PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: A pitch clock counts down as Jay Groome #55 of the San Diego Padres prepares to deliver a pitch to Eugenio Suarez #28 of the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning in a spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2023 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, Major League Baseball entered a new era. The first games – albeit spring training games – were played under the new rules implemented this season that include the banning of the shift, bigger bases, and most notably the pitch clock. It was a topic of discussion at the Red Sox game last weekend in Fort Myers.

The pitch clock is the rule that has gotten the most attention. In an effort to shorten games, players are now clocked in between pitches. From the time they get the ball back from the catcher, pitchers have 15 seconds with the bases empty or 20 seconds with runners on base to begin their pitching motion (30 seconds prior to the first pitch of an at-bat). If they don’t a ball is added to the count.

Under the new rule, batters are timed as well. They’ll receive an automatic strike if not in the box by the eight second mark. Pitchers are also limited two step-offs or pickoff moves per at-bat – a third would result in a balk.

Early on, the changes have been noticeably and strongly effective. Sitting down and watching the games already feels like a more expedited, engaging process – and the numbers back that up.

Over the first weekend of spring training games, the average game time was 2:38. That’s down 23 minutes from last year’s spring training average. When pitch clocks were tested in the minors last year, the average game time dropped by 25 minutes, so there’s evidence to suggest that number could carry over once the regular season begins (last year, spring training games were on average two minutes shorter than regular season games).

Just how notable of a change would that be?

The last MLB season to have an average game time (per nine innings) under 2:40 was 1985. Average game times have exceeded three hours every season since 2012, reaching a record 3:11 in 2021.

These changes have also created some new and interesting dynamics late in games. Look no further than the Red Sox spring training opener. Tied 6-6 with the Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded, second baseman Cal Conley was facing a full count. However, he failed to get in the box in time, resulting in a game-ending automatic strike (extra innings aren’t played in the spring – in the regular season, the game would have moved to extras).

As players like Conley experience the new rules, incluing the pitch clock, they’ll naturally be accustomed to playing faster.

With that, the time of game could continue to improve.

For years, Major League Baseball has hemmed and hawed around the idea of pace of play. They’ve turned to non-answers like eliminating intentional walks (something that was estimated to save each team about two and a half minutes total over the course of an entire season), the free runner in extra innings (how does that make the typical nine-inning game faster?), limiting pitching changes, and other tweaks that had minimal to no impact.

Now though, it looks like they may have made a change that actually works. The pitch clock. The initial TV ratings of the regular season will be telling as to how fans are really responding. Without a doubt the games are certainly more watchable already.

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Fort Myers Named One Of The Coolest Small Cities In America

Fort Myers has been named one of the coolest small cities in America.

I grew up right between Chicago and Milwaukee, so big city life is something I’m very familiar with. It was definitely a bit of change for me when I first moved to Fort Myers, but for me, the pros definitely outweigh any cons. “Cold” is anything below 70. While traffic isn’t non-existent, it’s relatively easy to get around. Rent isn’t astronomical. And you can find a beer in a local bar for $5, not $15. Yes, you might have to travel to a larger city like Tampa or Miami to catch a big artist in concert or go to a Michelin star restaurant. But small cities have a charm about them too.

With Hurricane Ian devastating the area in September, we’ve got a long road ahead for rebuilding. A lot of people fear that as Fort Myers Beach rebuilds that it will be overrun by high rises and chain hotels. The reality of that remains to be seen, but I really can’t wait for the beach to thrive once again.

So what defines a “small city”? The Demographic Research Unit of the Department of Finance qualifies a small city as an incorporated area that has a population of 100,000 of less.

Thrillist put together a list of the coolest small cities in America and Fort Myers made the list! To me, I feel like sometimes people forget about Fort Myers with some of the larger cities in Florida. Many people from out of town hear Florida and think Miami, Orlando, Tampa. But there’s so many small towns, especially coastal small towns, that are so gorgeous and have so much to offer. And for us that live here, they may only be 3-4 hours away, so they make for a great little weekend getaway too.

Coolest Small Cities in America:

Joe Winner spends his days combing through memes and off beat stories to bring you the side of Florida not always seen.