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J.D. Long GarcíaJuly 25, 2023
iStock/Jim Keane

This year, Major League Baseball implemented a number of changes, seeking to somehow improve an already perfect game. None of the changes were necessary, and predictably, they mostly made the game worse.

Take, for example, the pitch clock—a new rule meant to hasten the pace of play. This year, the pitcher has 15 seconds between pitches to pitch the ball—20 seconds if there is a runner on base. If he doesn’t, the batter is awarded an automatic ball. There is a corresponding rule that penalizes the batter with a strike if he does something to delay the game, but the rule is so absurd I can’t be bothered to remember it.

Some polls have reported that most self-described “fans” do not share my view of the clock. People will tell you they like the pitch clock because it makes the games faster. Well, it certainly is faster. But better? It’s like going fishing and wanting it to be over with quickly. Imagine getting home from a fishing trip and telling your friends how great it was because it was so short. Well, that means you don’t like fishing. People who like the pitch clock aren’t that into baseball.

Still baseball, like other sacred institutions, must adapt to engage a wider and more diverse audience. So must the church. We are in the middle of the Synod for Synodality, and a lot of Catholics are hoping for a lot of things to change. I get it. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few things change myself.

This year, Major League Baseball implemented a number of changes, seeking to somehow improve an already perfect game. None of the changes were necessary, and predictably, they mostly made the game worse.

Some ideas that come to mind:

The homily clock. Pope Francis has talked about the need for brevity in preaching, but a lot of priests aren’t listening. I have suffered through a number of homilies from Father who tried to cram three or four meandering discourses into one Sunday Mass. You know the type. No beginning or end. I clocked him at over 25 minutes one week.

It is particularly miserable for parents who have 2-year-olds. Barring some sort of tranquilizer, we are just not going to make it through Mass in our seats. Some days, while pacing back and forth behind the pews, I would see folks scrolling through their emails. A long homily is not the same as an effective homily. 

Pompous piety restrictions. You know those folks who will only receive Communion from the priest? That should be banned, or at least penalized. So, if you’re one of the people in line to receive Communion from the priest when there is no one in line to receive from the extraordinary ministers, then you have to stay after Mass and clean the bathrooms. Let’s keep the focus on who we are receiving, not who is distributing.

Pew cushions and seating charts: Down with uncomfortable pews! We must have cushions and they must be bigger, and therefore safer. We don’t want anyone injuring themselves at Mass, possibly slipping off the pew mid-homily. Also, we need a mandate to ensure Massgoers are equally spread out in the sanctuary. It doesn’t look right when we’re all bunched together in one section.

Unlike baseball’s haphazard attempts to “improve” the game, the church must prayerfully discern its next steps. There is so much more at stake.

Designated Catholics: If I can’t make it to Mass, can I designate someone to go for me? Same goes for confession. And speaking of which, how about a confession-clock?

Miscellaneous items: Cutting people off in the church parking lot should be a mortal sin. Also, let’s talk about dress codes.

This is a ridiculous list, and a sorely limited and probably absurd metaphor. Because baseball—unlike the church—isn’t for “all nations,” right? The responsibility we have to introduce Jesus Christ to the world cannot be compared to Major League Baseball. (Not the same ballpark, not the same sport.) Even if Major League Baseball has the temerity to call their championship the World Series.

Last month, the Vatican released the working document for this October’s synod meeting. Among its concerns, the document notes that many Catholics do not take part in decision-making. A lot of media coverage has focused on the possibility of married priests and women deacons, but the synodal process has also highlighted the need for the care of creation and ecumenism.

The church must change some things; and (perhaps) baseball does, too. After all, they have both evolved through the years. Batters now wear helmets, and that’s good. Popes no longer wear tiaras, which is also good. And dare I say it, Mass being celebrated in modern languages—that’s great. (Incidentally, moving second base closer to home plate makes perfect sense to me.)

But unlike baseball’s haphazard attempts to “improve” the game, the church must prayerfully discern its next steps. There is so much more at stake. Together, we must calmly sort through new ideas, revisit old ones and as a church, trust in the greatest commissioner of all, the Holy Spirit.

[Read next: How America Sold Out Little League Baseball]

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