The Bullpen Two-Step

Created October 2010

Manager Buck Showalter said it before Game 2 of the 2010 World Series:  Bullpens do not belong on the field of play.

Amen.

A fielder in full pursuit of a fly ball — while looking upward to track it – can find himself in foul territory amid an obstacle course of pitching mounds.

Is there a rule restricting bullpens from the field of play?  No.

But the challenge presented to fielders is significant, and the hazard as obvious
as a mound of dirt.

Although bullpens on the field of play were common in the game’s earlier years, as new
parks were built most stadiums placed the bullpens behind a fence and off the
field of play.

This issue arises again because AT&T Park, home of the National League champion San Francisco Giants, is one of only five current Major League stadiums that have on-field bullpens.

The curious point is that the beautiful Giants’ ballpark was built only 10 years
ago, and baseball has known for many years that on-field bullpens can be an
impediment to play.

The other ballparks with on-field bullpens are Wrigley Field (Cubs, built 1914),
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (A’s, 1968), Tropicana Field (Rays, 1998) and
Petco Park (Padres, 2004).

We can understand Wrigley Field being on the list, and maybe Oakland, too.  But those other three ballparks are much newer.

A point can be made that the tarpaulin, utilized to cover the infield, can also be a hazard because in many stadiums they are stored on the field of play.  But unlike tarps, warm-up mounds are much smaller and harder for a fielder to negotiate as he attempts to catch a ball.

It may be that these newer stadiums wanted to re-create the feel of an older
ballpark. Or, more likely, the ballclub wanted to find more seats for paying
customers, and made a choice between income and field integrity.

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