AMNA NAWAZ: Opening day for professional baseball is just around the corner, and, this year, it will be notably different.
Major League Baseball has enacted a series of new rules intended to make the game more exciting.
Stephanie Sy went to a spring training game in Arizona to check out the action.
STEPHANIE SY: On a perfect 73-degree day, baseball fans young and old flooded into Scottsdale Stadium.
Spring training is Major League ball without the high stakes, explains 11-year-old Mitchell Earnest.
MITCHELL EARNEST, Utah Select Team: Yes, it's relaxed.
and, like, they get to learn the new rules.
And if they make a mistake, it doesn't matter.
STEPHANIE SY: The matchups -- this game was between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers -- gives players a chance to find their groove before opening day.
But, this season, it's particularly critical.
JOHN SHEA, The San Francisco Chronicle: You have four rules, basically.
STEPHANIE SY: John Shea is the national baseball writer for The San Francisco Chronicle.
JOHN SHEA: You have the pitch timer, the bigger bases, the ban on shifts, and the limited pickoff attempts.
STEPHANIE SY: Shea explained the new rules before play started.
JOHN SHEA: The biggest rule changed is the pitch clock, which is going to make the pace of the game much quicker.
And the pitch timer makes sure that the pitcher will throw the ball within 20 seconds with a runner on base or within 15 seconds with nobody on base.
Gabe Kapler, the Giants manager, was initially indifferent about the new rules.
Now that he's seen them in action.
GABE KAPLER, Manager, San Francisco Giants: It's been a lot quicker pace, and we have gotten the same good brand of baseball.
STEPHANIE SY: The average length of games during the first weekend of spring training was down 23 minutes.
But not everyone's a fan.
What do you think about the pitch clock?
RHODES POWELSON, Utah Select Team: I kind of think it's kind of stupid, but... STEPHANIE SY: Why do you think it's stupid?
RHODES POWELSON: Because it's an automatic ball if they don't throw it in 20 seconds.
STEPHANIE SY: Ten-year-old Rhodes Powelson likes to take his time when he pitches.
for Giants pitcher Sam Long, who usually works fast on the mound, the rules ain't so bad, at least now that he understands them.
SAM LONG, San Francisco Giants: I got my first violation in my first inning of spring training, and before I even threw a pitch.
STEPHANIE SY: How did that feel?
SAM LONG: It felt like I was at a little bit of a disadvantage to start.
STEPHANIE SY: And a week into spring training, New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer tried to push the boundaries of the new rules to his advantage.
But he was called for a balk because he pitched too soon after the pitch clock had reset.
The other major adjustment?
The bases are bigger now, 18 inches across, instead of 15.
The new distance between home plate and first base is three inches shorter.
It's a change that favors runners and could lead to more aggressive stolen base attempts.
Giants manager Kapler says he's already seeing it pay off.
GABE KAPLER: We are seeing more stolen base attempts so far in spring training.
Fans want to see more action.
The stolen base is an exciting part of baseball.
So, the rules are being set up so that you see a little bit more of that.
STEPHANIE SY: Giants fan Chris Sorauf, who watches more than 70 baseball games a year, says the bigger bases are an offense to history.
CHRIS SORAUF, San Francisco Giants Fan: I think you have to throw out all of the stolen base records in some of the hits that are going to be achieved now.
And Rickey Henderson, the all-time steal leader, I'm sure that he's not too happy about it.
(LAUGHTER) STEPHANIE SY: But Giants first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. sees the perks.
LAMONTE WADE JR., San Francisco Giants: The runner has more room on the base to step on the bag, and so they're not really stepping on your ankles or on your feet.
So I like to bigger bases for that aspect.
STEPHANIE SY: The last big change involves how players stand on the field.
Long gone are the days of the infamous shift, where players crowd onto one side to anticipate the direction a power hitter will direct the ball.
The new rules force two players to stand on each side of second base, with all their feet on the infield dirt when a pitch is thrown.
That means more hits and more action the field, running, fielding and the like.
GABE KAPLER: It takes a little game strategy out of the mix for managers and coaches and puts the onus on the players to be more athletic, because we're just not going to have that perfectly optimized defensive positioning anymore.
And athletes are just going to have to cover a little bit more ground.
STEPHANIE SY: Brewers fan Gary Wray was taking in the game without much thought to the new rules, although he says it was about time.
GARY WRAY, Milwaukee Brewers Fan: With all the other, I would say, major leagues out there -- you have NFL, NBA, NHL, even -- the emphasis on making sure there's more excitement to the game.
So I think MLB was kind of long overdue to make some changes.
STEPHANIE SY: It's the game folks in the '60s and '70s grew up watching, when pitchers couldn't stall for eternity.
There were more stolen bases and players took risks, says John Shea.
JOHN SHEA: It's a quicker pace.
And that's kind of the game I wanted all along.
STEPHANIE SY: Opening day in a new era for Major League Baseball is March 30.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Scottsdale, Arizona.
AMNA NAWAZ: I don't know.
What do you think?
GEOFF BENNETT: There's nothing wrong with a four-hour baseball game.
I'm a purist.
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: I like the old rules.
AMNA NAWAZ: I don't know.
I thought we'd see Stephanie Sy sliding into base during that story.
(LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Next time.