Why do MLB parks have different dimensions?

Camden Yards
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Earlier today, Major League Baseball announced that its official YouTube channel would be home to a handful of new shows. They are: Quick Question, Stack’d, Fitted, Newlybros, The Tryout, and The Blueprint. Here’s a description of those shows from MLB’s press release:

 

  • Quick Question: Takes a closer look at common customs and situations found in baseball through experts and animation.
  • Stack’d: Players answer personal questions and perform special challenges all while testing their tower-building skills with over-sized wooden blocks. The show is hosted by MLB Youth Ambassador and acclaimed softball player, Lauren Chamberlain.
  • Fitted: The tradition of a veteran player taking a rookie suit shopping is on full display as teammates talk baseball, fashion and life. The debut episode features Oakland’s Marcus Semien and Jesús Luzardo.
  • Newlybros: MLB stars who are close friends, either through childhood, in the Minors or as Major League teammates, are put to the test through this adaptation of the popular game show.
  • The Tryout: Celebrities and athletes who have always wanted to have a shot at the Majors see if they have what it takes with the help and coaching of a current MLB star. The first episode features Cubs superstar Javy Báez and Puerto Rican recording artist and song-writer Residente.
  • The Blueprint: Each championship team is built with a collection of draft picks, trades, and free agent acquisitions that lead to success on the field.  This show explores the moves that made winners out of teams like the 2019 Nationals, 2016 Cubs, and 2010/2012/2014 Giants.

Quick Question released a video today titled, “Why do all MLB ballparks have different dimensions?” Historical information is provided from official MLB historian John Thorn and current Dodgers senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith. It’s a very interesting and informative video and, if it’s indicative of what’s to come, will be quite valuable to fans looking for something to scratch the baseball itch.

Having grown up in the Philly area, I went to Veteran’s Stadium more than a handful of times. While there’s rarely a dull moment watching a live sporting event in Philadelphia, Veteran’s Stadium was one of those “ashtray” stadiums referred to in the video: multipurpose stadiums with nearly identical dimensions as other “ashtrays.” The field was also covered in Astroturf which was on top of concrete, which led to numerous injuries. Some even surmise that the chemicals used in the turf led to the glioblastomas that claimed the lives of Darren Daulton, John Vukovich, and Tug McGraw, among others. Citizens Bank Park was a necessary upgrade. Surprisingly, only eight teams have gotten new stadiums since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004. But many of them, like the Phillies’ home park itself, borrowed many concepts from Camden Yards, the first park to truly break the “ashtray” mold back in 1992.

These newer parks, like Camden Yards and CBP hearken back to the ballparks in the early 1900’s. As Thorn said, they were “a breath of fresh air by being a breath of stale air.” Nowadays, though, most of the league’s look the same again. On the macro scale, there are plenty of similarities between Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Comerica Park, and many others. At some point, another ballpark revolution will take place. One wonders what that might look like. Retractable roofs? A return to domes?