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What You Should Know About MiLB Opening Night

Beloit SnappersNew rules governing extra-innings play affecting two games, sellouts in Frisco and Chattanooga, and an epic Tim Tebow homer on the first pitch he saw as a Binghamton Rumble Pony: The biggest news items from MiLB’s Opening Day.

Two games last night were decided in extra innings, putting MiLB’s new pace of play rules to the test. Specifically, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player). By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10th inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base.

Critics say the move would make extra-innings play superfluous: teams would be boring and bunt the runner to third, who would then inevitably score and leaving the bases empty with two outs. In one case, this didn’t happen — but in a second case, that’s exactly what happened.

At Prince George’s Stadium’s extra-inning match between the Harrisburg Senators and Bowie Baysox (both Class AA; Eastern League), the new rules may have actually prolonged play rather than shortened the game. With innings beginning with a runner on second base, both teams scored in the 10th and 11th innings and both failed to score in the 12th inning before Harrisburg scored four runs in the top of the inning thanks to a three-run homer by Zack Collier, then hung on for a 10-9 win. Bunts didn’t play a role in the final score.

It did, however, in a Low A Midwest League game.

At Pohlman Field, the Beloit Snappers pulled out a 4-3 11-inning win using the precise formula of bunting over the runner at second and then pushing across a run. Both Beloit and the visiting Wisconsin Timber Rattlers scored in the tenth, but after Wisconsin failed to score in the top of the 11th, in the bottom of the 11th pinch-runner Jack Meggs scored the winning run. With Meggs on second to begin the inning, Skyler Weber laid down a bunt down the third-base line to advance Meggs to third. An errant throw by third baseman Gabriel Garcia allowed Meggs to score and give the Snappers a 4-3 Opening Day win.

Sellouts in Frisco, Chattanooga

Despite the cold weather impacting crowds across the country, two teams put up very good numbers, selling out their season openers.

The Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA; Texas League) welcomed the largest Opening Day crowd in franchise history Thursday evening at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The announced ballpark-wide crowd of 11,015 surpassed the previous Opening Day record of 10,773 on April 18, 2004. It certainly was a party, as the Deep Ellum Brewing Party @ The Yard — scheduled for Thursday nights — features dollar beer and other drink specials centered around the Choctaw Lazy River outfield area. With a celebrity DJ (Spinderella from Salt-N-Pepa), it was millennial marketing at its best.

“Our goal with Party @ The Yard is to create an unrivaled outdoor party and social experience that doesn’t focus on the baseball game being played on the field, but rather uses it as a unique backdrop for a post-work-or-school evening out with friends,” Riders General Partner and CEO Chuck Greenberg said via press release. “We’re incredibly excited about tonight’s inaugural Party @ The Yard turnout that powered our largest Opening Day crowd in team history, and we’re looking forward to seeing Party @ The Yard continue to grow each Thursday this season and into the future.”

The Chattanooga Lookouts (Class AA; Southern League) reported a sellout crowd of 6,371 fans at AT&T Field. The sold-out crowd was the team’s first Opening Day sell out since April 15th, 2008. Alas, the Lookouts dropped a 5-4 loss to the Birmingham Barons.

Tebow Rumbles in Binghamton

For the second season in a row, Tim Tebow homered in his first at-bat, this time as a member of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Class AA; Eastern League). It was one of three homers from the Rumble Ponies, who cruised to a 6-0 win over the Portland Sea Dogs before a crowd of 5,247 at NYSEG Stadium. Sea Dogs starter Teddy Stankiewicz had a rough start, allowing a two-run homer to Peter Alonso and then walked two before Tebow’s shot. It was a typical Tebow line: 1-for-4, 3 RBI on the homer, and a strikeout.

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