By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Beginning March 16, when Baylor hosts Texas Tech for its Big 12 opening series, the Bears will activate two visible 15-second pitch clocks as per a new experimental rule by the Big 12 conference.
The 15-second pitch clocks will only be used when there are no base runners. Failure for a pitcher to adhere to the pitch clock will result in a ball being rewarded to the batter. If the hitter doesn’t enter the batter’s box within the time constraint, a strike will be rewarded.
One pitch clock will be located underneath the scoreboard in left-center field and the other will be beneath the press box in the center of the stands, where it is visible to the pitcher.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said he is in favor of the pitch clock because it helps keep a quicker pace to the game, but said it shouldn’t have too much impact on his pitching staff.
“The pitch clock, I think, will have absolutely zero effect. We’re doing this for the simple purpose of guys not trying to slow games down when there’s really no need to slow it down. I believe in playing fast baseball in regards to the timing of everything,” Rodriguez said. “I went through a lot of our games just to see how it would really affect us, if it would. Most of our guys were anywhere from nine to 11 seconds in regards to getting rid of a pitch, so it’s going to be a clock up there that really should have no relevance to anything. There’s going to be some teams it’s going to affect and that’s what we’re trying to fix.”
Senior closer Troy Montemayor said he and other members of the pitching staff had already begun working with it during their pitching lab workouts, so there shouldn’t be that much of an adjustment for him when he takes the mound in the eighth or ninth inning.
“I don’t think it will. We incorporated that a little bit in the pitching lab. It really hasn’t changed,” Montemayor said. “I don’t think anybody really takes that long to pitch. If it does [change an approach] it’s just some minor adjustments, but it’s not really that big of a deal.”
From a hitting perspective, the Bears don’t seem too worried about it either. Sophomore catcher Shea Langeliers said Rodriguez has always been quick to give the signs so it’s easy to keep the at-bat moving along.
“It shouldn’t have too big of an impact,” Langeliers said. “Hitting wise, for me at least, I get the signs from Coach Rod and get right back in the box so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal.”
Langeliers also said the Bears’ slowest pitcher in between pitches last season was Montana Parsons, who was between 13 and 17 seconds. However, Parsons was drafted by the Miami Marlins in June’s MLB draft and pitched in the Minor League this summer, therefore waiving his final year of eligibility.
Although the Bears aren’t concerned about the changes coming as a result of the pitch clock, one group that it will have a big impact on is the umpires.
Rich Fetchiet, who serves as the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) supervisor of Baseball Umpires and is the coordinator for baseball umpires for numerous conferences, will be working with umpires regarding the mechanics of the clock.
According to a statement by the Big 12, each institution will be required to provide a “timer” who will meet with umpires prior to the start of each game/series to review procedures.
The Big 12 also recommends that toward the beginning of the conference season, coaches, umpires should meet prior to first pitch of each game to review the process.
Big 12 schools are encouraged to do their best to accurately record the length of games so the conference can analyze the information and re-evaluate the rule at season’s end.
Even though Rodriguez doesn’t believe this new addition will have much of an impact on the Bears this season, he said he would like to see the Big 12 follow suit with the SEC and ACC and add coaches’ challenges.
“I think college baseball really needs to emulate what Major League Baseball is doing. There can’t be as many rules and different situations and circumstances. If you have the capabilities of having instant replay and the cameras at your stadium, I think it’s going to be a great thing. The truth is, it’s about getting the call right,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the rule will help ensure plays are called correctly.
“The umpires have a new system now where you can talk to them and ask them all to confer, to get the call right. This is just another avenue, another tool to be able to do that. I think it’s going to be a great challenge for the NCAA to see what they’re going to do with it, but at the same time I think it’s going to be great for our sport because truthfully these kids deserve to have the call right.”
Baylor will open its season with a three-game series against Purdue beginning at 6:35 p.m. Feb. 16 at Baylor Ballpark.