7 Modifications That Would Make Mediocre MLB Ballparks Far Better
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There are few other places on Earth I can classify as havens other than MLB ballparks. The sights, the sounds and the smells are all experiences I cherish each time I set foot in any ballpark around the country.
From my first experience at a professional baseball game to my most recent game attended, I still receive a childlike thrill each time the field comes into view.
There are the classic stadiums of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, the well-aged Kauffman Stadium and Dodger Stadium as well as modern marvels such as Miller Park and Citi Field.
All 30 MLB ballparks can't be favorites, though. In some cases, a stadium may not seem worthy of the team it houses and vice versa (i.e. the Miami Marlins and their brand new park). That's where our outside-the-box thinking comes in.
Taking a look at the physical amenities of each ballpark, here are seven constructive criticisms to improve those that are not (and will never be) a wonder of the world.
H/t to Baseballparks.com
Angel Stadium of Anaheim
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There are a lot of things to like about "The Big A" located in Anaheim, California.
First, there's the astonishing entrance—part of renovations completed in 1998 to improve the ballpark that first opened in 1966 were two enormous batting helmets painted red, which flank the entrance to Angel Stadium behind home plate.
Another striking feature is the "Big A" monument located in the parking lot and visible above the right field stands. The halo is illuminated when the Angels win.
However, a well-documented design mishap of Angel Stadium is the distracting light bank in right field.
Josh Hamilton is an All-Star outfielder with a career .986 fielding percentage, yet has already committed an MLB leading eight errors in 2013 among outfielders.
Former Angel Tim Salmon described the light bank in right field as "a strand"; whereas most other ballparks break up their light banks, the construction of Angel Stadium's makes it very easy to lose a ball in the cluster of bright lights.
Adjusting the lights at the Big A won't fix all those Angels' problems in 2013 but at least the franchise is past the rat infestation that resulted in 118 vermin violations in 2007.
Minute Maid Park
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One can hardly remain objective when analyzing major league ballparks, and there are some necessary modifications needed at Minute Maid Park.
With no animosity to the Houston Astros or their fans, the train has got to go.
Sure, it's a nice homage to the old Union Station, the previous owner of the site the park now sits on, but essentially the entire left and center field section of the stadium is dedicated to this decorative vehicle. When you're sacrificing seats for extravagance, priorities are not in the right place.
There must be a way to find a happy medium in which seats are built around the train. This would, of course, derail (pun intended) the view of downtown Houston through the glass wall when the retractable roof is closed.
Also, the steep hill known as Tal's Hill in deep center field is an interesting "old time" touch. While it's aesthetically creative and seldom seen in baseball stadiums anymore, it's also an injury waiting to happen.
It'll probably take a star player being injured before any uprisings come against the hill.
Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is one of a handful of stadiums listed that features a retractable roof, which is becoming increasingly popular among new venues.
It's not the roof I have a gripe with at the D-backs ballpark. In fact, the roof is quite impressive, utilizing two 200-horsepower motors to open and close the roof in just over four minutes.
The stadium that was opened in 1998 and that hosted—then as "Bank One Ballpark"—the clinching Game 7 of the 2001 World Series features huge, obscene advertisements on opposite sides of the center field scoreboard that detract from the beauty of the field.
I understand that teams pull in unbelievable amounts of money through stadium ads, yet there has to be a better way to display them than cheap and hideous placards against a black backdrop.
Why not, instead, install glass panels in center field to allow natural light in while the roof is closed? It would provide a nicer view for the fans and eliminate the awkward beams of light that sneak in between the ads during day games.
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Originally known as Centennial Olympic Stadium and home to the 1996 Summer Olympics, the stadium was soon restructured into Turner Field and the home of the Atlanta Braves.
There is nothing particularly stunning about Turner Field, but all in all it is a beautifully well-designed ballpark that has sustained success over a number of years.
Recently, a tragedy occurred at the stadium located in Atlanta, Georgia when a fan, Ronald Lee Homer Jr., fell from a fourth-level smoking area and was pronounced dead soon after. The guardrail in that section was 42-inches high, which is the industry minimum according to International Building Code standards. Homer was a 6'6'' man, meaning the guardrail likely only reached his midsection.
Furthermore, this was the third such instance in the past year at Turner Field begging the question as to whether certain safety precautions need to be addressed.
Higher or double-layered guardrails in open-sided spaces would be a start.
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Rogers Centre, formerly known as SkyDome, is a multi-purpose arena that was first opened in 1989. When the massive venue first opened, it was an architectural phenomenon with the first fully retractable roof in North America.
Now, the Rogers Centre is an artifact in comparison to some new stadiums being built.
It stands as one of only two MLB parks to function without natural grass, using an improved form of AstroTurf that includes a base of sand and small rubber pellets.
The ballpark in Toronto, Ontario is also the only field in the majors without infield dirt for the entirety of the basepaths. The only dirt in the stadium runs around the exterior of the field and around each base.
It has become an iconic feature of the Blue Jays home field, but entirely dirt-filled basepaths would be an improvement to a ballpark that doesn't really feel like one at all.
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Ballparks that function as multi-purpose stadiums obviously have their limitations and may cater towards one sport rather than another. So is the case of O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.
O.co Coliseum (also commonly known as Oakland Coliseum) is home to both the Oakland Athletics and the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. When the Raiders moved from Los Angeles to Oakland, huge seating renovations were made, including "Mount Davis," aptly named after the late Raiders owner, which blocks the view of the Oakland Hills in center field.
The incredible number of seats can make the stadium seem empty, especially when seats are covered by Athletics printed tarps.
Despite the vast seating areas in the upper decks, the ballpark could benefit from some high-end box seats along the first and third base lines to eliminate the vast foul ground areas which are arguably the largest in the majors.
O.co was opened in 1966 and has begun to feel the wrath of old age as well, highlighted by multiple sewage issues, the most recent of which occurred during a match up with the Seattle Mariners in June.
That should be priority number one.
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The ballpark in most need of a complete overhaul is Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The home to the Tampa Bay Rays is the only remaining stadium in the MLB with a fixed dome roof.
In fact, there is no natural light that can make its way into the ballpark. In baseball that's just wrong!
The stadium was renovated for the expansion (Devil) Rays in 1998, but only so many adjustments could be made to the domed stadium to create a "baseball-acceptable" park.
When an entire subset of rules needs to be created to account for in-play catwalks above the ball field, patience amongst managers, players and fans can only go so far.
Removing the catwalks likely isn't in the cards, so how about a brand new stadium? The Rays successful play in recent years certainly proves the team is deserving of a new, modern park.