The sun was blazing on a midsummer afternoon in Kansas City in 1995. As the Twins finished a session of early batting practice at what was then known as Royals Stadium, George Brett took the mound.
He was the only one on the field. The Royals Hall of Famer and team executive began impersonating various pitchers. He looked at Twins manager Tom Kelly in the dugout, sucked in his cheeks, squinted, pursed his lips and asked, “Who’s this?”
Brett began pantomime-pitching in a continuous motion, going into his windup, flinging an imaginary baseball toward home, catching an imaginary throw from the catcher as he retreated to the mound and starting his windup again without pause.
“Kitty!” veteran Twins yelled, calling out the nickname of Twins great Jim Kaat.
Kaat’s windup could solve baseball’s pace-of-play problem in one, hurried leap, but since most big league pitchers like to breath or meditate or recite the Gettysburg Address between pitches, The Kitty Delivery is not likely to alter the game.
Neither are baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.
I can help. All baseball has to do to alter its very nature is adopt these few dozen highly serious suggestions to allow fans to get home before dawn:
1. Make every pitcher face at least two batters before being removed. Even Twins starters.
2. Reinstate bullpen cars. Make them Lamborghinis.
3. Decree that walk-up music be merit-based. Hit a home run? Next time up you get 30 seconds of your favorite song. Single? Five seconds of your favorite song. Strike out? Five seconds of Nickelback. Voilà. No more strikeouts.
4. Byron Buxton pinch runs. For everyone.
5. Speed brawling. Like speed dating, only with punches. Also, if relievers are going to sprint in from the bullpen to pretend they want to fight, they must sprint back after admitting they don’t want to fight.
6. No more mound visits for managers, catchers or infielders. Pitchers may only consult Alexa.
7. No more seventh-inning stretch. Instead, require fans to observe a moment of silence(d phone).
8. If the intentional walk can be executed by pointing to first, why can’t the unintentional walk be executed by flashing a picture of Michael Tonkin?
9. No more ridiculing bunting as a strategy. Bunting is usually stupid, but it speeds up the game, since it produces an average of 1.5 outs.
10. Ask Joe Mauer to ground out to second on the first pitch, not the 12th.
11. Incentives for fast home-run trots. Reach home plate in less than 15 seconds, you get to wear the yellow jersey.
12. Robot umpires. At least until the robots join Skynet.
13. No rain delays. If Robert Redford can hit home runs through raindrops, big leaguers should be able to, too.
14. Arguments with umpires must be conducted via text.
15. Follow Little League procedure — baserunners must run until they’re out. Also known as the Lew Ford rule.
16. Be like Kirby Puckett. Swing at everything and, as Puck always said, “Swing hard in case you hit it.”
17. Infielders may tackle.
18. All replays must be watched in fast-forward mode.
19. Every time a pitcher throws to first base, he must contribute $100 to a charity devoted to the cure of obsessive procrastination.
20. Batters boxes must be lined with invisible fencing.
21. Spitting and scratching are prohibited unless the player can provide a note from his doctor.
22. Five serious and defining words: Bigger strike zone. Pitch clock.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org