Ballpark Dimensions and Features

Hadn’t done an informational blog lately, and thought now would be a good time since I don’t have a lot to say about the boys right now.  They’re performance lately has been so disheartening.  I just want to reach out and give them all huge hugs and then shake them!  So here’s some info I found on ballpark dimensions to take your mind off things.

AT&T Park is called a “pitcher’s park” because the outfield fences are so far back.  I’ve always wondered why the fence position and heights are not standard, and this got me to thinking about what the actual rules say about park dimensions.  Here’s what I’ve found (in case you were wondering, too):

According to the Official MLB rules, “the infield shall be a 90-foot square.  Any Playing Field constructed by a professional club after June 1, 1958, shall provide a minimum distance of 325 feet from home base to the nearest fence, stand or other obstruction on the right and left field foul lines, and a minimum distance of 400 feet to the center field fence.”  These minimum distances allow for some variance in different ballparks.  Previous to 1958, the distance from home base to the nearest fence, stand or other obstruction on fair territory had to be only 250 feet or more, with a distance of 320 feet or more along the foul lines, and 400 feet or more to center field being “preferable.”   Thus guys in the pre-1958 days could have had an advantage getting it over the fence.  “The infield shall be graded so that the base lines and home plate are level.  The pitcher’s plate shall be 10 inches above the level of home plate.  The degree of slope from a point 6 inches in front of the pitcher’s plate to a point 6 feet toward home plate shall be 1 inch to 1 foot, and such degree of slope shall be uniform.”  So even the slope of the pitcher’s mound is controlled.  I guess it would be awkward for a pitcher if that changed from park to park – could mess with his delivery.  “It is desirable that the line from home base through the pitcher’s plate to second base shall run East-Northeast.”  Where’d that one come from?  Why would that be desirable??  “It is recommended that the distance from home base to the backstop, and from the base lines to the nearest fence, stand or other obstruction on foul territory shall be 60 feet or more.”  Again with the recommendation, opening up for more variation.  “The foul lines and all other playing lines…shall be marked with wet, unslaked lime, chalk or other white material.”  Guess you can’t have black and orange lines (though that would be kind of cool!).

The bases are 15 inches square.  The rule states that they consist of “white canvas bags…filled with soft material.”  This contrasts with the bags that I saw the other day displayed on the club level, which were made of what I thought was plastic.  I found an ad online for bases that claims they are used by MLB, and these bases are made from high-quality rubber.  Not sure how that follows the rule.  As far as the pitcher’s plate, it “shall be a rectangular slab of whitened rubber, 24 inches by 6 inches.  It shall be set in the ground so that the distance between the pitcher’s plate and home base (the rear point of home plate) shall be 60 feet, 6 inches.”  At least that distance is accurate.  Home plate is five-sided.  “One edge is 17 inches long, two adjacent sides are 8 1/2 inches and the remaining two sides are 12 inches and set at an angle to make a point.”

Another thing I’ve wondered about is the placement of home plate and the bases.  The rules state that the bottom edges of the plate (the 12-inch sides) coincide with the base lines.  Also, first and third bases are entirely within the infield, but the second base bag is centered on second base.  That means that the bases are actually not perfectly lined up within the diamond.  Check out Diagram 2 here.  My sense of symmetry is really bothered by this!!  Plus technically, due to the length of home plate and the bases themselves, it’s not 90 feet between the bases then – it’s 87 feet 9 inches from home to first and from third to home, and only 88 feet 1 ½ inches from first to second or second to third!  This is really bugging me!  Kruk and Kuip need to quit saying, “That was a big 90 feet he just got there!”  whenever a guy steals.  They’re lying!

So the diamond dimensions are standard, but there is lots of leeway for that outfield, both in the outfield distance and the height of the outfield walls.  As far as AT&T park goes, the outfield distances are as follows:  Left field line – 339 feet, Left field – 364 feet, Left-center field – 404 feet, Center field – 399 feet, Right-center field – 421 feet, Right field – 365 feet, Right field line – 309 feet.  Is it just me, or do two of these measurements break the rules?  Center field is a foot too short and the right field line is 16 feet too short!  I don’t get it!  Oh well, I love that park so I’m not gonna say anything!  The tricky thing about hitting homeruns in that park is the huge, 24-foot-high wall in right field (24 feet was chosen because it was Willie Mays’ number – love that!  The other walls are 8-feet-high).  Add that to the 421 foot distance to said wall, and you’ve got yourself quite a challenge!

Each ballpark has its own unique set of challenges for guys trying to hit homeruns or trying to field balls.  Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, has its Green Monster in left field.  It’s 37 feet 2 inches high, the highest wall among current Major League Baseball fields.  Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, has its famous brick outfield fence that’s covered in ivy.  Not a very nice thing for guys to run into when trying to make a play!  If a ball gets lodged in the ivy, it’s ruled a ground rule double.  Rangers Ballpark has an inward “jog” to its right-center field fence that can cause outfielders problems.  Several recent ballparks have this feature, including AT&T Park.  Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, has two catwalks that are actually in the field of play.  If a ball hits off one of them, it can be caught for an out.  This field also has a ray petting pool in the outfield, and recently Miguel Cabrera hit a homerun into it!  Luckily, none of the rays were injured.  Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, actually has a flagpole that is in play.  Some teams will actually modify the park dimensions to suit their needs, still staying within the guidelines.  The Padres recently moved in their outfield walls, making it more hitter friendly after concerns that it was too hard to get a homerun there.

Besides the 24-foot-high wall in right field, AT&T Park has its own share of challenges for hitters and fielders.  The right field wall has many arches and odd angles, giving it the title of “Triples Alley.”  On the left field wall there is a Chevron ad with the famous Chevron cars on it that actually extends above the regular wall.  The cars are part of the wall, so if you hit them, the ball stays in play.  I remember an interview with a player who said if he hit a ball and it hit one of the cars, preventing him from getting a homerun, he would take a saw out there and cut it off immediately!

So now you can go out and build your own ballpark!  I love the fact that each has its own character, but of course my favorite is my home-away-from-home, AT&T Park (with PNC Park in Pittsburgh a close second).  Hope my boys can get some wins and get out of this funk now that they’ve come back home.  Maybe the Dodger rivalry will put some spark into them.  Will try to watch tonight to do a spit count.  Matty will be pitching since the game yesterday was rained out.  He’s been pretty consistent lately, so hopefully he can do the job.  But the boys need to back him up with some runs.  Come on, guys!  Your fans are still here, but we’re getting impatient!  Bring us some magic this weekend!  GO GIANTS!!!  BEAT LA!!

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