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Atomic City Update: High school baseball and softball need fewer doubleheaders

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By Phil Scherer

As high school baseball and softball season moves along this spring, I have found great joy in watching the kids play games they love on a daily basis. It is obvious how much fun they are having on the field, and it is great to see the teams at Los Alamos High School find success late in the schedule. 

However, the one negative I have found about the schedule are the number of doubleheaders the teams are forced to play. From a scheduling standpoint, I absolutely understand the need for doubleheaders. The teams all have to play a certain amount of games, and they want the kids to miss as little school as possible. 

But I can’t see many other positives to the doubleheaders. First of all, playing two games back-to-back, which can take more than six hours, is physically draining for the players. Baseball is a game of lots of starts and stops. It requires laser-sharp focus and attention while in the field and in the batter’s box. 

By the end of a second game, it is possible that a player would have played 14 innings in the field, and taken eight or more at-bats. I can’t believe that a player is as sharp after playing that much as he would have been hours earlier, at the beginning of the first game. 

Also, doubleheaders are not great for the fans, either. Especially at these high school games, many of the fans are parents that have no choice but to stay for both games. With only metal bleachers available to sit on, it can make for an uncomfortable day at the fields on North Mesa or at Overlook Park. 

Just sitting in the stands, I start to feel a bit exhausted by the end of a doubleheader, and I’m not even playing on the field. 

The fact is, knowing you have to play a doubleheader changes the way a coach has to manage a game, and makes it a completely different experience than playing a single game. Even if a starting pitcher struggles in the first game of the day, a coach likely has to stick with him a lot longer than normal, just because he has to worry about having enough pitchers for the second game of the day. 

It also makes teams far more reliant on players that may otherwise not get into the game, those that more often sit on the bench. While that may not seem like a big deal, and a great opportunity for those players, many of these games are important in determining the playoff field at the end of the season. Especially in district games, teams would like to be able to field the best possible team, but due to the schedule, sometimes that is not possible. 

At most other levels of baseball, doubleheaders are now considered a last resort, something to be avoided for everyone’s sake unless absolutely necessary. I know it would be a challenge to reduce the number of doubleheaders in high school baseball due to scheduling issues, but there has to be a better way. Even if it meant reducing the number of non-district games or lengthening the schedule by a couple weeks, it could be avoided. 

Years ago, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs became famous for his catchphrase “Let’s play two,” expressing his excitement about the game of baseball. But I have to disagree with Mr. Banks. I’d rather see one great game than two mediocre games any day of the week.