HILLARY SMITH: League practices should put games first

2013-06-16T21:00:00Z HILLARY SMITH: League practices should put games firstHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 16, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

GARY | At some point, between watching the radar Wednesday and listening to the serenade from the trumpet of the national anthem performer, the American Association/Can-Am League called the final game of the RailCats vs. Quebec series.

The managers were told that even though the leagues (with the same commissioner, Miles Wolff) had OK'd the elimination of the curfew rule to allow an inning to start after midnight to allow the game to be played, the game could begin no later than 10:30 p.m.

The first wave of rain hit U.S. Steel Yard about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The suite level was quickly evacuated as winds picked up and fans in the stands were asked to remain against the walls on the concourse level.

The managers began meeting every 45 minutes: at 7 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and finally at 9:15.

Though the rain had stopped at 9:15 and there was a window to squeeze at least five innings of a regulation game in, the managers wanted to play as much baseball as possible.

"You don't want a game just to try to play five innings, you want to play nine innings," RailCats manager Greg Tagert said.

The White Sox, also in town last week, had called their game as early as 11 a.m., making sure fans knew to stay away from the ballpark. The RailCats were going to try to do everything possible to play.

The difference is twofold: the White Sox average 21,929 fans while the RailCats average 3,133 and closer to half that mid-week. If U.S. Cellular Field had been packed with 22,000 people, they would have had to find shelter during the storm. That's not as big a problem to find a place for 1,500 people at U.S. Steel Yard.

Second, Major League Baseball allows its teams to make up games during mutual off days. The Can-Am League and American Association specifically do not allow makeup games on off days. So even though both teams were still in town Thursday morning, and both were headed north — Quebec to Winnipeg and the RailCats to Fargo — they couldn't reschedule the game for, say 11 a.m. Thursday.

"As I am a strong advocate of increasing the number of games in our league, the 100 game is terrific and we won't get to play 100 this year," Tagert said. "You want to do everything on the field to not put yourself in a (playoff detrimental) position. I think that's why the league has a strong stance to get in every game. I hope the players understand tonight about waiting.

"Although we didn't get it in, everybody deserves a ton of credit ... for trying to get this in, when you've got a day when Major League Baseball is canceling games."

What this means is that when the season ends, the RailCats will have just 99 games to the expected 100 of the rest of the league. That could be a half-game difference between making the playoffs or not.

When independent baseball is fighting obstacles on many ends to prove legitimacy, what it doesn't need is a reason for players to wonder if their league will do everything possible to play every game. Eliminating the off day rule will show that effort.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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