COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Thursday marked Opening Day for Major League Baseball and both of Ohio’s big-league teams.
But the Columbus Clippers have to wait until Friday — and possibly later — to make their season debut. The Clippers are set to open the season Friday against the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, Iowa, but severe weather is threatening to slam that part of the Midwest.
While local baseball fans have to wait for the Clippers’ first game, many avid fans were out and about on a mostly sunny Thursday to celebrate the beginning of the baseball season.
“Every opening day we always do dime-a-dog day. Should be a national holiday. Many people there probably didn’t go to work today. That’s okay,” said Craig Kempton, who owns the Bier Stube near Ohio State University.
The Stube is a die-hard Cleveland sports bar, but on Opening Day, Kempton said all teams are welcome. An open seat inside or outside the bar was impossible to come by for the mid-afternoon openers — including the Cincinnati Reds game, which took over most of the TVs inside.
“Opening Day is America. It’s awesome,” Kempton said.
The ten cent hot dogs have been an annual tradition — a holiday, even — for more than 35 years.
“Give the people the day off. Look at the Stube. It’s packed. People are already taking the day off, might as well give it to them. It’s America’s pastime, isn’t it? ‘Stube’ opening day. Dime a dog day. Just an institution. Nothing beats dime a dogs, beer and baseball,” longtime Guardians fan Tommy Switzer said.
Several conversations swirled as fans tried to figure out the new rules of the game this year.
The Clippers have been trying out some of them: larger bases, no more huge shifts for the defense, and most notably, the pitch clock.
Starting this year, pitchers have 20 seconds to make a pitch when there’s a runner on base, and 15 seconds with bases empty. Marcus Stroman of the Chicago Cubs went down as the first pitcher in the MLB to receive a “ball” for a pitch clock violation.
“I think the fans like it. I think the game had gotten a little too long,” said Ken Schnacke, manager of the Columbus Clippers. “The larger bases we’ve had for a few years. That helps some of the legs getting entangled at first base on bang-bang plays. It’s supposed to help a little bit on increasing stolen bases.”
Rules aren’t the only changes in baseball in 2023. Minor League players are a part of the MLB Players Association for the first time. Unionization has been in the works for more than half a decade.
“Minor Leaguers were only being paid when they played. They weren’t being paid for practice time. They were being paid anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 a month,” said Bill Fletcher, activist and former chairman of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers.
“The conditions were almost like agricultural workers. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the major leagues, and most players don’t. They often had to share housing. Minor league baseball fans around the country, they would make their homes available for minor league players. Which is just remarkable,” Fletcher continued.
Fletcher worked with other advocates and former players for years before they were “voluntarily recognized” by MLB owners.
For local players, while many of them likely faced less than ideal conditions chasing their major league dreams, it may be a lesser but still significant affect.
“For the most part, salaries are doubling at all levels, so that will affect some of our players,” Schnacke said.
Some things, however, never change: like ‘Dime-a-Dog’ night at Huntington Park.