SBD/October 3, 2012/Facilities

Mariners Plan To Bring Safeco Field Fences Closer To Home Plate For Next Season

Mariners believe Safeco Field's dimensions have hindered free agent acquisitions
The Mariners plan to “move Safeco Field fences closer to home plate for the 2013 campaign,” according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The “biggest changes will be in left-center field, with the fence being moved anywhere from 4 to 17 feet and sure to benefit right-handed hitters.” Mariners President & COO Chuck Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik had Assistant GM Jeff Kingston “lead a committee to explore moving the fences soon after a Mariners road swing in late May.” Zduriencik and Kingston “insisted the change wasn't prompted by any one event.” Zduriencik conceded "the fact we started off slow probably got our attention.” He added that the ballpark dimensions “had been discussed internally for years.” The hand-operated scoreboard atop the left-field fence “will be moved, reducing clearance height for home runs from 16 feet to 8 feet.” The right-center power alley and fence leading to dead-center “will come in 4 feet.” The committee “used batted-ball information from throughout the stadium's history in deciding how far to move the fences.” Figures from this year were not used "because of a small sample size” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 10/2). MLB.com’s Greg Johns noted members of the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District Board have “reviewed and endorsed the changes.” MLB also has “been informed of the modification plans.” Some seating “modifications in the left-field area behind the current hand-operated scoreboard will be announced at a later date.” The space between the current wall and the new fence will “mostly be taken up by the bullpens or a slightly wider ‘moat’ between the stands and the fence as currently exists from center field to the right-field foul pole” (MLB.com, 10/2).

GAME CHANGER
: In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote this was “an absolute necessity for two reasons.” There is “no question whatsoever that the ballpark is in the heads of Mariners hitters.” Also, Safeco Field has “developed such a pervasive reputation as a hitters' graveyard that the Mariners' chances of attracting a quality free-agent offensive player had dwindled to almost non-existent” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 10/2). In a separate piece, Stone wrote players “broke into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the ballpark, and instructed their agents not to take a call” from Zduriencik. Mariners 1B Justin Smoak said, “I'm sure there are a lot of veteran guys out there, free agents, that have declined because of that reason. This should definitely change some things” (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).
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