Coors Field – Mile High Club
Coors Field in Denver, Colorado claims the title of highest elevation ballpark in the majors. In the outfield bleachers, the row of seats that surpasses the “mile high” mark is painted purple. Since high elevation impacts pitchers’ ability to throw breaking pitches (there are fewer air molecules to create friction against the seams), Coors was notorious for being a hitter’s ballpark. Pitches didn’t have as much movement, plus baseballs would carry further in the thin, dry air. The Rockies now have a baseball humidor on-site to increase the balls’ humidity so they perform like they would closer to sea level.
Globe Life Park – Hot, hot, hot!
It’s just too hot. Globe Life Park, located in Arlington, was not built to shield fans or players from the stifling Texas heat. Very little relief is available until the sun sets, leading to absolutely absurd statistics, like the Rangers having played 759 games at Globe Life Park that reached temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius. The Rangers recently opened their new stadium with a climate-controlled environment and retractable roof.
Activities in the Outfield
Wrigley Field – Ivy League
Ivy covers the brick outfield wall so thickly that it has its own set of rules governing how baseballs can interact with it. Batters are awarded an automatic ground rule double if a ball is caught in the ivy, and it is common to see visiting outfielders struggle to negotiate the wall during otherwise routine plays.
Miami Marlins – Nightlife
In homage to the South Beach nightlife, Marlins Park partnered with the Clevelander Hotel and Bar to open a club in the outfield, featuring DJ sets, dancers, and drinks during games. Maybe the curse of South Florida is that there’s just too many options for baseball, since it hosts the preseason Grapefruit League, and too many options for entertainment, so Marlins ownership decided to take their chances with both.
Chase Field – Swimming Pool
The Diamondbacks’ Chase Field is another park with a retractable roof, to the relief of those seeking shelter from the desert heat. The park also features a full swimming pool and hot tub zone directly behind the fence in right-centre field. Home runs are known to splash down into it and draw a crowd.
Target Field – Fire Pit
After the aging Metrodome was replaced by open-air Target Field as the Twins’ home park in 2010, players no longer lost sight of the ball against a white dome (it’s worth asking why ballpark designers would include a white roof to begin with), and Minneapolis, Minnesota got to enjoy outdoor baseball. With temperatures dipping near freezing in the spring and fall, the new Twins stadium boasts the only fire pit in Major League Baseball.
Miller Park – Slide
High up in the outfield stands at Miller Park is a long, twisty yellow slide made for Brewers mascot Bernie Brewer. Every time a Brewer hits a home run, he flings himself down the slide to celebrate. The tradition was carried over from the old Milwaukee County Stadium where Bernie would slide down into a “mug of beer”. The updated version omits the beer imagery but still keeps the ritual alive.
Oracle Park – McCovey Cove
Just beyond the right field bleachers of Oracle is part of San Francisco Bay nicknamed McCovey Cove for Giants slugger Willie McCovey. It’s just close enough that there’s a “splash hits” counter near the foul pole that tracks balls that make it all the way out. Watercraft park in McCovey Cove to watch Giants home games and await home run balls.
Shapes and Sizes
Oakland Coliseum – Large Foul Territory
The “concrete ashtray” stadium, opened in 1966, was designed to switch between the A’s and their National Football League counterparts, the Oakland Raiders. The playing surface had bizarre dimensions as a result and continues to have the largest foul territory in professional baseball. The Coliseum is well known for being a pitcher’s ballpark since the extra space leads to far more foul ball outs than usual.
Yankee Stadium – Right Field only 314 feet from home plate
The Yankees organisation take lots of flak for their design of the new Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009, as an exact replica of the original 1923 ballpark. The old stadium was built to take advantage of the team’s left-handed power hitters with an extremely “short” right field fence. It’s currently the closest in the majors at just 314 feet from home plate. To put it in perspective, the little league baseball standard requires at least a 200-foot fence.
Houston Astros – The Juice Box
The so-called “Juice Box” features some of the strangest design choices in the modern MLB era. Left field is built under train tracks of the old Houston Union Station, with 800 feet of track running above the high wall and bleachers with a replica steam-powered locomotive that blares its whistle and completes a celebratory lap when an Astro hits a home run. Once the wall reaches left-centre field, there’s a sharp corner where the bleachers finish that makes room for a deeper wall moving into centre field. Instead of arching around the outside of the outfield like a regular park, there is a sloped patch of outfield grass in straightaway centre. It extends the field a few strides deeper, which would be beneficial for keeping a few balls in the park under normal circumstances, but it’s uphill and often leads to fielders stumbling their way up. A strange ballpark to say the least.
Fenway Park – The Green Monster
The Green Monster in left field was first built to cut off visibility from the street and boost ticket sales, but in the modern baseball era it makes up for its close proximity (315’ from the left field corner to left-centre) with added height (37’/11.33m). Right field also has an anomaly. Nicknamed Pesky’s Pole, right field’s foul pole seems to jut out into fair territory, making it easy for left-handed batters to curl a cheeky home run around it. Since the park was built in 1912, the pole’s 302’ distance was grandfathered into the modern era and does not have to adhere to the new stadium dimension requirements.
Oriole Park – The red-brick B&O Warehouse
Another rail yard stadium, this time built in the vintage dropped-into-a-city-centre style that lends itself to fans feeling close to the playing surface regardless of their seat. Over the right-field fence and across the street sits the century-old red-brick B&O Warehouse, now owned by the Orioles as used as their team offices. It has only been hit by a baseball once, by Ken Griffey Jr. in the 1993 Home Run Derby. B&O is the signature of Oriole Park’s skyline.
Tropicana Field – Beige Dome
The Trop’s beige dome obscures fly balls, much like the old Metrodome did, only the Rays contend with two levels of catwalk to support the roof. The catwalk isn’t nearly high enough to stay out of play, so there are special ground rules for each level. Any ball that connects in fair territory, depending on the level, can either be caught for an out, played as a hit, or scored a home run. Umpires have a tough job in Tampa. Players, too, especially since the Rays historically have the lowest payroll, lowest attendance, and one loud fan whose heckles can he heard even over television broadcasts. But at least there are real stingrays that live in the outfield aquarium. No wonder there’s talk of splitting time between Tampa and Montreal.
The best of the best
PNC Park – A beautiful mix of old, new and scenic views
The Pirates’ home park is nearly unanimously chosen as MLB’s best ballpark by fans and professionals alike. PNC manages to capture old-school charm along with modern amenities with exceptional food and beverage service and stunning views of the city skyline and Pittsburgh’s iconic Roberto Clemente Bridge. The park opened in 2001 with the spirit of an old-time ballpark: big sky views, immaculate landscaping, and standard dimensions make playing and viewing easy.