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Notice something different? Changes made to Nevada's Minor League Baseball teams

RENO ACES
AP Photo/Scott Sonner

This photo taken Aug. 1, 2019 during a Pacific Coast League baseball game between the Reno Aces and Iowa Cubs at Greater Nevada Field in Reno.

You know it’s officially spring when the winds start gusting, the heat rises and Minor League Baseball returns to Nevada.

But this year will look a little different to fans of Nevada's two teams, the Las Vegas Aviators and the Reno Aces.

That’s because of a few new rules: shorter pitching time, bigger bases to encourage stealing, and, perhaps the biggest change, robotic umps calling balls and strikes.

Some people, of course, like baseball just the way it is. Others have been begging for changes to speed up the game and make it more watchable.

The lockdown didn’t affect the minors too much, said Chris Murray with Nevada Sports Net.

“For the minor leagues to get just a regular season back in 2022, it's going to be really good for their pocketbooks, and just for the general fan experience of having kind of a normal season,” he said.

But lots of changes were made in the deeper systems, like “shifting,” which is when players are moved to different parts of the field to better defend against a batter who routinely hits in one area.

It’s no longer allowed in Single-A or Double-A, but it is allowed this year still in Triple-A, Murray said.

There’s a shorter pitch clock, which Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Andy Yamashita said MLB has been working on for a while.

“This is just another attempt to keep the game at a good pace, especially for younger audiences,” he said.

Bases are bigger this year, from 15” to 18”, which resulted in calls for more player safety. Between the size and new position of second base, these changes will also allow for more stealing.

“It's exciting. It's fun. And they're hoping that the bigger bases and less area to cover to get to second will encourage more of that. More of that action,” he said.

Robotic umpires are the biggest change to minor league baseball, including both Nevada teams. It’s a point of contention for baseball traditionalists.

“There will still be an umpire back there, he'll still have to signal whether it was a ball or strike and make home out calls at home plate. But you know, it's something that's been discussed for a long time,” Murray said. “And I think if the technology gets to the point where it is 100%, I do think you'll see it at the major league level.”

The robot umpires will be added mid-May.

Murray said the changes are aimed at bringing in a younger audience.

Andy Yamashita, sports reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Chris Murray, producer, Nevada Sports Net

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for knpr.org, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.