This article was written with large contributions from Sean O’Rourke and Michael Baumann.
Wrigley’s ivy claimed another run last night, leading Baseball Twitter to discuss whether it should be a ground rule or not, leading Michael Baumann to discuss the craziness endemic in collegiate parks, and leading me to wonder what it would be like if the 28 other parks had something similarly game-altering.
Now, I know this is ground well trod by our own esteemed Sam Miller and our formerly esteemed Ben Lindbergh on the Effectively Wild podcast. I readily acknowledge that there is nothing new under the sun. With those disclaimers out of the way, here is a list of team- and area-specific alterations, compiled by Sean O’Rourke, the aforementioned Michael Baumann, and myself to make every game played in those parks just a little more exciting.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The pool is in play. The Diamondbacks will just have to get over other teams swimming in it, or learn not to hit balls that direction. —Kate
Atlanta Braves: The Braves will soon move to a new ballpark in Cobb County, home of the famous Kennesaw Mountain. This name is, of course, well known to baseball fans because Major League Baseball’s first commissioner was named after the 1864 Civil War battle for this charming Appalachian peak. In this battle, elements of General Sherman’s Federal Grand Army attempted to overrun an entrenched Confederate position and were repulsed, before later going around the position and on to Atlanta.
In honor of the battle, any baserunner will have to climb a large hill between second and third base, then climb back down the slope, run around it, and pick up a torch while rounding third before ultimately heading home. —Michael
Baltimore Orioles: If the game is tied after nine innings, a large American flag is raised just above the center field wall. The visiting team, in home run derby style, is charged with hitting the flag with a batted ball before a designated player from the Orioles finishes a poem mocking the opponent’s ability to do so. —Michael
Boston Red Sox: There was some debate on Twitter when I raised this question as to whether or not (a) The Green Monster or (b) Hanley Ramirez counted as Boston’s “stupid outfield thing.” Since Ramirez has been moved to first, a position he will hopefully be much more comfortable at in the coming season, my executive decision is that yes, the Green Monster is a “stupid outfield thing,” but the more exciting change would be to make the Fenway Park bullpens in play. No, don’t take down the walls. You want to catch that ball? You go over, under or through. Not only does that make the already-historic and curious park a little more quaint, but imagine the web gems, or the extreme shifts utilized by opposing teams. —Kate
Chicago Cubs: Ah, the ivy. Do they kill the ground rule, keep the ground rule, or make things up as they go along? —Kate
Chicago White Sox: Chicago White Sox…sox…socks…you have to take your shoes off in a bouncy castle…bouncy castle in fair territory. It all makes a certain sort of sense, no? Not that it has to be an actual castle, but imagine the air someone could get on a giant inflatable mattress…once. Spikes could be a problem, but I’m sure someone will figure it out. —Kate
Cincinnati Reds: The waters of the mighty Ohio River run past the Reds’ home, carrying the hopes and dreams of the Rust Belt with it. Part of it is now rerouted across the outfield in place of the warning track, forming the most treacherous oxbow in the majors. A miniature riverboat paddles its length; aim for its smokestacks, because you won’t get a five-foot drop off this water hazard. —Sean
Cleveland Indians: Right field is now a five-foot deep pond. In postseason play, any balls that land in the drink are home runs by rule. For the lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the winds of November come early. —Michael
Colorado Rockies: If Colorado is the Rockies, why does their outfield not take advantage of it? Now, we're not talking 40,000-ft summits, but a few nice hills would make anything hit out of the infield an adventure. Alternatively, they could just not clear the field of snow any time it snows. You might have to use those bright yellow novelty balls, but I'm sure a few league-standard versions can be whipped up. —Kate
Detroit Tigers: With all of the controversy going around about the necessity/inanity/validity of instant replay, Detroit presents a unique opportunity to solve any on-field dispute. Whether it be a bang-bang play at first, balls and strikes, or one of those seemingly endless “you popped up an angstrom off the bag” things going around, the tedium and uncertainty that comes from reviewing every possible angle can’t compare to 8 Mile-style rap battles between players. You want to convince the ump you snuck in under the tag? Drop some fire on the mic. Convinced that you tagged him in the junk in time? Ask the organist for a beat and spit rhymes like Tech N9ne.
Heck, each team could have a designated battler. You know you want to see Verlander try to stumble his way through a freestyle to get that outside strike. —Sean
Houston Astros: Tal’s Hill has been granted a stay of execution, and should really have its sentence commuted. Of all the nefarious additions suggested here, the hill is really the most benign. How many times have you actually seen a ball interfered with due to the hill? It’s not really that many per season, and it makes the times that it does change a play all that more interesting. The flagpole should be out of play, though, because any ball that hits that small a target should be a granted home run, no matter the circumstances. —Kate
Kansas City Royals: The famous Kauffman fountains are back in play. What’s more, they’re now *directed toward the field*, randomly aimed at any incoming object—fly ball, Lorenzo Cain, the ghost of Bo Jackson. If it knocks that object back in the field of play, we’ve still got a live ball! Now, surely there’d be some “controversy” and “anger” and “ejections of managers furiously arguing that the aiming isn’t at all random, always pointed at OUR flyballs and dangit it didn’t even get out of the INFIELD this time,” but that’s a small price to pay for entertainment.
If a ball is hit directly into a Water Cannon, the ball will return to being live whenever the pressure shoots it back onto the field. —Sean
Los Angeles Angels: Ah, The Big Edison International Field Stadium At Anaheim Near Los Angeles. If there was any justice at all, the ground rule would require, as part of rounding the bases on a home run, surviving the mania that is the SR-57 highway running alongside its parking lot. Alas, that’s not within the former Disney Confines, so we’ll have to improvise.
A prominent feature is the “California Spectacular” in center field, originally designed to evoke the iconic Pride Rock from The Lion King. The great and noble inhabitants of that land are the inspiration for this rule: cougars.
Yes, cougars. Bear with me.
The Saddleback Mountains, visible in the distance behind the stadium, are home to the California cougar. What better way to conserve this majestic species by housing one in centerfield among the rocks….and releasing it every once in awhile? Upside: Mike Trout gets to cultivate an interest in zoology.
Downside: Sam Fuld might get eaten on a road trip. Actually, is that really such a loss for A’s fans?
Sure, this might be “implausible” and “dangerous,” but I know I’d get a kick out of Kole Calhoun trying desperately to pull a ball from the big cat’s jaws, anyway. If the cougar swallows it, ground rule double. Devoured players are worth three bases. —Sean
Los Angeles Dodgers: Kale gardens on the warning track and woe be on you if you mess them up with your non-organic cleats and everything. Not only is this “green” and “topical,” but it’s another way to make more money for a team determined to sign literally every baseball player ever. —Kate
Miami Marlins: Currently, if you hit the dinger machine, it’s an automatic dinger. In this idyllic future, if you hit the dinger machine and the ball gets lost, it’s a dinger. If the fielder scales the machine? If the opposing team decides to station an outfielder there? That’s all fair game. Of course, if there is a dinger, then that outfielder might find themselves deserving of some hazard pay. —Kate
Milwaukee Brewers: Miller Park is mostly known for a variety of nifty gimmicks—fan-shaped retractable roof, enormous enclosed slides for mascots, the crowning of the Usain Bolt of Tube Meats, among others —but the real appeal for a ground rule lies in Milwaukee’s most time-honored tradition. That is, getting completely drunk. In a bit of brand synergy, SABMiller-Inbev (subject to FTC approval) could sponsor a between-innings mandatory drinking game for all players. For the batter, downing one pint equals one extra base! For the pitcher, a bonus strike! Bringing in a reliever? Bottoms up on one of those delightful domestics that saves you money on the concourse for the entire coaching staff. This may not be viable in the long term, nor particularly healthy, but as long as players continue to stuff softballs of tobacco in their face, who are we kidding? —Sean
@unlikelyfanatic congratulations, Minnesota now has 10,000 small puddles in the outfield
— Matt (@mattsayssports) October 21, 2015
This makes for some interesting uniform decisions. Do they make galoshes with cleats? —Kate
New York Mets: Each defender can only occupy a 50-square foot patch of ground, which has baseboard heating and no in-unit washer/dryer, and must pay $4,000 per month, before utilities, for the privilege of standing there. —Michael
New York Yankees: First base remains in the Bronx, but home plate is on Coney Island. In order to get home safely, baserunners must navigate the New York subway system while being pursued by the police, as well as members of the 29 other major-league franchises, some of whom are inexplicably wearing roller skates and overalls. CAN YOU DIG IT? —Michael
Oakland Athletics: The Coliseum is famous for having the infield dirt in play when the stadium is converted to its football configuration for early-season Raiders home games. Now, in the interest of symmetry and to ease the grounds crew’s workload, the A’s will leave the football field’s markings—as well as the goalposts and end zone pylons—on the field for baseball games. —Michael
Philadelphia Phillies: The Liberty Bell is one of those artifacts your average American city tourist board salivates over: instantly recognizable, filled with meaning, and easily reproduced for myriad branding and retail knickknack opportunities. Citizen’s Bank Park is no stranger to the most famous cracked piece of bronze on Earth, featuring a 102-foot replica (technically, a Celebration) forged from steel, LEDs, and motors that “rings” every time a home run is hit. Move it in a skosh and add a ball-activated paddle on the clapper, and you’ve got yourself a multiball activator target worthy of the finest pinball machines. Of course, any ball spit onto the field in the process is live; for once, things thrown onto the field in Philadelphia will bring joy to everyone involved! —Sean
Pittsburgh Pirates: Admittedly, this one is more visual than most, but wouldn’t it be picturesque to have a bridge hanging out on the field of play? Potentially even an active one, bringing the prospect of cars (or people, we can be more realistic here) walking across the field of play. Is it a homer if it hits the deck? Well, that’s just something for the rules committee to decide. —Kate
San Diego Padres: The beach in right field? That’s now in play. Well, half of it—it’s too good a seating gimmick to give up the entirety, but there should be a large quantity of sand that the outfielders have to run through to make catches, and the grounds crew would have ample opportunity to express their creativity with ever-more-fanciful sand castle creations every pre-game. —Kate
San Francisco Giants: In honor of San Francisco’s famous trolleys, the outfield at AT&T Park now features light rail tracks in fair territory. And since a certain division rival was originally called the “Trolley Dodgers,” trolleys will actually run across those tracks when the Dodgers come to town. —Michael
Seattle Mariners: Seattle sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. If the volcano erupts, it could annihilate the entire city. Therefore, we’re planting some sort of harmless but messy explosive device—think Mentos and Diet Coke—under the pitcher’s mound, which will go off at random and without warning once a season. Whichever team is on defense when the volcano mound erupts loses the game. —Michael
St. Louis Cardinals: The famous mowed-in Gateway Arch is now raised. This may cause some injury problems the first year, but surely it could be an easy enough grade to just throw off an outfielder, rather than actually injure them. —Kate
Tampa Bay Rays: The ray tank? In play. Splash hits are now either a chance to go swimming or a Little League home run. This by no means changes the catwalks, which already add their own brand of insanity to the proceedings. —Kate
Texas Rangers: Arlington, before it was covered by strip malls and parking lots and acres and acres of asphalt, used to be a grassland. The Rangers should honor that by growing some native prairie grasses exactly as they would grow, tall and wild and free. Just imagine, the field of dusky grass, gently shimmering in the horrid Texas sun, making things really interesting. Of course, this would cause some problems if it covered the entire field—almost any hit would be a ground-rule double—so we’ll confine our prairie to the warning track area, just like Wrigley’s ivy. —Kate
Toronto Blue Jays: The CN Tower majestically rises over the City of Toronto like Jose Bautista batflips into the troposphere. In its new capacity, it becomes a latter-day Eye of Sauron atop Barad-dûr, passing its unholy judgement on all who dare to challenge it, just in the shape of a blue jay. Looking into the firey beak on a day when the Rogers Centre roof is open will turn the offending fielder to stone, unless they make a sufficient sacrifice. Errors, perhaps, or the ritual singing of MLB At Bat’s hottest new jam: “FOUR THREE NINE OH OH OH OH PIZZA NO-VA” —Sean
Washington Nationals: [THIS GROUND RULE HAS BEEN REDACTED UNTIL A FINAL FORM IS APPROVED BY CONGRESS, IN ACCORDANCE WITH 2015 35 CFR 420. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR AGENCY’S BASEBALL POC FOR FURTHER GUIDANCE UNTIL THE GROUND RULE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR IS SIGNED.]
Damn DC gridlock! —Sean
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