Tick, tick, tick…what’s that unfamiliar sound at the ballpark?

For both the lifelong baseball fan as well the newcomer to America’s pastime, some of the sights and sounds of the ballpark may not ring familiar this season. Sure, there will still be the sound of the home plate umpire bellowing out ball and strike calls, the call of hot dog vendors peddling their confections up and down the aisles of the stadiums, and the amplifying of a player’s favorite “walk-up” song to home plate.

But the sound (be it silent) of a pitch clock?

For the first time in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, the league has implemented a pitch clock for the 2023 season in an attempt to speed up the length of games played. Tested successfully at the minor league level where it shaved an average of 25 minutes off games, the idea is to dispense of the “dead time” in games, forcing both the pitcher and the batter alike to “speed things up.”

After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, the pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. Pitchers are also limited to two disengagements, such as a pickoff attempt or step-off, per plate appearance. A third will result in a balk. 

Hitters have to be facing the pitcher by the eight-second mark or they will be tagged with an automatic strike. The new rules also state that there should be no more than 30 seconds between batters.

Are these new “pace-of-play” rules a novel idea to help improve/update America’s pastime or a rude intrusion of the only of the four major sports that has always prided itself on being absent of a running timer?

Of course, this is only one of a handful of changes MLB has implemented for the 2023 season. Among the others are the elimination of the extreme infield “shift,” with the new rule stating that there must be two infielders on each side of second base when a pitch is thrown. There are also larger bases in play to hopefully cut down on injuries and player collisions.

While the elimination of the shift will play a major role in the outcome of games, the idea of timing a baseball game in any way is already being debated…and in some cases labeled as blasphemy by purists.

As a longtime baseball fan, I am torn between preserving the tradition of the game (no timing) and the prospect of a more “tidy” nine innings that will potentially attract new and younger fans while getting us home from the ballpark a little earlier. Of course, I don’t really mind spending three and a half hours watching Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso hit home runs, especially with the price of tickets these days, but I guess over the course of a 162-game schedule the reduced time may prevent player injuries and increase the likelihood of healthy teams heading into the postseason in October.

And I certainly am in favor of the new “shift” rule, which prevents teams from placing three or even sometimes four infielders on one side of second base. This should make for more base hits, more running on the bases and more defensive gems.

We asked some folks in the optical industry their thoughts on baseball’s new rules (where it’s important to keep your “eye” on the ball), as well as which MLB team they root for and which teams they feel may be playing in the World Series in October and we received the following responses:

Gary Esterow
Executive Director
Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA) and
International Sports Vision Association (ISVA)

“I am a lifetime NY Mets fan and despite the loss of their closer, I still like their chances for this season as either division winner or wild card team. As far as the World Series, in the American League I have to go with Houston, and as an eternal optimist, I will stick with my Mets representing the National League in the World Series.”

“I like the new (pitch clock) rule. That, along with the hitter getting one timeout per plate appearance and needing to be in the batter's box with eight seconds on the pitch clock will speed up the game. They’ve seen a difference (ie, shorter games) in the minors since implementing these rules.”

Erika Jurrens pictured with son, Henry, and husband Adam Hutchison.

Erika Jurrens
SVP of Strategic Development and Commercialization
ABB Optical Group

“My competitive spirit tends to show up in the office rather than on the baseball field, with one exception and I have a feeling most parents can relate. My kindergarten son/baseball player, Henry, will be in coach pitch (vs. T-ball) for the first time so this feels like a World Series moment. It was just last year he was running the bases the wrong way so lots of progress for this team already!”

“Personally, I’m thrilled to speed up these (MLB) games. I generally go to the game to drink a beer, sit in the sun, and eat peanuts. By the seventh inning stretch, everyone is getting itchy to roll out… humans in general are far less patient than they used to be. Just another sign of the times.”

Bruno Garcia
VP of Marketing
Oakley North America

“The Houston Astros are going to win the World Series again.”

“It’s going to take some time for the entire baseball community to get used to it (pitch clock). Everything they are doing to speed up the game is great, it’s going to be very useful in the regular season. People want to go to the stadium and have an enjoyable experience watching the entire game. The deeper we get into the postseason, and the higher the stakes become, the more issues I think the new rules will cause.”

Steve Vargo, OD, MBA
Optometric Practice Management Consultant

“I’m a Cubs fan (insert joke here). Unfortunately, I don’t like our chances this year, but every Cubs fan knows… There’s always next year! My picks for the World Series are the Yankees and Padres.”

“I’m a baseball purist, but I understand the new rules to speed up the game. The younger 'TikTok' generation isn’t sitting through three consecutive hours of anything, so like anything else, the game has to evolve.”

Sergio Duplan
President, North America

“I’m a lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan, so I’ll be rooting for them to make it back to the World Series this year—only this time to come out on top! In the American League, I pull for the Texas Rangers. At Alcon, our commitment to investing into research and development has paid off for our business, and I believe the investments that the Rangers made over the last year and a half will, likewise, pay dividends this season. As for the World Series, I’d like to see a Phillies vs. Rangers match-up (with the Phillies winning in game seven!).

“At Alcon, innovation drives our purpose of helping people see brilliantly, so as I think about the new MLB rules implemented this season, I view them through the lens of continuous improvement. Delivering on our promise also requires us to move with speed and agility—and the new MLB rules are driving a quicker pace of the games, which I have enjoyed and early returns seem to indicate that the fans, players and teams are also pleased with how the new rules are playing out.”

Mary Kane
Executive Editor
Vision Monday

"I have been a Mets fan since 1969 when the Sisters of Charity allowed us to watch the World Series on televisions that were usually reserved for educational programs at my very Catholic grammar school. Maybe the fact that they had become known as “The Miracle Mets” (they finished in ninth place the previous season) inspired the nuns to let us watch the Series in class, but I’ve been hooked on baseball ever since."

"Fast forward to 2023, the first year of the pitch clock and timers for hitters in the batter’s box will definitely speed up the game and result in more action on the field. I would be feeling a lot better about the Mets fortunes if their star reliever, Edwin Diaz, didn’t suffer a season-ending injury while celebrating during the World Baseball Classic last month, but such is the life of a Met fan. Here’s hoping Justin Verlander’s muscle strain heals and the Met bats stay hot."

"In the words of the late Tug McGraw, another star reliever for the Mets, Ya Gotta Believe!"