Larry Dierker is an "old school" baseball lifer with some new ideas.
As a pitcher, he began his 14-year Major League Baseball career on his 18th birthday (Sept. 22, 1964). He struck out Willie Mays in the first inning.
The debut came with the National League's Houston Colt .45s (renamed Astros in 1965). He later managed Houston, broadcasted its games and had his No. 49 retired by the Texas-based club.
Dierker now works for the Astros as a special assistant.
At 67, he is ready for the game to change — back to the way it was before replay challenges and all the delays that regularly makes games last three or more hours.
"No matter how long it takes, I still love the game," said Dierker in a recent address to the Society for American Baseball Research at its annual convention in Houston. "But we could pick up the pace."
Dierker sees all the stepping out of the batter's box and off the pitcher's mound and all the conferences between players and coaches as mostly unnecessary.
"It's paralysis through analysis," said Dierker.
In the Houston suburbs, the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League is part of a movement by the independent minor league to speed up the pace of play.
If he was running the show, umpires would call strikes when a batter stepped out.
As for all the squawking about the strike zone, Dierker joked that the problem might be solved with cameras and buzzers in the umpire's pockets (right pocket for strike, left pocket for ball).
He was not joking when he suggested a change in a rule adopted by only the American League in 1973.
"It's time to modify the designated hitter rule and get both leagues on the same page," said Dierker, whose Astros were moved from the NL to the AL in 2013.
Under Dierker's plan, both leagues would use the DH (something that would allow some of the better hitters to extend their careers) but with a twist.
"I would let the pitcher hit and make the manager have to decide each time the pitcher hits (when to use the DH)," said Dierker. "The pitcher would stay in the game and you would use them for situations, just not four times a game."