The length of a baseball game has been the topic of debate for years as the sport looks to find ways to continue to appeal to an audience with a short attention span.
Now, the rest of the world might take a certain interest in the Auckland Tuatara's sophomore Australian Baseball League campaign, with every home game for the team at Albany's QBE Stadium being reduced from nine innings to seven.
The odd seven-inning game has been played in the ABL over the years, with doubleheaders consisting of a seven-inning and a nine-inning game, while this year's Major League Baseball rising stars game was played over seven innings. However, in what is believed to be a first in the sport, every home game the Tuatara play in the 2019-20 campaign will be reduced to seven innings in a decision made to increase broadcast coverage.
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"Obviously you have to plan a little differently, but when we were talking with Sky and making sure we could get all 20 of our home games on TV, they thought that would be better for them so we kind of went with it," Tuatara coach Steve Mintz said.
"We'll look at pitching a little differently and if we're going to make adjustments in the lineup we'll have to look at those a little differently for sure.
"It's a lot different playing seven innings. The way you use your bullpen, how far you're willing to take your starter if he's not doing as well as you thought, and obviously you've got two less innings to score runs at home. We'll have to take all that into consideration. The team coming in, they'll have to look at it also because we could potentially only pitch six innings on some nights, so it'll be an adjustment but we're already planning for it and we'll be ready."
The Tuatara begin their second year in the competition next Thursday, with the Perth Heat being their first guests at their new home base. The four-game series, which will be played over the course of the weekend, will be the first of 10 for the Tuatara, with five at home and five on the road. While QBE Stadium has been redeveloped to cater for baseball, it will still play host to rugby and football matches.
Now having a permanent stadium, the Tuatara will be able to settle into their work without the issues of constantly being on the road as they were in their debut last year. In the 2018-19 season, the side played three series' in Auckland back to back before Christmas, before embarking on a 40-day road trip for the rest of the year – with two of their home trips held in Australia.
"We had some crazy bus rides, and the bus caught on fire, and all the flights, staying in the same places for extended periods of time; it was all fun. It was the start of a tradition for the Tuatara and we'll look at this 10 years from now - we're just super excited about what we did last year and how we're going to build on it."
QBE Stadium's transformation from rugby stadium to ballpark, by the numbers
• 2,000,000: Cost, in dollars, of the redevelopment by Regional Facilities Auckland
• 90: Days to complete the renovations
• 12,000: Cubic metres of dirt removed
• 3000: Seats removed from the West Stand
• 7: The left field 'Teal Monster' wall is 7m high.
• 800: Metres of land reclaimed to allow for the 90m baseline outfield needed to be able to host Olympic qualifier games.
Ballpark dimensions: 315ft (96m) to left field fence, 395ft (120m) to centre field and 320ft (97m) to right field.
Auckland Tuatara 2019-20 opening day roster
Catchers: Jonny Homza (San Diego Padres), Te Wera Bishop*.
Infielders: Jeremy Vasquez (New York Mets), Josh Morgan (Texas Rangers), Luke Hansen, Yonny Hernandez (Rangers), Ryan Costello (Minnesota Twins), Jared Walker (Los Angeles Dodgers), Daniel Lamb-Hunt*, Andrew Marck*.
Outfielders: Max Brown*, Hansel Moreno (Mets), Kim Won-Seok.
Pitchers: Kyle Glogoski* (Philadelphia Phillies), Josh Collmenter*, Jared Koenig, Jimmy Boyce*, Yujo Kitigata, Hever Bueno (Rangers), Lucas Jacobsen (Rangers), Emerson Martinez (Rangers), Mitch Hughson*, Ryota Okumoto, Elliot Johnstone*.
* - returning players.