BRISTOL - Bristol Blues games could look quite a bit different this coming summer.
On Friday morning, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League announced that it will be implementing a home run derby as a means to decide games that are tied at the completion of 10 innings starting this summer.
“I think it’s exciting,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. “I think it’s something the fans can get behind and the players. It’s different but it’s a chance to bring some excitement to the game.”
According to the FCBL website, the tiebreaker will consist of three rounds: one three-minute round, one two-minute round and a final one-minute round. Each coach will pick three batters to participate in the first round and will have two timeouts, during each of which the coach can swap batters. Whichever team hits the most home runs in the three minutes wins.
If it is still tied, the same procedure repeats, only with two batters and one timeout in the second round and one batter and no timeouts in the third. Batters can compete in multiple rounds.
The addition of the home run derby is accompanied by a shift to a points system for the FCBL standings. Like in the National Hockey League, upon reaching the derby, each team will earn a point. An additional point will be awarded to the winner. If the teams are still tied after the third round, the game will end in a tie.
With the introduction of the derby, the Blues will face an obstacle that other teams will not encounter quite as often. Muzzy Field is a huge ballpark, measuring 402 feet in center field. Hitting a home run in the Blues’ home park is difficult and not something that was done much during games last season.
“When I got the opportunity to watch some games last summer, I saw it was a big yard,” Palmer said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out if we get there at Muzzy. The home run derby is exciting. We’ll see the first time we have an opportunity in Muzzy.”
As far as strategy for the tiebreaker goes, it is something Palmer says will take time and experience to get used to, both from a player-selection standpoint and how to play the game in the late innings of a tie game.
“It’s something I’ll have to look at a little more in detail and get to know the players better and see how they handle it in BP and who has raw power to do that,” he said. “Obviously, when you get to the 9th and 10th innings, it’ll be in the back of your mind. To say that I know how we’re going to do things would be a lie. We’ll have to see how the situation presents itself.”
One of the main reasons why the FCBL decided to implement the derby was to curb the number of long extra-inning games that the league experienced last season. The example that the league gave in its press release was last summer’s 21-inning affair between the Blues and the North Shore Navigators.
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @K_baum30