North America

Two Half-Baked Montreal Expos Stadium Ideas

The Washington ex-Pos won the World Series earlier this week, at the end of a very exciting playoff run. It would be nice if Montreal could get a team again: hopefully they will take Tampa Bay’s, and so join their neighbours Toronto, Boston, New York, and Baltimore inside the American League East.

If Montreal decides to build a new stadium, what should it be like? Here are two half-baked ideas:

  1. Pitched Outfield Walls

Baseball, arguably, needs more running and fielding plays, more extra-base hits and fewer shallow home runs. There may be a great way to achieve this: have part of the outfield wall be slanted. For instance, put a pitched roof over the outfield bullpens, with the roof serving as an angled extension of the outfield wall rather than part of home run territory. Very long fly balls and line drives would then bounce off the slanted roof and back up into the outfield into play, creating doubles and triples, attempts at triples, first-to-home scoring attempts, maybe even the odd inside-the-park homer.

If you really want to go big, you could even create a sort of angled version of Fenway’s Green Monster. This Monstre Bleu would produce exciting running and fielding plays and extra base hits, rather than the singles and shallow homers that Fenway’s Monster creates. What’s the ideal size and angle for a slanted portion of an outfield wall? I don’t know: maybe ten feet long, forming a 45-degree angle with the normal outfield wall from which the slanted section extends?

  1. Seasonally Enclosed Stadium

Half a dozen MLB teams have stadiums with retractable roofs, and one team, Tampa Bay, has a permanently closed roof. Retractable roofs are useful obviously, but they are also expensive and far from aesthetically ideal. Montreal has arguably the best summer baseball weather of any MLB city, but also the coldest weather in spring and fall. Maybe, then, instead of building a stadium with a conventionally retractable roof, it could pioneer a seasonally enclosed stadium of some sort, to be open in the summer but enclosed in spring, fall, and winter.

Ideally, such a stadium would overcome some of the financial and aesthetic limitations of conventional roofs. Perhaps, depending on how much time and effort would be needed to open and close the roof, the stadium could also be enclosed ahead of summer weeks when the forecast calls for lots of rain.

 

 

 

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North America

Wall Ball

Wall Ballor 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…

 

 

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