MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Parks being adjusted these days to fit home teams

Coors Field fences growing higher, Marlins Park fences shorter

Parks being adjusted these days to fit home teams

For a decade through 1970, Willie Mays played in the worst ballpark in Major League history if you're into ripping home runs.

Didn't the Say Hey Kid hit a few of those?

Yep.

Six hundred sixty.

But here's my point: What if the windy, chilly and foggy Candlestick Park of the 1960s were around today with Mays in his prime? Well, first, that old home stadium of the Giants would exist only a little while these days with those attributes along San Francisco Bay. Second, Mays would be on his way to adding 50, 100 or 200 more homers to his total.

We're in the era of getting it right when it comes to ballparks that need changes, and that's wonderful news.

Just this week, the Rockies deserved a standing ovation across the Major Leagues after they announced they'll raise their outfield walls at Coors Field in a couple of spots this season. Ever since it opened in 1995 in the (hint, hint) Mile High City of Denver, Coors Field has featured batted balls traveling significantly farther than other places around baseball.

Such things happen when your home ballpark is 5,200 feet above sea level, more than 4,000 feet beyond that of Phoenix's Chase Field, the second highest Major League ballpark in elevation.

The Rockies have reacted to the situation. They've placed their game-day baseballs inside a room-sized humidor since 2002 in an attempt to keep Coors Field from becoming too much of a home run derby. It has worked, but only to a point. Let's just say it wasn't a coincidence that the Rockies slammed 102 of their 186 homers at home last season.

So the Rockies wish to make hitters smile less this year at Coors Field by raising the fence in right-center field by eight feet. They'll also hike up an area of the fence near the left-field foul pole by five feet.

Will it work? Who knows? At least, the Rockies keep searching for the definitive balance between hitters and pitchers.

The same applies to the Marlins, but they're the anti-Rockies along these lines. Instead of seeking to hold down the number of homers at their 5-year-old ballpark in Miami, the Marlins want to jack that figure up. They've ranked in baseball's bottom six in homers per season since Marlins Park opened, and they were 29th out of the 30 Major League teams last year.

No worries. The Marlins have lowered the fences in left and right fields at their home ballpark from 11 1/2 feet to seven feet. They've also shortened the distance from center to right-center by 11 feet. A batter looking to slam a ball out of Marlins Park in dead center this season will see a sign against that fence reading "407" as opposed to "418." Not that any of this matters to Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins slugger noted for pounding pitches toward other worlds. This is meant more for his teammates.

Others also have tweaked their ballparks in recent years. For 16 seasons, Minute Maid Park in Houston had a significant incline in deep center field called Tal's Hill. It was molded after the outfield slope that formed the warning track in left field at Cincinnati's old Crosley Field. The problem for the Astros was that Tal's Hill turned into the worst nightmare for a couple of entities: center fielders who weren't into stumbling while chasing fly balls and hitters who prefer not to have one of their 435-foot drives remain in play.

Thanks to Tal's Hill, dead center at Minute Maid Park was 436 feet from home plate.

Now we're talking about 409 feet. Good.

This is even better: The Mets are rising toward the top of their peers as ballpark perfectionists. They've changed the dimensions of Citi Field twice, and the place has been around only since 2009. For Citi Field's first two seasons, it measured 415 at its deepest point in right-center. That distance was dropped to 390 feet for the next three seasons. Before last year, it went to 380 feet.

Not only that, the walls at Citi Field in right-center were moved in by five to 11 feet in various spots.

If only Mays could have been so lucky . . .

It wasn't until Mays' last two seasons with the Giants that Candlestick Park underwent a dramatic change. It evolved from a stadium with a grass field and an outfield exposed to the infamous weather patterns from the nearby bay to a bowl-shaped facility with an artificial surface. Candlestick remained windy and foggy, but it wasn't anywhere close to the place that opened in 1960 and caused Mays to change his entire game in center and at the plate.

Mays once told me about his outfield adjustments. On fly balls hit his way, he wouldn't move. He'd count a few seconds to himself, because he knew the wind would take the ball in several directions before its final path. That's when he would run. Then there was Mays at the plate, where he was at a disadvantage as a right-handed power hitter since most of Candlestick's strongest gusts went from left to right-center.

While others whined, Mays adjusted. He remained a pull hitter on the road, but he used his inside-out swing at home to deliver shots on a consistent basis into the mighty winds of right-center. In the end, he finished his 12 seasons overall at Candlestick with 202 homers at home and 194 on the road.

Yeah, but what if the Giants had adjusted Candlestick back then to Mays instead of the other way around?

Scary thought.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.