more of a strategic plan thing, rather than an immediate remedy.

Reed: It’s not a quick fix.

Kastner: Correct.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office https://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com. Sports journalist since 1980.

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