The fastest-moving baseball game on earth is played almost 4,000 miles from the nearest major-league stadium. It hums along in rural towns so small that spectators sometimes outnumber local residents, on fields so far north that the only lighting required is the nighttime sun.
It is called pesäpallo, an obscure version of baseball that is little known outside the Finnish countryside. And for anyone who has ever grumbled about the plodding pace of play in North America, it offers something previously unimaginable: baseball without wasted time.
Tired of pitchers ambling around the mound? In Finland, there is no mound. Pitchers stand beside the hitter and toss the ball vertically over the plate.
Falling asleep waiting for the next batted ball? In Finland, hitters put nearly every pitch in play, sending fielders scampering in every direction. Players aren’t allowed to call for time between plays or pitches.
Seen enough late-inning pitching changes? In Finland, there are no relievers. The typical pitcher throws every inning of every game, all season long.
And those are only some of the quirks of a game that includes a zigzag base path, a rectangular outfield, trios of designated hitters called jokers and managers whose primary mode of communication resembles the feathers of a peacock.
“If you dropped acid and decided to go make baseball, this is what you would end up with,” said Andy Johnson, a Minnesota Twins scout based in Norway.
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