The new-look Pioneer League is not afraid to swing for the fences.
A “Knock Out” rule — essentially a meshing together of a home run derby and a hockey shootout — will decide games tied after nine innings as opposed to extra innings.
The new rule for the league — home to the Rocky Mountain Vibes in Colorado Springs, the Grand Junction Rockies and, beginning in 2022, the Northern Colorado Owls in Windsor — calls for each team to designate a hitter, who receives five pitches. The team with the most home runs in those five pitches is declared the winner. If it results in a tie, a sudden-death home run faceoff will be held.
The league said the rule was created to save the strain on pitching staffs that is often created by extra-inning games. The offshoot for the league is that the rule attracted hordes of national attention after it was announced Tuesday, with multiple major outlets reporting on it and several national baseball writers seeing tweets on the subject go viral.
It’s the kind of attention the Pioneer League will struggle to generate in this first season since it lost its affiliation with Major League Baseball. The league will still be a “partner league” with MLB and can host players on loan status, but it is otherwise an independent league.
“I’m thrilled to see these exciting rules changes implemented for this season,” Pioneer League president Michael Shapiro said. “The Pioneer Baseball League is committed to developing ideas that enhance the strategy of the game, protect the safety of our players and add to the fun and engagement of our fans. We believe this focus will help assure the future of the game among a broader and more diverse audience.”
Other rules announced Tuesday include a designated hitter and runner, which will allow a starter to depart for a substitute hitter or runner and then re-enter the game. Also, hitters will be allowed to appeal check swings, a privilege reserved for pitchers and catchers in other leagues. Now, if a hitter feels the home plate umpire incorrectly ruled a swing, he can ask another umpire for a second opinion.
The league will also go from its standard two umpires per game to three.