Some big rule changes are in store for the Grand Junction Rockies in the upcoming Pioneer League Season.

Rockies Baseball Returns

It seems like the community is very excited about the return of baseball to the Grand Valley after the JUCO World Series was canceled last year along with the GJ Rockies season. The Rockies' first game this year will be on May 22 and the first home game at Suplizio Field will be Wednesday, June 9.

While fans will be excited to be back in the stands, they will certainly notice some  rule changes that are being implemented in the Pioneer League for the upcoming season. Baseball purists and traditionalists will probably hate the changes, but the average baseball fan will likely be fond of at least some of the changes.

No More Extra Innings

The most dramatic rule change is eliminating extra innings to decide ball games tied after 9 innings. Instead, games that are tied will be decided by a head-to-head sudden-death home run dual.  A  designated hitter from each team will receive 5 pitches with the game being determined by the most home runs hit. If it's still tied after the first round, another hitter from each team will be selected to go head-to-head. The league says the purpose of the rule change is to "avoid the excessive strain on our pitching staffs."

Designated Pinch Hitter

A player who has not been in the game previously can be inserted as a pinch hitter. However, unlike standard rules, the player that was batted for can stay in the game - but the pinch hitter is out for the rest of the game following his plate appearance. A team can only use this designated pinch hitter rule one time during the game.

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Designated Pinch Runner

The new designated runner rule is similar to the pinch hitter rule. A player who has not been in the game can come in to run the bases for a player, who then is allowed to stay in the game if the team so chooses. In that case, the designated pinch hitter is out of service for the rest of the game following his base-running appearance. This pinch runner can be used one time during the game by each team.

Revised Check Swing

On a check swing that is called a strike by the home plate umpire, the batter has the option to appeal to the base umpire. The standard rule has allowed only the pitcher or catcher to ask for an appeal. This sounds like a great change.

Additional Umpire

Anyone who has attended a Rockies game has noticed there are only two umpires. That will change, as Pioneer League games will now feature three-man umpiring crews. An extra pair of eyes will help ensure the calls on the field are correct

Overall, these rule changes won't have a huge impact on the fan experience at the game, with the exception of the rule to eliminate extra innings. Only time will tell how the fans will react, but I think most of these rule changes will be greeted warmly.

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