The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.
—Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), Field of Dreams
I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. I’m nothing close to athletically inclined, so I didn’t play, but I’ve always been a fan. I watched the Atlanta Braves during those awful years in the ’80s and through their championship runs, and when I went to the University of Georgia, I discovered college baseball, which I love even more than Major League Baseball.
Over the past two decades or so, baseball has gotten less exciting, particularly in the majors. The analytics guys have taken over the front offices of many teams, and they have decreed that the home run is the most important thing about baseball. The emphasis on hitting the ball out of the park has led to fewer hits and more strikeouts, and baseball games are less exciting as a result.
But on Monday, I had the privilege of speaking with Pat Geoghegan of Save the Game, who is working to change that and make the game of baseball more exciting for all generations. Pat is married with three adult daughters, and he’s a baseball fan who also played the game in high school and college.
Pat developed a friendship with Kevin Gallagher, who wrote a book on hitting: Teach Your Kid to Hit…So They Don’t Quit! Save the Game came about as a result of the emphasis on launch angle, which has led to the premium on home runs, which has made baseball less exciting at all levels.
“MLB has changed the fundamentals of the game to a power and home run first approach which we believe has significantly reduced the amount of action between home runs and reduced the entertainment levels of the game,” reads the Save the Game website.
Pat told me that he and Kevin want people to understand that the lack of action and entertainment in baseball makes it unwatchable. Pat paraphrased Don Mattingly when he said that “it’s tough to watch baseball because there’s nothing going on at times.”
“We want to avoid baseball becoming a secondary or tertiary sport in 10-15 years’ time,” Pat told me.
But it’s about more than just the major leagues. Save the Game seeks to change the fundamentals of the game back to an emphasis on contact hitting throughout the baseball ecosystem — and in softball too! A return to an emphasis on contact hitting can grow the game, which in turn can save the game.
Part of those plans came about as a result of a conversation with the CEO of Little League Baseball, who told Kevin and Pat that if they could deliver an app, it would be a great tool for kids to learn to hit better. Save the Game plans to turn Kevin’s book into an app for hitter training.
“It’s a marriage of physical teaching and technology,” Pat said.
The easy part of making this change is embracing the contact-hitting perspective, but Pat admits that the tough part is changing minds that contact hitting is more valuable than home run power hitting. Shifting that mentality can put more runners on base and create more action and entertainment at all levels of the game.
What about those traditionalists who are already skittish about the last 20 years of changes to baseball?
“I think if you embrace change it’s your friend,” Pat replied.
If baseball returns to the emphasis on contact hitting, any contact is valuable. Instead of home runs being a premium, fans will see more exciting rallies, and that type of action can get people engaged in baseball again.
Pat likens it to football. Sure, a touchdown is great, but it’s really a by-product of the drive down the field, which is the real action. A rally in baseball or softball is the same way.
More action in baseball will also improve TV and radio coverage. As the game is now, announcers and color commentators have to talk more to fill the space when nothing is happening. With more contact hitting and more rallies, they can discuss the exciting action.
Sports media have a role in improving baseball as well. Pat says that certain announcers and writers see what’s going on, but some are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of what MLB might think. The media can be part of the solution because more action will lead more people to tune in and watch.
“In the long run, we want to grow the game to save the game,” he told me.
Save the Game has gotten some positive feedback from baseball players and staff. Pat says that several ex-GMs, ex-players, executives, and scouts embrace it but are reluctant to speak out publicly.
“We’ve spoken to dozens of people in professional baseball,” Pat said. “Some love it but can’t go on the record, but they tell us to keep it up. They know that there’s an issue and that things need to change.”
“We’re not here to pick a fight,” he added. “We want to have a conversation across the entire ecosystem of baseball and softball. Baseball has been our national pastime for a long time, and we still would like to keep it that way.”
Flashback: Can Major League Baseball Be Saved?
I asked Pat what kind of reception Save the Game has gotten from the general public. He said that it has taken some time to get the message out, but once the public understands what they’re trying to do, they get behind the movement.
Pat says that parents want to teach their kids the proper way to hit, and they embrace it. He recalled the story of one day recently when he went for a walk in his neighborhood and saw a dad playing catch with his two sons. He asked the boys why they loved baseball, and they said it was because their dad loves it.
Pat gave the dad a copy of Kevin’s book and explained the concept behind Save the Game. Now, this dad is teaching his sons and their teammates how to contact hit. Pat says that it’s gratifying to see kids and parents learn the lessons that baseball teaches.
“In baseball and in life, you have to work hard to be successful,” Pat related to me. “If you stick with something it can be a life lesson in success and productivity.”
I asked Pat what he thinks about the future of baseball. He said he’s a “glass-half-full guy,” and he’s encouraged.
“I’m optimistic that we’re able to usher in the change that goes back to contact hitting,” he told me. I think we’ll be successful. Will we meet resistance? Sure. It’s already out there. But a majority of people who love baseball understand, root for us, and make connections. It’s been a gratifying ride so far, and I don’t think the ride is over.”
“I really believe that, in a year or two, we’re going to look back and say, ‘Wow, look at where we started and where we are now,'” he added.
Pat and Kevin have put their own money into Save the Game, but, he says, “our motivations are pure — we want to grow the game to save the game.”
If you’ve made it this far, you’re a baseball fan like me, and you’re probably wondering what you can do to help this movement. The first thing you should do is visit savethegameus.com and sign the petition. You can also follow Save the Game on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As of now, there isn’t a way to donate — if you click the “donate” button on the petition, the money doesn’t go to Save the Game — but Pat and Kevin are planning some fundraisers soon.
Whether you’re a Major League Baseball nut or a college or high school baseball fan, or if you have kids who play baseball or softball, you know that baseball and softball are worth saving. And Save the Game wants to make a difference. If you love the game, you should too.