With the recent opening of Citi Field and New Yankee Stadium, I began thinking about what is necessary to build a great baseball stadium. I’m not talking about big concourses or large aisles. I’m talking about what will give my team the ultimate home field advantage. Baseball is amazing in that the field you play on is different from every other field in baseball. There are no standard regulations like every other sport. No football, hockey, or basketball team can make their field, rink, or court a different shape or size. Baseball teams have the freedom to do that and yet many decide not to do so. Let’s take a look at the best ways to design a stadium for the greatest home field advantage.
- The Field Shape. Make one field very short so that you can stack your team with hitters for that field and have a lineup that will put up huge numbers at home. Fenway Park in Boston has the Green Monster just 310 feet from home plate and they stack their lineup with right-handed hitters. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, and Jason Varitek (Switch) all rack up doubles by hitting balls off the wall that would be caught in others. Yankee Stadium and the New Yankee Stadium both have the short porch in left field. The Yankees stack their lineup with lefties such as Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Mark Teixeira (Switch), and Jorge Posada (Switch). The Yankees and Red Sox offenses are built upon their home ballparks, because they play 82 games at home. Building a symmetrical park eliminates the opportunity to build a lineup designed for your home park.
- The Stadium Shape. This goes for all sports. Build a stadium whose top deck overhangs the field and whose semi-roof expands over the stands. Most baseball stadiums are outdoors and do not have roofs so the term “semi-roof” means the part of the stadium that overhangs the stands. The picture above shows a digital representation of New Yankee Stadium and the roof that overhangs. New Yankee Stadium, like the old park, does a great job of keeping sound in as the roof traps it from leaving. Wide open parks diminish a team’s home field advantage, because any fan noise disappears. Fan noise does have a huge impact on the game. Home players get a boost of adrenaline and focus that much harder while opposing players become more nervous, knowing that the crowd is just waiting for them to fail. Creating a stadium that traps noise inside is pertinent to gaining the ultimate home field advantage.
- Fan Proximity. As I said above, fan noise is crucial to creating a good home ballpark so keeping fans close to the field is the best way to increase noise. Make sure every seat near the field is sold to fans and not to press or photographers. Keep the dugout as small as possible to create more seats near the field. The more seats closer to the field means the more noise the players will hear. Also, get the press far away from the field. Citi Field positions them perfectly out in left-field where they have the least impact on the game. Putting them right next to the game eliminates the chance to sell seats to fans who will make noise and help your home field advantage.
- The Bullpen. A smaller aspect of a park, but it’s always nice to have fans near an opponents bullpen. Relievers sit around all game waiting to go in for an inning, two at most. When those relievers begin warming-up, they must be completely focused on their task ahead. If they are not focused when they enter the game, they don’t have 4-5 more innings to make up for it like a starter does. They are expected to be ready to go on their first pitch so any fan disruption will give a team the slightest advantage. Yes, this is a minor thing, but I want the ultimate home-field advantage, not “close to” the ultimate home-field advantage. Also, I want my bullpen away from fans. I don’t need my fans distracting my closer by asking for autographs as he warms up to come in the game.
- The Field. Add some odd thing to the field. In Houston, the Astros have a hill in deep center field. Any opposing player is going to have a lot of trouble tracking down a deep fly ball while going up a hill, but home players are used to it. To be hones, I think that is a little extreme (it’s a hill!), but for instance, Fenway has the Green Monster which is hard to deal with for an opponent. This is actually a larger advantage as knowing how to play a ball is an important part of the game. Have a weird shape in left-center field or some odd outfield arrangement that throws opponents off. It’s not cheating. Both teams have to deal with it, but the home team is going to know how to deal with it. There’s another advantage.
Okay, so there you go. Five ways to get your team a distinct home field advantage just through stadium design. None of these involve keeping an opponent’s locker room freezing or making them walk long distances to get to there. These are all ways to build a stadium where your team, because it plays there 82 times a year, are going to have the upper hand no matter who is pitching, no matter who is playing.