This season’s experimental rules changes in the Atlantic League have been, among many other things, the mother of invention.
The AL is playing with 18-inch square bases. The rest of the baseball world uses 15-inch bases. Most AL stadiums are occasionally used for non-AL baseball. Clipper Magazine Stadium, for example, hosted the Midget Division of the LNP tournament July 29-Aug. 1.
Swapping the big bases out for the smaller ones is a bigger deal than you might think.
The base assembly attaches to an underground concrete base. Going back and forth between base sizes while keeping the distance between bases exactly right is one issue. Another is anchoring each size base exactly in terms of its relationship to the first- and third-base lines.
At first glance, it looked like a daunting task - an excavation job, really - every time the bases had to be changed.
"If you think about it, as an operations guy, the reality is you could be hosting a Midget game and a Lancaster-Lebanon League game and then an Atlantic League game,'' said Mike Logan, the Director of Stadium Operations at the Clip.
"We were envisioning have to dig up the bases every time.''
Logan began thinking of alternatives, "out of self-preservation. We knew we had to come up with something.''
Logan envisioned a metal device that sits underground and attaches to the concrete mooring further underground at first, second and third base. Two hollow steel sleeves protrude from the device, one positioned for a 15-inch base, the other for an 18-inch base.
The bases are equipped with steel prongs that fit in the sleeves. The device makes swapping out the bases as simple as pulling one out of its sleeve, and putting the other one in.
The device was designed by Logan, welded together by Curtis Welding and Fabricating, Inc. in Lititz, and is now in use in all eight Atlantic League ballparks. The Barnstormers have applied for a patent.
"You put it (the device) in, and it stays in permanently,'' Logan said. "It means you can change the bases out in seconds. And the nice thing is it was made locally.''
What if the AL decides to move the pitching rubber back two feet, an original among the group of rule changes, that has been moved back to next season at the earliest?
Enlarge the entire mound? Reshape it? Logan said he's considered a "portable,'' mound with some sort of netting underneath, that could be moved back and forth.
Alert the patent office.