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Chief Baseball: pitchers will bat

Chiefs playing National League-style baseball for first time in 37 years; DH ditched

The last time Syracuse Chiefs pitchers batted as part of the regular line-up was 1972, when the staff included hurlers such as Al Closter, Hal Reniff and Rob Gardner.

In 1973, the American League adopted the designated hitter rule, Major League Baseball Rule 6.10 (1) that allows teams to designate a hitter (abbreviated DH), to bat in place of the pitcher.

In the 1970s the Chiefs were affiliated with the New York Yankees followed by the Toronto Blue Jays, both American League clubs, so the Syracuse squad has used the DH for 36 straight seasons until this season.

Now that the hometown International League team is the top farm club of the Washington Nationals of the National League, whenever they play another National League-affiliate, pitchers will take their turns at bat.

Novelty and nostalgia

For younger fans, it'll be a novelty to see pitchers at the plate, while for old-timers it'll be sweet nostalgia.

The Chiefs' pitchers will dust off their lumber when the N.Y. Mets farm club, the Buffalo Bisons, stampede into Alliance Bank Stadium at 6 p.m. Friday April 17, at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday April 18-19, and 6 p.m. Monday April 20. Ticket prices range between $4 and $10; parking costs $4 per vehicle; 474-7833.

The hurlers hit again here against Philadelphia Phillies farmhands the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, at 6 p.m. Tuesday and 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 21 and 22. Other National League-affiliated opponents against which Chiefs pitchers will hit are Louisville (Reds), Gwinnett (Braves) and Indianapolis (Pirates).

While it's often unsettling to see pitchers swinging awkwardly at sinking sliders and spinning curves, ditching the DH gives the game an added strategic dimension. There's more bunting, more hit-and-run plays and occasional long-ball heroics from the famously light-hitting hurlers.

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