When can a pitcher throw one pitch to start an extra inning professional baseball game and be the losing pitcher WITHOUT surrendering a home run?

Sounds kind of confusing doesn’t it?

First of all, the pro game must be in the minor leagues. Secondly, the score must be tied and the game be in extra innings with the home team at bat.

And last but not least, the situation of the reliever losing the game by throwing only ONE pitch without giving up a home run falls under the brand-new rule being tested in the minor leagues this season.

If a game is tied after nine innings, the player making the final out for the visiting team in the top of the ninth inning becomes a baserunner at second base BEFORE a pitch is thrown in the top of the tenth inning.

At the MLB Winter Meeting the owners thought this might be a way of keeping the games as quick as possible and not having to use as many pitchers from the bullpen, but several both major and minor league managers balked at the idea, according to an article in the latest edition of the USA Today Sports Weekly.

This new rule will probably will be described as funny, preposterous and even worthless—a further dumbing down of the game. But many owners see the new rule as exciting, beneficial and making progress.

What began as light discussion at a meeting of major league general managers last fall and later included farm directors and player development executives became quasi law.

“And you can bet with the increased reliance of bullpens in the majors, teams want to make sure there are fresh arms in the minors to call up, not arms worn out by 14-inning minor league games the night before,” the article points out because Major League Baseball oversees minor league baseball.

The runner who starts at second base and scores is an unearned run. If there is no more scoring in the game, that pitcher is charged with the loss and the opposing pitcher will get credited with the mound victory.

“MLB has the wind at its back given the number of adjustments it has made the last several years to speed up the game and appease restless fans, which include ensuring batters are staying in the batter’s box, placing a timer between innings and on pitching changes and regulating mound visits,” the article continues.

One of the big reasons Minor League Baseball went along with the extra-inning procedural change likely had to do with money. Beer taps are shut off by the seventh inning in some ball parks and concession sales wane. But there still are hourly employees—ushers, scoreboard operators and security–that have to be paid.

“Absolutely you can lose money if a game goes too long,” said North Johnson, the general manager of the Gwinnett Strippers, the Class AAA team of the Atlanta Braves.

Another factor minor leagues accepted the new rule was that there are more children at minor league games than big-league games, so getting kids home early is important. Getting to the fireworks show on Friday or Saturday is especially important. A game dragging to the 14th inning creates restless 7-year-olds.

The extra-inning rule does not necessarily cut the game short and save arms, according to the USA Today Magazine article.

“In the Gwinnett Stripers’ home opener against Rochester, the game went 14 innings and ended just as baseball executives didn’t want it to end—a position player on the mound for the Stripers because the bullpen was exhausted,” the article explains.

“So far it hasn’t solved any issues,” Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill said May 8. “We have been in four extra-inning games and we’ve gone 12 innings twice and 13 and 14. It hasn’t sped up our games at all.

“I think the reason they wanted to do was save some pitching, but it’s worked the opposite for us and created more of a problem where we end up burning more of our bullpen,” the manager concluded.

The article surmised that the extra-inning rule adds a level of intrigue to the game. The knowledgeable baseball fan can play along and second-guess the manager to his or her heart’s content.

Will this rule ever be adopted by the major leagues? You be the judge!!

KWICKIES…The nasal booming tone of Howard Cosell may live on as his grandson, Colin Cosell, made his debut Saturday night as the public-address announcer for the New York Mets. “I pride myself on doing the best imitation of my grandfather in the world,” Colin told the Associated Press. I hope he’s not as despised by many fans like his grandfather was.

The Jasper Bulldogs earned a trip to the Class 4A state baseball tournament by posting back-to-back wins over Salado Saturday. The ‘Dogs (34-7-1) play undefeated Argyle (35-0) 1 p.m. today at Disch-Falk Field in Austin where the temperature on the artificial-surfaced field will be well over 100 degrees. Jasper is the last Southeast Texas high school baseball team still eligible for the state title, which was won by Liberty’s softball team last weekend. Kirbyville was eliminated in the Class 3A regional finals by Clifton Saturday 2-0.

Former SMU star golfer Bryson DeChambeau defeated Byeong Hun An on the second playoff hole Sunday to capture the prestigious PGA Tour Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus Sunday by rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt. The victory—DeChambeau’s second—earned the 24-year old $1,602,000.

And a bit closer to home, former West Orange-Stark star golfer Michael Arnaud earned $9,425 by finishing six shots behind winner Joey Garber at the Web.com Rex Hospital Open last weekend.

If LeBron James is going to show his magic one more time he had better hurry starting tonight as the NBA Finals switch to Cleveland today and Friday. The Golden State Warriors blew out the Cavaliers in both games at Oakland last week.

The Houston Astros end their run of playoff-bound teams when they host first-place Seattle tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Astros just finished series with the first place (AL Central) Cleveland Indians, first-place (AL East) New York Yankees, second place by 1/2-game (AL East) Boston Red Sox and first place Seattle (AL West). Houston played .500 ball against those behemoths but it cost them first place in the AL West as the Mariners came to Houston yesterday after winning eight of 10 games.

JUST BETWEEN US…Our grandson Logan Smith was confronted with a huge dilemma, two days before Army West Point was to play its first-round game in the NCAA Regional Tournament at Raleigh, N.C. His paternal grandfather Wayne Smith died suddenly and Logan had to decide whether to fly home to be with his family or stay for the tournament with his teammates—also his “family”. He decided his grandpa would have wanted him to play so he did. Fourth-seeded Army upset hosting and No. 1-seeded North Carolina State 5-1 Friday. Logan, who is the Black Knights’ closer warmed up in the ninth inning but was not needed. The rest of the tourney for Army went as expected—Army lost to Auburn 12-1 in the second round of the winner’s bracket and then N.C. State avenged their early loss by eliminating Army 11-1. There certainly wasn’t the need for a closer in either of those games, either. But Logan was part of something that most baseball players—even most college players—will never experience—playing in the NCAA Regional Tournament!!