Interleague play has lost its luster

When Major League Baseball made interleague play part of the schedule in 1997, there was genuine excitement and interest in the games between American and National league teams.

But now, in its 13th season, interleague games just don't have the flair they once had.

I remember how highly anticipated the Orioles' first interleague series was in 1997. The O's went to Atlanta to take on the Braves in a three-game weekend series. The O's were in first place in the AL East and the Braves were in first place in the NL East. The series was billed as a possible World Series preview.

The three games in Atlanta were exciting. The O's swept the series, winning the last two games in extra innings. The three games held drama and revealed clutch performances like Chris Hoiles' 12th-inning two-run double to win the middle game of the series and Lenny Webster's 10th-inning two-run home run to win the finale and complete the sweep.

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Back then I really enjoyed the interleague concept.

For 18 games each season the Orioles had a chance to compete against clubs they wouldn't normally see and to play in National League stadiums they wouldn't normally visit.

But now the interleague games are more of an inconvience. For all of the natural rivalry games like the Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, even Orioles-Nationals, there are too many matchups that don't excite anyone, but have to be played to fill out the schedule.

Are the fans in Minnesota really excited for the three-game series against the Pirates. How about Tampa Bay playing three games in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. Or Kansas City hosting Arizona.

Then there's still the matter of different rules concerning the designated hitter between the two leagues. When the National League teams play at the American League stadiums, they add a hitter to their lineup. But when the AL teams go on the road to NL parks, they lose a hitter that usually plays every day.

Interleague play is likely here to stay. But playing those 18 games each season against American League teams would help increase rivalries within the AL. I also believe it would give the World Series the aura it once enjoyed when it was the only interleague series of the season.

For me, the novelty has worn off. Interleague games just don't have the same appeal they once had when it all began in 1997.