Here at BASEBALLPARKS.COM, we receive a lot of e-mail, and we try to respond to every single message we receive. A high percentage of the e-mails pose specific questions to us about ballparks. Here are questions — and our answers — for some of the most common queries:
How do they make those patterns in the grass on the field?
Without a doubt, this is the question that has been posed to us more than any other. The secret? It’s how the grounds crews mow the grass. The mowers that they use often have a heavy “roller” attached to the back. This bends the blades of grass immediately after they’ve been mowed, and the angle of the blades then causes light to reflect in a certain way. The grounds crew will typically mow-and-roll the outfield in a straight line away from the infield for one row (this makes a light-colored stripe), then back toward the infield for the next row (making a darker stripe). Or they will create criss-cross patterns by mowing the rows at right angles to each other. If you pay close attention, you will sometimes notice a different pattern in the infield grass than in the outfield (often the mowers used in the infield are smaller), or a different pattern one day/homestand to the next (because they don’t want to mow the grass exactly the same way every time — just like you shouldn’t mow your lawn using the same pattern each time). For a great example of this “pattern” effect, see the photo of Camden Yards below.
By the way, if you really have a big interest in this area, David Mellor, Fenway’s groundskeeper, has written a book on the subject called Picture Perfect : Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports.
Where can I buy aerial photos/prints/posters of a particular ballpark (or ballparks in general)?
Because we were asked questions like this so often, we started an online store for ballpark pictures, music and posters. For awhile, it was called the Grand Slam Mall, but in late 2010, we moved the store into Baseballparks.com. You can get to it by clicking here. If you are interested in purchasing any image you see here in Baseballparks.com, contact us to let us know.
Where can I find seating charts for Major League ballparks?
There are up-to-date links in the Baseballpilgrimages.com website. You’ll also find them at each team’s official website, which you can reach at teamname.mlb.com (just substitute the actual team nickname for “teamname” in the URL).
Is there a map that shows where all of the baseball teams in the U.S. are located? I want to plug pins into such a map to show where I’ve seen games.
Another question we get all the time. The most useful map of its kind — and I carry a copy with me everywhere I go — is the Baseball Travel Map from Hedberg Maps. They do a good job of keeping it updated, too. We have the map for sale in our store. Also, there is a wonderful map that the Baseball Hall of Fame helped produce called the The World of Baseball, but it is out of print. A shame.
But probably my favorite representation of ballparks on a map, of sorts, is the Touring The Majors Poster that we published ourselves. Check it out.
Please settle a bet. I say that some stadiums have pitchers mounds that use hydraulic lifts to retract it into the ground. True?
True. RFK Stadium, that the Washington Nationals abandoned following the 2007 season, had this feature. It was important when they needed to convert the baseball configuration into a soccer field. I’ve read that Sun Life Stadium (Marlins through 2011) and Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) both have this, too, since both venues host both pro football and MLB.
What dimensions should we use/how many acres should we allot for building a new youth/high-school baseball field?
I have no earthly idea. BASEBALLPARKS.COM pertains to Major and Minor League ballparks only, so we don’t purport to know anything about fields for amateur baseball. However, we typically direct e-mailers with questions about high-school parks to www.hsbaseballweb.com. Also, www.baseballnews.com has a bent toward amateur ball so you might find this to be a good resource, too.
I have to do a school project on __________ (fill in the blank with something about ballparks) and I want to know what resource I can go to that will allow me to be lazy and look up every fact that I could want?
Another very common request. An excellent resource — that was updated wonderfully not too long ago, in fact — is Green Cathedrals by Philip Lowry. The book that I used to recommend the most often is Ballpark Sourcebook: Diamond Diagrams by Oscar Palacios, Eric Robin and STATS, Inc. Unofrtunately, it’s not in print any longer. Sometimes an outfit like Amazon.com can find out-of-print books like this one for you.
Is ___ (fill in the blank with the name of a Major League ballpark of the past or present) considered to be a pitchers’ park or a hitters’ park?
This is a tough one to answer, especially since some stadiums favored pitchers some seasons and hitters the rest of the time. If you are looking for “park factors” that show how many runs, home runs, etc. happen at each park, go to ESPN’s listing. Just please keep in mind that part of a park’s ranking is going to reflect the offensive fire-power (or lack thereof) of the home team, which generates roughly half of the at bats there during a season. Also, right here in BASEBALLPARKS.COM, I provide a chart that lets you compare key characteristics of all of the parks used in the Majors since 1900. The Ballpark Chart provides (where it is available) the outfield dimensions, the outfield-wall heights and an interesting statistic called Area of Fair Territory (AFT). The AFT figures gives you some idea of whether hitting home runs was easier (a lower AFT figure) or harder (a higher AFT figure), and whether the park probably yielded more extra-base hits than is typical (a high AFT).
What about the park for the St. Paul Saints/Souix Falls Canaries/Any Other Independent League Team? Why don’t you mention it, because it’s a great ballpark?
This site is solely about parks in the Majors and the affilated Minors. I’m not trying to offend fans of the independent-league teams, but I have to draw the line somewhere. There are, in fact, some really nice parks in the indy leagues, and whenever I attend a game in Camden, NJ or Fort Worth, TX, I always enjoy myself. However, I decided long ago that it was going to be hard enough to get my arms around the 30 current MLB parks, the 25 spring training stadiums and the 159 affiliated Minor League parks, but that’s the “universe” that Baseballparks.com covers. There are some interesting Web resources for the indy leagues, though. Ballpark aficionado Charlie O’Reilly’s site includes descriptions of lots of indy league parks: http://mysite.verizon.net/charliesballparks/stadiums.htm. Also, take a look at Bill Tyler’s excellent, thorough guide to the Northern League at www.nlfan.com. Note that the Northern League, like so many of the leagues and teams in indy ball, has been disbanded.
Who coordinates trips/tours to see ballparks around the country?
While a number of companies do a very good job of this, BASEBALLPARKS.COM has aligned itself with the largest, and we think best, of these vendors. In fact, they host “BASEBALLPARKS.COM Road Trips” for fans across the country. I also think highly of Diamond Baseball Tours.
How many Major League Stadiums have natural grass instead of artificial turf?
As you’ve probably noticed, the trend is strongly away from the fake stuff. Three teams replaced artificial turf with real grass (in their existing stadiums) in recent years, with even Cincinnati doing so for their last two years in Cinergy Field (needless to say, the city’s current facility, Great American Ballpark, has real grass). That means that now all 15 National League Teams have the real thing. In the American League, once the Twins moved outside to Target Field, only two of the 14 stadiums had an artificial surface. The two offenders are Tampa Bay and Toronto (gee, is there a common element with these two stadiums?). Interestingly, the Rangers seem to be on the fence about whether to put real grass or an artificial surface in their new park that is under construction in Arlington. I’m betting they go with the real stuff.
On which side of the field should the home dugout be located? How many Major League parks have the home dugout on the first-base side?
There is no right or wrong answer as to whether the home dugout should be on the first-base side or the third-base side. The Major League Baseball Rulebook is silent on the subject. Therefore, let’s examine where Major League dugouts are located these days. In the National League, far more are on the first-base side (12 to 4). In the American League, though, it’s split evenly, with seven on each side of the field. Even the two oldest parks still in use differ on this point: the Cubs sit on the third-base side at Wrigley while the Red Sox inhabit the first-base dugout at Fenway. Can a trend be spotted, though? I think so: the eight parks that have opened most recently (Cincinnati, San Diego, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, the two in NYC and Minnesota) all have the home dugouts on the first-base side. Below, President Bush has emerged from the first-base (home) dugout at Nationals Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Opening Night at the brand-new park. At RFK Stadium, the Nationals’ dugout was on the third-base side.
In which ballpark was a tarp first used?
Yes, we do get some interesting questions here at BASEBALLPARKS.COM. While there is no way to know for sure, here’s what two different resources have to say. One says that the St. Louis Browns were the first pro baseball team to use small tarpaulins to protect the areas around home and the bases from rain. Another source relates a much more colorful story: in the 19th Century, bales of cotton would often be covered by tarps to keep them dry. The owner of the Minor League New Orleans Pelicans spotted this practice at a loading dock in Louisiana in 1887 and decided to try it out at his ballpark. That next spring, the Reds played an exhibition game in New Orleans and liked the idea so much that they started using a tarp to cover the infield on rainy days in Cincinnati. When other National League teams saw how such a tarp could keep an infield in playable condition, all of the other franchises started doing the same thing. Is this tale accurate? Who knows!
What Major League park has the deepest outfield dimensions?
Houston’s Minute Maid Park currently has the deepest outfield wall, where center field is 436 feet from home plate. Of course, this is nothing compared to the 505 feet at the Polo Grounds . . .
What Major League park has the shallowest outfield wall?
It might not surprise you that it’s Fenway Park in Boston, but it’s probably not the side of the park you might expect. It is 302 feet down the right field line at Fenway (the location of the so-called “Pesky Pole”), compared to 310 feet down the left-field line (with its 37-foot-tall “Green Monster”). The distance of 302 feet is the shortest currently in the Majors, although by no means is it the shortest ever (252 feet to left at the LA Coliseum and 258 feet to right at the Polo Grounds come to mind). The next shortest home-run poke currently in the Big Leagues is 307 feet down the right-field line in Pac Bell Park in San Francisco. By the way, the shortest distance to dead center field in the Majors is — surprise! — also Fenway, at 390 feet . . . although the wall flares out to 420 feet from home in right center.
What is the oldest ballpark still in use?
There are a couple of possible answers for this. If you are talking about all professional ballparks, then for years I’ve felt that the technically correct answer is Rickwood Field in Birmingham. It was built in 1910, making it older than Fenway. The Birmingham Barons of the Southern League vacated the park in 1988, but the Barons still play a game called “The Rickwood Classic” there each year. It is a beautiful, wonderfully maintained treasure of a ballpark. However, recent research has uncovered that at least the field at Wahconah Park in the western Massachusetts town of Pittsfield may have been around since 1892. Although a number of gaps (i.e., seasons where there was no pro team playing there) exist over the years, it appears pro baseball was played on this field 120 seasons ago. If, on the other hand, you are asking about which pro park has had a continuing tenant for the longest period of time, then that would be Boston’s Fenway Park, which opened in 1912 (the same year as the now-forsaken Tiger Stadium) — two years before Wrigley Field in Chicago opened, and four years before the Cubs started playing there.
Why don’t you like Fenway Park more? It’s an American icon, for crying out loud!
Yes, Fenway is filled with atmosphere and tradition, but I don’t rank it as highly as other older parks. Remember, this site gives the author — and the visitors — a forum to voice opinions and provide rankings of ballparks. Different ballpark fans can rank their favorite parks differently, and in my humble opinion, I don’t like Fenway’s shape (way too many seats in right field, and too many poles getting in the way of seeing the field) or the way it feels like such a bandbox. But, if you must, you pleasant Red Sox fans can go right ahead and send me more e-mails about how I have it all wrong …
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