It’s That Time Again

Bill King is the greatest broadcaster I have ever listened to. The National Baseball Hall of Fame gives out an award to the best of the best every year and fan voting (to add 3 candidates to an eventual list of 10 that past Ford C. Frick Award winners and a specially appointed panel will use to select the next winner) begins on facebook tomorrow.

It stuns me that we still have to push for him to be posthumously honored with the Ford C. Frick Award. But we do. And we should. I can’t believe the A’s aren’t and haven’t. On this, all of us should agree: Bill King deserves this recognition.

This article says the we can “influence” the outcome. I sort of chuckle and roll my eyes at that. We have made Bill the top fan vote earner on multiple occasions and a lot of good that did us. We need to crash the gates people. My plea to all of you:

  • If you don’t have a facebook account, please get one. You can delete it after the month. All fan voting will be conducted on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s facebook profile. You can even friend me!
  • Everyday when you vote, post a facebook status that says “I voted for Bill King for the Ford C. Frick Award and you should to.” Or something.
  • Rinse and repeat daily, starting tomorrow and concluding the last day of September.

We fight all the time on this here blog about where the A’s should play. I think we all agree that Bill King deserves this recognition. Let’s unite and form some kind of Voltron thing and make the Hall of Fame’s appointed panel pick him.

And one last reminder of how awesome Bill King is, was and always will be (at about 1:39 in the below video, full disclosure I wrote the song, recorded it and made the crappy video):

Go A’s, Go Bill and thanks for listening to my rant.

Target Plaza

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my glowing comments about Target Plaza. At the Diridon walking tour yesterday, Dennis Korabiak asked those in the crowd who, if anyone, had visited Target Field to experience it first-hand. I was the only person who raised his/her hand. Korabiak immediately shot back, “Ours will be better!” Now that’s a bold statement, and pretty hard to back up given how good Target Plaza is. Since it’s so new and hard to visualize (and I felt I hadn’t done it justice), I figured I’d devote a post to what the Plaza looks like.

First up, here’s a very shaky cell phone cam of the walk from downtown to Target Field through the plaza. I don’t blame you if you get sick watching it, that’s why I didn’t put it in the original Target Field post in the first place.

Now for some pics. First up, a view from 6th Street North and Hennepin Avenue, where you get a glimpse of the stadium down the street.

As you get closer, layers of the ballpark begin to reveal themselves. A view from street level:

And then a view from the Skyway:

Near Gate 34 is a cute, friendly monument honoring all of the various Gold Glove winners throughout the Twins’ existence (I just noticed the use of “Golden Glove”):

Now, a view back towards the city from near that spot:

And if you want an interesting before/after look, head on over to Google Maps and fire up the street view. While the Plaza is not in any Street View update yet (get on yer bikes, Google!), you can see the area transformation at two intersections, 7th St N/2nd Ave N and 5th St N/3rd Av N. Click on those, get your bearings, then move north along the map ever so slightly and – presto! – baseball magic. You can also do the same at 6th St N/2nd Ave N to see how 6th St gets split up vertically – upper level for pedestrians to the Plaza, and lower level for vehicles.

The challenge in doing this in either Oakland or San Jose is the presence of a large elevated freeway (880 and 87, respectively). In both cases, the great reveal can’t happen until after fans pass the freeway. Stadium lights will act as a beacon, so that helps a little. In Minneapolis, the freeway spur I-394 runs underneath and terminates next to the ballpark.

Diridon Walking Tour

Here in front of Diridon Station. Jeffrey, fc and Sam are on hand, along with Dennis Korabiak and Kip Harkness from City. Michael Mulcahy as well. 40-50 in total.

Someone just asked when the ballpark would open. Korabiak replied, “2015.” More on that as it comes.

Korabiak just said that the renderings will be officially released by City tomorrow.

Harkness mentioned that the water table is 14 feet below the street.

Mulcahy finished off the tour with a brief speech about supporting the plan.

At least two people asked about what happens if baseball doesn’t come. It’s way off in the distance, say Harkness and Korabiak. Developers won’t make a move until they know baseball and BART are coming.

Day 12: Portland (A Eulogy)

Take a good look, because it’s the last time you’ll see this beaver.

Originally, the last city on this trip was supposed to be Seattle, where hopefully the M’s would’ve gotten their brains smashed in. Sadly, they were scheduled to be in New York, making a it difficult to justify going so far for just a tour. Instead, I looked south to Portland, where MLB was at best a flirtation, pro baseball has happened in fits and starts.

Worst of all, when the city’s much loved USL-1 soccer franchise, the Portland Timbers, was granted promotion to the MLS in 2009, it was clear that the AAA Portland Beavers’ days at venerable PGE Park (née Civic Stadium) were numbered. In the last 18 months, every effort by Timbers/Beavers owner Merritt Paulson (son of former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has come up for naught. As mentioned in Jeffrey’s recent articles (I/II) on the subject, the Beavers will almost certainly leave Portland, probably south to either the San Diego suburbs or Tucson. With pro baseball shut out from PGE Park because of a soccer-specific renovation and no new venue in sight, it’s unclear if or when pro ball will return to Portland. Knowing this, I had to visit the old park in Goose Hollow one last time.

Built in 1925, Civic Stadium was always meant to be a multi-purpose stadium, and it shows. Its expansive wooden roof was intended for weather protection for fall and winter football games, not summer baseball (psst – for those that don’t know, Portland’s really nice in the summer). The J-shaped seating bowl offers suboptimal sightlines along the third base side, along with Coliseum-like foul territory. The field itself is field turf. Renovations to modernize the place with new suites and seating helped bring a third version of the Portland Beavers to life. Changes for the Timbers have started and the place will be cleared out in week, the last series to be played on Labor Day weekend.

Four-story stack of suites behind the plate.

It’s really amazing how things can change. Six years ago, Portland was considered a frontrunner to land the wayward Montreal Expos. $150 million in state funding was lined up, as well as a solid business plan and support from the business community. Little did Portland supporters know at the time the shell game that was about to be perpetrated in order to facilitate the Expos’ eventual move to Washington, DC (thanks a bunch, Detroit schools slasher Robert Bobb). In the end, MLB-to-PDX lost, momentum died, and it’s not clear what form pro baseball will take when it returns to Portland.

Image of Timbers-friendly PGE Park renovation.

Backstory aside, I was determined to enjoy myself at the game. After my long train ride from Minneapolis, I freshened up at the hotel and headed out. After a stop at The Kennedy School for some lunch and beers, I went downtown.

Getting there

Portland has one of the best light rail systems in the nation. It goes nearly everywhere you’d want to go in Portland, and within the downtown area it’s free. That’s right, within the downtown core and out to the Rose Quarter/Convention Center, riders don’t pay to ride the MAX or the Streetcar. The MAX stop for PGE Park is just barely outside the zone, but nobody really checks that close, do they?

It’s a good thing that public transit is so readily available near the ballpark, because parking is almost non-existent immediately around it. You could park at the Fred Meyer nearby, but that’s not nice to the shoppers who actually need the parking. You could also park downtown and walk 10 minutes to the ballpark, which is a much better choice. Downtown is not a particularly large area, so a walk from one of the many bars or restaurants in the Pearl district to PGE Park is not stressful in the least. A walk from the Deschutes Brewery to PGE Park took about 15 minutes.

I walked up at 5:30 PM and got myself a nice seat, 8 rows behind the plate, for $15.50. Had I gotten there earlier, I could’ve gotten a $5 general admission seat. Oh well. As with most minor league games, the atmosphere was relaxed. The results don’t carry as much weight as in the majors. While the Beavers have underperformed recently at the gate, this game was the last scheduled fireworks game of the year, bringing out an announced crowd of 9,983.

Most of the seats are covered by a large wooden roof. The football/soccer press box is tucked underneath the roof. Both are held up by columns along the walkway separating the box seats from the general admission benches.

Concessions

An 85-year old stadium, even with a revamp, isn’t likely to have wide concourses. True to form, PGE Park doesn’t. Even before the game, the concourse was jammed with fans in line at concession stands, creating serious traffic jams. That dissuaded me from getting anything at all from there. A better choice is usually the Widmer Beer Garden down the RF line (pictured above), though the lines for that place can be long as well.

Circulation

This picture is pretty much self-explanatory.

Other observations

When you get off the MAX from downtown, if you walk left instead of right, you’ll soon be walking along the open left field area. Cheapskates can watch the game here from behind a fence. Savor it, because when a new 4,000-seat eastside stand is built, that view is going away.

Even though they’re getting rid of the baseball configuration, they’re still keeping artificial turf. Why? The Portland State University football team plays there.

Wrap-up

I’d say it was really tragic if Portland didn’t have other kinds of entertainment to rely on. Still, the lack of effort on the city’s part to help the Beavers will surely not sit well with MLB if Portland were to ever engage in a new effort to get a team. The Blazers and some preservationists blocked a bid for a AAA stadium on the site of the old Memorial Coliseum. Several sites that were considered as potential MLB ballpark sites have already disappeared. The best one, the USPS facility near Union Station, is slated for different types of mixed development. PGE Park was important because it could’ve been a good transitional facility. Now there’s no telling how a franchise move could happen, so it’s probably expansion or bust. And while I’m an advocate for expansion (mostly for scheduling and realignment concerns), I’m one of the few and I have no pull. With that in mind, good luck, Portland. I hope my next summer pubcrawl there includes a baseball game. But I’m not counting on it.

Them’s fightin’ words

A brief article in the Merc (with grafx) compares the San Jose and Oakland ballpark plans, such as they are. Bruce Newman has the Oakland side, while Tracy Seipel covers the San Jose angle (with a Fremont tidbit for good measure). In the broader piece is a choice quote from SJ booster Michael Mulcahy:

Yet it’s San Jose’s downtown proposal that Wolff has dubbed his best option, with the city contributing the land and Wolff building the stadium. After 17 months of study by an MLB committee, Wolff and others wonder if Oakland’s 11th-hour pitch is truly credible.

“Oakland’s effort is entirely smoke and mirrors,” said Michael Mulcahy, co-founder of the grassroots group Baseball San Jose. “There is no political will and no corporate community to mount a serious effort.”

Oakland disagrees, though the city has not yet committed any money to a stadium deal. Still, boosters have recruited 35 companies that have pledged a total of $500,000 in future sponsorships, naming rights and luxury suites.

As much as Oakland boosters tout Facebook supporters and emergent economic clout, I still get the sense that several parties there aren’t on the same page, at least when it comes to the A’s.

Disclosure: For this article I was contacted by the Merc about some of the 3-D sketches I put out a while back, especially in reference to Oakland. When asked for similar drawings, those in the know in Oakland didn’t have any. Not that hard to get a volunteer or two to learn Sketchup, Oakland boosters. I would’ve gladly provided sketches if asked, even improved on what I had previously done. At least it would’ve helped people visualize the potential.

Marine Layer’s Cisco Field Analysis

When the first images of the new Cisco Field @ Diridon came out, I decided to sit back and watch the reaction. Same thing went for the official images, released through Baseball San Jose. My initial thoughts haven’t changed: it’s quite radical. Now, I haven’t talked to anyone at 360 Architecture, Baseball San Jose, or A’s ownership about the images, so my thoughts are not influenced by anything or anyone. With that out of the way, let me explain what I mean by radical.

Let’s start off with where the field is placed within the site. First up, here’s what I drew up a couple of years ago.

In my sketch, the RF wall hugs the Autumn Parkway contour. The aesthetic effect of that is that fans are confronted with a large wall when walking along Autumn. Additionally, the field is pushed up further north to have more “back of the house” space. By doing this, I effectively put a cap on the number of seats. That isn’t necessarily the case with this new drawing.

Assuming that the remaining land acquisitions go as scheduled, including a small land swap with PG&E, the field is likely to be situated as you see below, give or take 20 feet north or south (north is up). That orients the field pretty close to true northeast. Prevailing winds tend to come from the northwest, so they should move from the left field foul pole to its counterpart in right on a regular basis. At times, the winds will shift to NNW or WNW. However, the winds in San Jose tend to not be particularly strong, generally topping out at 10-15 mph. Oakland and San Francisco are generally more prone to onshore and offshore movements.

Now for the new 360 layout:

The way that Autumn Street/Parkway is contoured, it removes almost all of the RF corner from what would normally constitute a grandstand. And we can’t do an analysis without discussing those field dimensions, with the very short porch in right and a shallow corner in left. Neither of those dimensions are entirely necessary. You can see that there is some space to lengthen both of those out, and I figure that some version of Cisco Field has more “standard” dimensions in place.

Of course, standard dimensions aren’t possible in right if that “thing” is there. What is that thing, anyway? Well, I’ve searched far and wide for some context. It’s not an arcade as in San Francisco, as it doesn’t have arches. Instead, to me it’s, for lack of a better term, a contemporary take on a classic colonnade. To wit:

In classical architecture, a colonnade denotes a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing, or part of a building.

Normally, we think of colonnades as freestanding, such as those used at old LA Forum and Soldier Field. In this case, they house multiple levels of what appear to be minisuites. That’s the first radical step I noticed from the Fremont plan. At Pacific Commons, the minisuites were only 15 rows from the field along the infield. Now they’re part of the colonnades. I suspect the team reached out to potential minisuite holders to see what effect this would have on their interest. If the idea survived this long, the effect must have been minimal.

Depending on what the treatment for the colonnades is, they could become the signature element of the ballpark. There’s no other eye candy in the outfield besides the video/scoreboard, which lines up flush with the top of the colonnades and the roof. I don’t expect to see a neoclassical look, as in the two examples cited previously. Instead, it will probably be more modern and perhaps subdued.

Several sections of outfield seats jut out from the colonnade, creating the crazy 345-foot dimension in right-center. Either they really needed to get those seats in there, or it’s an affectation of sorts. Frankly, it’s unnecessary. The best thing to do would be to take off a few sections, chop off several rows of those seats and turn it into a family or picnic area. The resulting right-center length would be 360 feet or more.

Over in the LF corner, the line could be further extended, eating into more seats and creating a higher wall as a result. I don’t really have a problem with it. Every team should have a righty dead pull hitter who hits frozen ropes down the line. If they get an extra 10 HR that way, so be it.

Features

After my 2008 trip to the East Coast and the more recent trip to the Midwest, I came away with one absolute must-have: a majestic plaza for fans to enter the ballpark. AT&T Park has this behind the plate, but the ballpark itself turns its back to the plaza so there’s a sense of separation from the action. At Nationals Park and Target Field, the plaza is integrated into the outfield (Nats Park in left-center, Target Field in right), making the journey to the park all the more momentous. There’s something viscerally stimulating about seeing the grandstand and the field get larger with each step. It’s a reminder of what we had prior to Mount Davis, when the BART bridge walk brought a certain level of excitement. The plaza is large enough (nearly an acre) to hold the family-oriented entertainment options.

The third deck is the other major radical move. Notice how the seats in the first two decks are not defined or articulated, appearing to be benches. Obviously they’re not a bunch of bleacher planks, but the third deck has the same large yellow chairs with side tables next to each seat, just like the minisuites. This appears to be the club level. If so, that’s a marked departure from the club levels we’ve come to expect from most venues. There’s no expansive, separate concourse. There’s scant room for a bar. It’s not indoors. It’s not entirely behind the plate. Instead, it’s three rows of seats, served up with tables and drink rails. This is where I expect Cisco to make its mark. I expect each seat will have video and in-seat concessions ordering, making every seat in the club have diamond level-like wait service. There remains the possibility for a club restaurant down the LF line, and a perhaps another gathering area behind the plate. The seats themselves are at the same height and distance the Coliseum’s suites are, except with more baseball-friendly sightlines. The club will also have the benefit of a roof over the seats, whether it’s the mesh roof from the Pacific Commons version or something different. In moving in this direction, they’re trying to create distinct, separate markets and price points for premium seating that don’t exist elsewhere in the Bay Area, or even in baseball. At the same time, they’re doing what the Red Sox did at Fenway – put the premium stuff at the top of the stadium. It’ll be interesting to see how this pays off.

The field is sunken, just how I’d prefer it. One of the issues associated with building close to the bay (China Basin, Candlestick, Coliseum, any JLS site) is that to avoid the water table or keep from drainage issues, any stadium pretty much has to have its field at sea level or higher. Diridon is around 90 feet above sea level. There’s still the water table to deal with, but that’s largely an engineering issue that shouldn’t be a problem as long as digging doesn’t go too deep (in the area, the floor of HP Pavilion is also below street level).

The bullpens are sunken below the field and placed at CF. Makes sense to me. It explains why the fence is slightly taller at CF, as opposed to LF. Hell, the Giants should’ve put their bullpens there – oops, they forgot about the pens when designing the place.

The LF corner is where it gets weird. I count 4 different seating angles. First, there’s the normal grandstand. Then there’s a brief 2 sections that run 60 degrees against the grandstand. Slightly beneath that is the start of the outfield section, which follows the outfield wall. Finally, those seats straighten out and run parallel with San Fernando Street. A building in the LF corner houses party suites, and perhaps the aforementioned club restaurant.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the two-deck grandstand would be the shortest in the majors by far. On the 3B side, the grandstand doesn’t go beyond 240-250 feet at best. On the 1B side, Autumn causes a tapering effect that puts the topmost upper deck or club seat just barely beyond the edge of the infield. To compensate, surely there will be more rows of seats in both decks, though it’s not clear how many.

More impressions:

  • The colonnade creates one more aesthetic positive: a net in RF won’t be needed. I figure the height of the roof will be 90 feet in the outfield, making it like a Tiger Stadium/Comiskey Park situation – if someone can get it out of there, he earned it.
  • One thing that’s missing is a view as you exit Diridon Station. I would’ve liked to have seen that. Will transit users have a gate there? Will they go to the main plaza? Or will they use that notch in left-center that lines up with Montgomery Street?
  • I’m still not sure how much of an impact columns in the grandstand will have on views. Columns in the grandstand appear to be recessed into the concourse, not in the seating bowl.
  • With the PG&E substation change, a new access road has to be established. That will probably come from Park Avenue, running by parking lots and/or garages.
  • The tight grandstand all the way around should seal in noise well.
  • 75-degree angle in the grandstand refers to the angle between the first and third base sides. Often in new ballparks, the initial angle is 85 or 90 degrees, with a kink on one or both sides to pull the seating bowl further in. The most severe example may have been old Yankee Stadium, which had a 55-degree angle. Foul territory down the lines was almost non-existent, but the implementation caused the distance from the plate to the backstop to be extraordinarily long (72 feet).
  • The Eric Byrnes sighting. It’s probably nothing, in that they used the first image they had lying around. Or it could be a sign that this thing has been in the oven for a while.

All that said, one question remains: Do I like it? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a 7 right now. The field dimensions need to be addressed, which is not easy since the only person who has spent more time looking at the land besides 360 and the A’s is probably me, and enlarging the field is a real head-scratcher. I like the back-to-basics design. I’m not sold on how the premium seating all fits together, but I’m not a customer for those so it isn’t my concern. I’m also not clear on what the façade will be. Brick is more commonplace in the Diridon area than just about any other material, yet Lew Wolff has said in the past that the design will not be retro, which should rule out brick. Will it be some marrying of the two?

Most importantly, this will surely be the most intimate major league ballpark built in the last 90 years. Unlike the swept-back HOK/Populous designs which are meant to be essentially inoffensive, this one’s not going to win everyone over. Some will think it’s too small. Others will not like how it’s set up. I suspect that once people get in the seats – perhaps the first open house or walk through – opinions will change quickly. They’ll wonder why the seats at AT&T, which they once thought were the best, are so far away from the action. Skylines are good. Bayviews are nice. San Jose doesn’t have outstanding versions of either, which means the A’s are turning to the original selling point – baseball. I don’t see that as such a bad thing.

Sorry Sin City, You’re Not Good Enough

Can we officially stop the FUD regarding Las Vegas? From the Las Vegas Sun:

Goodman, who has spoken about efforts to land a pro baseball team for the last three weeks at his press conferences, was up front about why the team, which he declined to name, turned down Las Vegas.

“We heard from one team that I was very interested in pursuing that our market is not big enough, our media market is not big enough and our economy is in such a state that they’re not interested in considering us at this time,” Goodman said.

It’s very simple. Oscar Goodman is Ahab. Major pro sports is his white whale. Can’t fault him for pursuing it, since landing a team would give him, his legacy, and his city a kind of legitimacy that isn’t achievable any other way. Remember that he’s the one pursuing teams, not the other way around. For now, it’s over. And there’s no telling when Vegas will have the kind of economic viability to support a team, especially a MLB team.

Game. Set. Match.

Rebecca Kaplan Sports in Oakland Chat

I was able to get to the Linden Street Brewery near JLS just a minute or two before mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan started her speech on sports in Oakland. Mike Davie, who is a fairly prominent Keep the A’s in Oakland figure, is volunteering on Kaplan’s campaign and introduced her. The speech lasted about 25 minutes, after which I had to leave. Here are some of the nuggets I got from it.

  • She’d like to keep the A’s in town, have a rebuilt Coli be the home for both NFL franchises, bring a WNBA team to town, and attract more international soccer matches.
  • Kaplan talked up the potential of TOD developments, citing the Coliseum as a distinct site with potential. She joked about the BART bridge being a “walkway of chain link doom.”
  • She did not say it specifically, but I inferred that she would push for a A’s ballpark solution at the Coliseum, with new ancillary development around it to make it feel like a proper urban ballpark feel.
  • She did not mention any of the JLS sites. She tried to make a distinction between what she called the “Possible Dream” (something that is feasible) and the “Impossible Dream” (something that people simply keep talking about in circles). Does this mean that she’s not a shill for the JLS-area developers that want/need the ballpark to boost their ROI?

That’s what I got from it. About 50 people attended. I felt like a media person, so as much as it pained me I didn’t partake in any beer (big fan of Linden’s version of steam beer) or freshly grilled hot dogs. We’ll see if any of the other candidates hold a similar forum.

What makes a major league park?

Last night, Jeffrey published his thoughts on the new Cisco Field renderings, which naturally brought about some discussion. Before I get into what I think about the place, I want to get a sense for what you, the reader, feel defines a major league ballpark. Write a couple of sentences or a paragraph, submit it in comments, and I’ll put it in the post. I’d like to see if, based on the long history of ballparks and stadia in America, what kind of consensus exists, if any.

Dan:

I think a major league park is defined by having a nice, large, plot of green grass (that is mowed correctly, yes that’s a dig at SF) located in a central area of the city in which it lives (probably downtown). That grandstand should have large, open concourses allowing views of the surrounding city as well as the field. The stadium itself should be built from materials native to the rest of the buildings in the city or of materials native to the region (ie: Brick in Boston, Sandstone in San Diego, etc… (and yes that was another dig at SF’s brick ballpark in a city with almost no brick)). The stadium itself and the seats should have some relation to the color scheme of the team. There should be some museum(s), statute(s), etc… that pay homage to the team’s history.

Briggs:

Unity between fans, city and team.

It’s a privilege for any city/region to a MLB team. It’s also a privilege for MLB to operate in a major city, so each ballpark should be an appropriate cathedral to both its team and the city it’s in. Sometimes it’s gimmicky (Neon-fluorescent Liberty Bell/Big Red Apple) or classy (Bay Bridge/Gateway Arch). In either case, you need something that’s going to identify the ballpark with the city. The team’s history should be proudly and tastefully displayed. A family could go back with a team generations. Linking the players your grandparents cheered for with the players you’re cheering for is an important thing. Retired numbers, milestones and championships should be easy to identify. Sorry Coliseum, but a big yellow circle around “1989” on a tarped off upper deck doesn’t cut it and don’t get me started on how they display their appreciation for Ricky. The Braves have a good thing with their row of championship pennants.

Transportation.

MLB teams play 5-7 games a week, so if you’re going to a game, it should fit around your schedule. Depending on the day, you’re either leaving straight from work, meeting up with friends then trekking out or making a day of it. Trains, buses and cars should all be viable options. This isn’t just about convenience, it’s about the experience of traveling to/through the city or metro-area to get to the ballpark. Where ever you are in the area, getting out to the ballgame should be relatively easy. This ties back in with feeling the connection between the city, the team and the fans.

Location.

This ties in the top two points. Having a ballpark out in the middle of nowhere because land/construction is cheaper is very telling about the relationship between the city, fans and team is. Prime urban real estate is pricey for a reason. It’s valued. Having a ballpark on a prime piece of real estate includes the team with major activities around the city. I live a few minutes from AT&T park. The bars and restaurants around there light up with baseball camaraderie. The enthusiasm spills out over the city. Before and after games, you feel the highs and lows of your team along with fellow fans. If there’s time to grab a drink before an A’s game, I have to stop off 12th St. BART. Then I have to get back on BART and literally leave Oakland so I can go to an Oakland A’s game. It’s a buzz kill. I want to feel that A’s zeitgeist when I go to games. I want to get off the train and be surrounded with the anticipation, excitement and camaraderie for the A’s. DT Oakland, or DT SJ; it doesn’t matter as long as the fans has a place to be that’s worthy of their appreciation of the team.

jesse:

For me a stadium should do two things, take the fan to a different place once he/she walks through the turn style and second bring people together from all over a regional area to cheer, boo, and forget about any worries or concerns they may have for 2 to 3 hours.

gojohn10:

A major league park is more than a field that hosts a major league team. When the A’s played in Vegas back in April of 1996, they were major league team playing in a minor league park.

The criteria mentioned thus far are what make a good park great, but they  would exclude parks like the coliseum which, while not ideal, is certainly a major league park.
A major league park is a stadium with the capacity of >30-35k. Dogs and beers should readily be available. The park should have wall dimensions that roughly fall within the minimum standards required by MLB. Preferably, wall heights or distances in other portions of the park should compensate for regions that allow for “cheap” home runs. The park should have ground rules that don’t violate the flow of the game on a semi-regular basis. Finally, a major league park should host a MLB team, although even that is not technically a necessity. St. Pete had a major league park before they landed an expansion franchise.

One Possible Future Revealed

As we all know, too well, at this point in time there is no real guarantee as to where the A’s will play their home games in the not too distant future. We all have opinions, we handicap the race, we rationalize away opposing views, etc. So for this post, let’s all take our  “bookmaking” hats off and just envision what it would be like to sit in the stadium that has been rendered…

If it helps, just imagine it is at Jack London Square. We start with my favorite image…

Pictures Courtesy of probaseballforsanjose.com

Ignoring the question of “where,” two things seem to be on folks mind’s when thinking about this rendering of a new A’s stadium. Will it be a hitter, or pitcher, friendly stadium? And what the heck is that thing in Right Field?

Let’s start with the dimensions. From Left to Right, 309 LF Line, 375 LF Power Alley, 405 CF, 345 RF Alley, 300 RF Line (this number comes from a different picture). These dimensions, combined with the scarce foul ground, make me think it is safe to say that this park would be rather attractive to hitters. A few things we can’t really tell from the image above would be important in determining how friendly. Really, the most important thing we can’t necessarily tell is the height of the fences. Clearly, Left Field is lower than the rest. If I were to guess I would say that Center and Right Fields (minus the thing in Right Field) are 12-15 feet high. If these dimensions are really what will be in play, I hope it is 15 feet, or higher. Otherwise, there are gonna be A LOT of fly balls in the right field gap, that wouldn’t normally hit a warning track anywhere else, that are landing a few rows deep. Even then, those fly balls will probably be doubles instead of fly outs. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

After years of watching “Coliseum regulated offensive production” it might be nice to see some guys hit 50 HR’s on occasion. I mean, imagine if Eric Chavez played his pre-2006 career in this stadium. Holy cow he would have been a monster. Jason Giambi in 2000 could have over 50 HR’s in this place. The downside? Barry Zito wouldn’t have won a Cy Young. Well, this is all clearly meandering false revisionist history that can’t really be proven. But wait! Another picture:

That Thing in Right Field is kind of awkward. There. I said it. But it also has freaking huge potential. Looking at this image, three things jump out at me. The yellow line running up the brick portion of the wall. The concept of mini/convertible suites. The unfinished look to the architecture.

I may be legally blind, but even I can see that the distance to the corner appears to read “300.” The yellow line, about 45 feet in from the foul line and coinciding with the Crawford Box like seats in Right Center, that runs up the thing and kind of disappears about half way up drips with possibility. I imagine the HR line would run along the top of the brick line, it looks to be about 25 feet high, and allows for fans to sit just about in the field of play. 300 feet seems a bit short, no? Without a doubt it appears to be something below 310 feet, so it will require MLB approval. But this short distance offers opportunity in the form of premium seating.

The Thing in Right Field appears to be made up of suites. In the original Fremont design, the park had customizable minisuites. These appear to be the same concept, small configurable suites. The lower level, those covered with brick and in play, could easily be a larger version of the Virgin America Loft (pictures start on slide 6 in the link) over at AT&T Park. Everything above the line would be suites, customizable for groups from 4 to 16. It reminds me of many football stadiums I have been too, with the row of suites all on one side of the field, in a stacked formation.

The last thing, of course, is the stark look to The Thing in Right Field. It leaves a lot to the imagination. Don’t get me wrong, if it looks exactly like this drawing, it will be good as is, with it’s stark, modern feel. But imagine something like the Coliseum in Rome, with it’s arched breezeways. It could fit. Spanish-Mission Style rectangular windows. They fit. I like the blank slate.

I hope no matter where a stadium ends up, it has The Thing in Right Field. Just, maybe, 320 feet from home plate. Let’s look at another angle:

This is just a cool shot. The two things I really like are the building along the Left Field line and the Upper Deck in Left.

The Upper Deck in Left reminds me of my favorite old school park, Tiger Stadium. When the A’s used to go to Detroit, in the the pre Comerica Park days, I would run home from school to be home in time to turn on KAIL TV 53 and see if anyone could hit one into the Upper Deck. I would love to sit in a real Upper Deck in the middle of the outfield. Of course, these days I wouldn’t really have reason to wonder if anyone (in Green and Gold, anyway), would hit one into the Upper Deck. But maybe someday Chris Carter?

I imagine that building along the Left Field foul line, and then wrapping around behind the stadium, is an equivalent to the area outside Fenway Park on Yawkey Way. At least, it is envisioned as such, only bigger. With a High Speed Rail station somewhere nearby, it isn’t hard to see the vision: A transit hub/plaza/retail district that sits in between HP Pavillion and Cisco Field. It is a grand vision.

Is this vision be become reality? We all await your direction, Bud.