Wall Ball— or WalBall, if Walmart ponies up the cash to buy the rights — is baseball with one tiny, gigantic quirk: if a fielder catches a ball directly off of a wall, the batter who hit that ball is out.
This change will serve multiple purposes:
- it could allow for much smaller field sizes* without leading to a correspondingly large increase in home runs, so long as the outfield walls are built very tall. This can allow for much cheaper ballparks (whether at the recreational, amateur, or professional level), both for outdoor fields in urban areas where land is expensive, or for retractable-roof stadiums where reductions in field size can result in disproportionately large roof-cost savings
- it could make fielding and base-running much more of a coequal part of the game with hitting and pitching, rather than a distant third and fourth in terms of importance. One result of this will be far more highlight-of-the-night plays. Another may be more athletic players
- it could make game durations much shorter, as there will be more fly ball outs and, depending on the placement and height of any walls in foul territory, more foul outs too
- In city parks, it can prevent long fly balls or line drives from hitting pedestrians, parked cars, or cars in motion, thereby freeing up valuable park space or parking space in urban areas
- It could serve as a practice facility for amateur baseball players, and, particularly in very small parks, could allow recreational or practice games without needing nine players a side
- it could make for interesting variations from one ballpark to another. If there are also seats above the wall (assuming Wall Ball takes off enough to become more than just a recreational endeavor) it could make for cool outfield seats, much closer to the infield
- the high outfield walls could double as gigantic projector screen surfaces (the Dallas Cowboys’ jumbotron, by way of comparison, is 72 feet high), to be used for movies, concerts, etc. And the side of the wall facing away from the field could be a climbing wall!
*If, say, the outfield walls were made to be 37 feet tall (the same as Fenway’s Green Monster), and placed 310 feet from home plate (same as the Green Monster) in left field and right field, and 350 feet in center field, the overall field would be roughly 10-20 percent smaller than a typical MLB field. If the walls were 75 feet tall (a double Monster), at 290 feet in left and right field and 340 at center, the field would be maybe 20-30 percent smaller. If the walls were 150 feet high…well, you get the idea. Granted, such extreme reductions in field sizes would leave much less open space for balls to drop into the outfield for a hit. This would increase the importance of outfielders’ defensive ability (and especially their ability to catch balls off of the wall) and infielders’ ability to prevent singles
Pitching to Walmart:
The World Series may not be about actual world supremacy, but Walmart’s fight with Amazon might be. Walmart has one huge challenge – it must attract customers to its stores – and one huge asset: vast real estate holdings (mostly, its mega-parking lots) located close to Americans’ homes.
One big question is, in a future with online shopping, space-efficient autonomous-valet parking lots, mobility apps, and the like, what will Walmart do with parts of its gigantic parking lots, in order to prevent its customers from abandoning it for online retailers? One possible answer is recreation and entertainment. A small baseball field could fit easily into just a small fraction of a Walmart parking lot. (In fact, entire MLB stadiums could fit in Walmart parking lots, that’s how crazy North American parking lots really are). The outer-facing side of the outfield walls could act as drive-in movie theatres for the parking lot, and the field itself could double as a (wall-shaded) park or outdoor market.
If you build it, Walmart…