Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Pinball baseball" on display

The World Series will be played for the first time in the Lone Star state tonite. As a Cub fan, I have watched more than my fair share of games at Enron Field/Astro Field/Minute Maid Park. Whatever they call it, the brand of baseball you see in Houston is unlike anything you see in any other park in the big leagues.

You see, somebody got a little too cute whan they designed this retractable roof ballpark. A popup to leftfield can find it's way very easily into the Crawford Boxes, above the scoreboard (supposedly the Crawford Boxes are 315' from home plate, pitchers would question that measurement). From there the field jets out into left center. In left center a yellow line seperates homeruns from balls in play. The yellow line makes for many tough calls for umpires.

Above LF and LCF, an 1860's replica train rides on a track when the Astros hit a homerun. When you reach centerfield you find the only hill in play in MLB. They call it Tal's hill. The ten degree slope is 436' from home plate. As if the hill isn't enough of a challenge, they put a flagpole on it. Gaius Marius and I used to laugh when the Beege was manning CF for the Astros. More than once we saw him go up the hill and nearly get killed by the flagpole. That thing could do some serious damage to a CF. White Sox CF Aaron Rowand had better be careful running around out there.

So Minute Maid Park will give you the cheap homerun down the lines (not just the Crawford Boxes in LF it's only 326' to RF). No wonder Carlos Zambrano loves to hit in the Juice Box. Still in CF and LCF the park is gonna take away some balls that would be out of any park. Like no other park, pitchers have to pitch to this ballparks dimensions. Otherwise it will be a quick nite and trip to the showers.

I am a fan of most of the new parks. My favorite new parks are SBC Park in San Francisco, Safeco Field in Seattle, Petco Park in San Diego, and I like Camden Yards in Baltimore because it started the retro park craze. I like the new ballparks. But Minute Maid is a ballpark that tried to put in as many quirks as possible. When you have as many quirks as the Juice Box, it's pretty likely one or several of them will come into play in a ballgame. It really is playing baseball in a pinball machine.

Tonight this "pinball baseball" that makes purists cringe will be on display in Houston. This isn't some regular season series against the Cubs or Reds. This is baseball biggest stage. It's like the World Series is being played at Riverview.

No comments: