MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Manfred hits key points in Town Hall fan chat

Manfred hits key points in Town Hall fan chat

SAN DIEGO -- Continuing a long-standing All-Star Week tradition, Commissioner Rob Manfred answered fan questions, through social media and in person, at a Town Hall meeting during FanFest at Petco Park before the American League's 4-2 win over the National League on Tuesday.

The address, hosted by Padres Hall of Fame announcer Dick Enberg, covered a wide range of topics, from possible tweaks to the instant replay review challenge system to how to give the soon-to-be-retired Vin Scully a proper sendoff.

• Transcript of Commissioner Manfred's Town Hall Chat

On the topic of tweaking the instant replay review system in order to speed up delays, Manfred acknowledged that area is a work in progress. He cited advice he received from longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz, a member of the Instant Replay Committee.

"[Schuerholz] said this is going to be a three- or four-year process," Manfred said. "It is going to continue to evolve. Length of replays, the delay in the replay process, is something we are particularly focused on this year, and I think you probably will see some tweaks next year to get at those issues."

Many fans were hoping to see Scully, the legendary Dodgers announcer, make a surprise booth appearance during the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, or perhaps call a World Series game. Scully has so far not expressed a desire to participate in either of those scenarios, but Manfred does plan to join the masses in showing his appreciation for the broadcasting icon.

"Vin is such a great gentleman," Manfred said. "He's also unbelievably humble, given all of the accomplishments in his great career. We've talked to him about a number of things. The only thing I know for sure, I'm going to be in Dodger Stadium for Vin Scully Day this year."

Manfred on his love of the game

Asked by a fan to cite the biggest rule change that has come under his tenure, Manfred discussed the home-plate collision rule and the new sliding rules at second base that are designed to protect middle infielders.

"You know, player safety is a crucial issue for our sport and for all sports," Manfred said. "The best thing I can say about the collision rule -- and I can't say that it can't be difficult in its application -- but we haven't had a major injury of anybody at home plate since it went in, and that's a positive for our game."

Manfred also indicated that pace of play is an ongoing experiment, with advances such as a pitch clock being made at the Minor League level, potentially to be enacted someday in the big leagues.

Manfred on pace of play

"In the Minor Leagues, we've experimented with both a 20-second pitch clock and a 15-second pitch clock, so that the pitcher would have to deliver within that period of time," Manfred said. "The experiments have been pretty successful in terms of shortening our game, and we're going to continue to look at changes like this in order to make Major League Baseball as short and exact of a game as we possibly can."

MLB's Spring Training trip to Cuba sparked a question about expanding to Havana in the event baseball adds teams in the future. While Manfred has been forthright with his intentions to further globalize the sport, he was hesitant to put any expectations on Cuba being a realistic target.

Manfred on relations with Cuba

"I would say two things about the future of the team," Manfred said. "No. 1, the regulatory reform of the relationship between Cuba and the United States is going to take some time. It is a very complicated relationship that has built up over a period of years. Secondly, I think in terms of economic development, some economic development has to happen in Havana before it's viable for us."

Upon the conclusion of the Town Hall meeting, Manfred was ushered to the All-Star clubhouse to participate in a panel discussion with several dignitaries from MLB and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to discuss head safety with regard to youth baseball players.

Manfred was joined by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre, CPSC chairman Elliot Kaye, former Major League infielder Mark Loretta, MLB medical director Gary Greene and three-time softball Olympic champion Lisa Fernandez. Several Little League players were in the audience.

Manfred, panel on head safety

The panel addressed head safety for kids, the importance of awareness regarding brain safety/concussions and other tips for young athletes to lead active and healthy lives. The presentation included a demonstration on how to properly wear a protective helmet -- namely, don't wear a regular cap under the helmet, and don't tilt the helmet so that it is not covering the forehead.

"The helmet has a role to play in preventing catastrophic head injury, skull fracture, bleeding of the brain," Kaye said. "It's not designed to prevent concussion, but it is designed to prevent catastrophic head injury, and you want to put it in its position to do its job."

Added Torre: "In taking care of yourselves, you've got to make sure you get your rest, make sure you wear the proper equipment, make sure you listen to your coaches and -- as far as we're here this afternoon -- basically protect your health. So listen to your doctors and your trainers. It's very important."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.