One of the unique things that sets baseball apart from other sports is the field that it is played on. Teams have some leeway in the way the field is designed, which can lead to some interesting situations. Brandon Magee takes a look at some of the ground rule oddities and quirks throughout Major League Baseball.
Baseball is a game with uniform rules played in non-uniform parks. The quirks of each park provide for a more interesting viewing experience, but also present a conundrum. These quirks and the potential confusion they cause are not discussed in the official MLB Rule book – at least, not directly. The rule book does provide for a series of “ground rules” to account for some of these quirks:
Minute Maid Park is home to the most unusual landscape in Major League Baseball: Tal’s Hill, the 20 degree incline in center field. However, it is not the hill itself that generates a number of ground rules. Like Fenway Park, it is a flagpole – on the hill and in the field of play – that generates three separate ground rules. If the ball hits the flagpole and drops in play, the ball is in play. If it hits the pole, bounces off the ground and into the stands, it is two bases. However, if it hits the pole and continues over the fence, it is a home run. It should be noted that this is likely the final season for these ground rules, as the Astros plan to redesign centerfield by bringing in the fences.
Minute Maid Park is one of a number of recently designed parks with retractable roofs. These parks all have very similar ground rules regarding balls hit off the roof. The ground rules on the Mariners’ official site are the most clear:
A batted ball hitting a roof truss in fair territory shall be judged fair or foul in relation to where it lands or is touched by a fielder. If caught by a fielder, the batter is out and base runners advance at their own risk.
A batted ball hitting a roof truss in foul territory is a foul ball, regardless of where it lands or is touched by a fielder. If caught by a fielder, the batter is out and the base runners advance at their own risk.
Of course, there is charming Tropicana Field, where all bets are off when it comes to the roof and catwalks. Unlike Seattle and Houston, a ball that hits any of the hanging objects in foul territory is considered a dead ball. Adding to the fun, depending on which catwalk the ball hits in fair territory, the ball may be either a home run or in play. There is also the possibility the the ball never comes down off a catwalk… in which case, two bases will be awarded.
Camden Yards has an interesting quirk in its outfield, a “shed”, located to the left of the video board in right field, from which the grounds crew can watch the game. As with other baseball oddities, it also has a ground rule:
Fly ball hitting the grounds crew shed roof in right field and bouncing back into play: HOME RUN
The rise of advertising boards results in a ground rule for Comerica Park in Detroit. If a wild pitch gets stuck in the advertising board, runners can advance one base. If a throw gets stuck, all runners can advance two bases.
Finally, there is Wrigley Field and its famous ivy-covered walls. Sometimes a ball enters the ivy and never comes out. According to the Wrigley Field ground rules, the batter and runners each can take two bases. But, outfielders need to be careful – if they shake the ball loose before the umpire signals the play dead, the ball is in play and the runners can continue to run. Wrigley also has a ground rule with regards to its dugouts – specifically, a player cannot enter the dugout steps to catch a foul ball:
Baseball is a unique sport as the entire area inside the walls of the baseball stadium is considered in play. Unlike basketball, football or soccer, the dimensions of play are not confined to a specific area. This freedom not only provides for fun viewing – it also allows for some entertaining conversation about the rules for each park.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.