Baseball’s an Appealing Game! 25 Apr 14

Baseball’s an Appealing Game!

Photos and Stories by Gordy Jones

I am all for the new instant-replay review that was instituted in baseball this year, except for one aspect of the process. Every team has someone

The home plate umpire discusses a call with Twin’s catcher Josmil Pinto.

who looks at the play in question before the manager decides whether or not to appeal. To give the reviewer time, the manager delays the next pitch by walking out onto the field, and he has a talk with the umpire. Meantime, the team’s review person is looking at the tape to see if the call is worthy of appeal. After the manager finishes his discussion with the umpire, he looks into his dugout for a signal whether or not to appeal the umpire’s call. By now, it is pretty much a no-brainer. Everyone — including the fans — knows what the right call is. Yet, fans have to wait another three minutes while the officials in New York formally review the play, and send what is now an obvious decision to the umpires, who in turn signal the players and fans. This procedure takes too much time, and is almost no risk to the appealing team. Everyone has seen the play over and over, and everyone knows the right call, even before New York has reviewed it.

Gardy discusses a call with the umpire at spring training, while the Mets manager looks on.

In football, a coach must quickly decide if his team wants to appeal. If the center snaps the ball, the coach has lost his opportunity to request a review. You could apply a similar rule to baseball: The manager should not be allowed to delay the game by talking to the umpire. If he strolls out onto the field, he should lose his opportunity to appeal. He should be given 20 seconds to decide, unless the next pitch is thrown sooner. I think that would speed up the game; not only would it eliminate the chat with the umpire, it would force a quick decision whether to review based only on real-time visuals. I believe that my proposal would be a good call.

The Guy Who Only Works During Break Time!

If you have been to Target Field during this young season, you may have noticed a fellow in the photo well behind the right-handed batter’s box. He is holding color squares high over his head during the breaks. He is the new MLB employee, Jon Holzschuh (or an alternate), working in his new position, which is officially called “field timing coordinator.” With the new instant-replay review option come more timeouts. MLB thought it would be a good idea to create this position so that everyone’s on the same page as far as timeouts go. The people who pay attention to Jon’s signals are the umpires, players and coaches, some media in the press box, and the radio and TV people, including those who sit in the TV truck at the Target Field loading dock.

Jon Holzschuh proudly holds his signal card above his head at Target Field.

If you see Jon raising a red flashcard, it means stop; we are going on break — NOW! Blue means we’re back in 45 seconds, yellow means 25 seconds; everyone get ready. At this point, the on-deck batter should be approaching the plate. Green means we’re back on!  

Jon is a freelance videographer who has shot not only baseball, but many other sports. He was hired by MLB for his new position this off-season. There are two field timing coordinators at every ballpark, with one working every game. Jon trained at Miller Park during some late spring-training Brewers games. “Training was fine, but the photo wells were pretty crowded. So far the regular season has been pretty smooth,” Jon told me.

He shuffled his color square cards, put them in order, and smiled. I could tell he was having fun. There are many cool and unique jobs in baseball. Now there is one more.