With all the speculation about where the A’s will build their new ballpark, much less attention has been given to the potential characteristics of the playing field itself.
It appears all of that vast foul territory that is a hallmark of the Coliseum — and such a safety net for pitchers — will be left in the past.
A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said he anticipates the foul ground to be reduced considerably once the A’s start designing the playing surface in a potential new ballpark.
“I think most people would say that you’re trying to create intimacy, so minimizing foul territory is probably the direction most teams and stadiums have gone and are gonna continue to go,” Beane told NBC Sports California. “You want to create an experience for fans that’s as close to the field (as possible).
“Some of that is stuff, it’s utilitarian — what’s the advantage baseball-wise for us? (But) what we would consider as baseball guys, (team president) Dave (Kaval) will be looking at from the fan standpoint.”
Before any of this becomes a factor, the A’s first need to announce their location in Oakland to build. Kaval says that will happen before this calendar year ends. The three locations being considered: one right across the street from the Laney College baseball field, just off Interstate 880; the Howard Terminal site that’s a short walk from Jack London Square; and the current Coliseum site.
Beane said in-depth conversations about the playing field itself have yet to take place, such as the outfield dimensions, location of the bullpens, etc. But he talks as if a much smaller foul territory is a given, and that would mark a significant change for the A’s when they play at home.
Seats at the Coliseum are located so far back from the field, and that spacious foul ground makes the venue arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors. Pitchers who join the A’s often comment on the foul territory being a huge positive in their decision to sign with Oakland.
Of course, there’s a flip side. Free agent hitters who get frustrated that so many Coliseum at-bats result in foul pop-outs might view the A’s more favorably if they provide a more hitter-friendly home ballpark.
Beane said he believes he and his baseball operations staff will definitely get their say in what characteristics they want the new field to have. But creating a cozier atmosphere, with fans sitting closer to the action, is a key element for the A’s wherever they build.
“To take fans farther away from the game in this day and age would probably be crazy,” Beane said. “… I think we’re all gonna be on the same page. When you get a new stadium, the reason you build it is to get people to come watch games. You have to keep in mind that the fan experience is probably the first thing.”