How long is a baseball game? Here's how much time to expect to set aside for America's pastime

·2 min read

After a tense lockout in the 2020-2021 offseason, the Major League Baseball season is in full swing, giving prospective fans another opportunity to fall in love with America’s pastime.

But a new fan might have questions, such as how much time they should carve out of their schedule to soak up a game. There is an investment of time to catch a game, but the league is taking steps to try and shorten the MLB game experience.

Here's what we can tell you about the length of MLB baseball games:

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How long is a baseball game?

First, you ought to know how a baseball game is structured.

There is no set game clock in baseball like in basketball, football, hockey or soccer. The pro game consists of nine innings. Each inning is divided into halves (also known as the "top" and "bottom" of the inning), with one team batting in each half. The duration of each half-inning is determined by how quickly the pitching team can secure three outs. The away team bats at the top of the inning, followed by the home team. If the home team is ahead after eight and a half innings, the game ends early. If the game is still tied after nine innings, it goes into extra innings until a winner emerges.

Wrigley Field during the national anthem on opening day.
Wrigley Field during the national anthem on opening day.

Needless to say, the self-determined pace can make for long games. Last season, the average nine-inning MLB game was three hours and 10 minutes long, according to statistics compiled by baseball-reference.com. The longest game in MLB history took more than 8 hours to complete and had to be played over two days for a total of 25 innings, according to MLB.com. 

The average length of a nine-inning MLB regular season game over the last 10 seasons is just north of three hours. The last time the average length was less than three hours was in 2015.

League executives have made it a point to cut down average game times. Officials have mulled adding a pitch clock, similar to a shot clock in basketball or the pre-snap play clock in football. The pitch clock was introduced this season in the minor leagues, USA TODAY Sports reported, where officials say it has trimmed game times by 20 minutes. The pitch clock could come to the major league as soon as 2023.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How long is a baseball game? The average time it takes for an MLB game