How much that will transform a park that played like a pitcher’s paradise in its debut season, the Dodgers’ manager isn’t sure.
“From what I understand, it does allow for the ball to travel a little bit further,” Roberts said. “What that means, I really don’t know.”
How the home run-happy Dodgers and Padres — who ranked first and fourth in the majors this season in long balls, respectively — will fare playing this week’s series at the Texas Rangers’ spacious home stadium is an intriguing subplot.
The newly built stadium, which has dimensions of more than 370 feet to the power alleys and 407 to straightaway center, seemed to suppress offense during the regular season. It saw only 66 home runs, far fewer than the 99 hit at Dodger Stadium and 101 at Petco Park, and was the fourth-most pitcher-friendly venue in the major leagues, according to the park factor statistic.
“I assumed it would be a pitcher’s park,” Rangers slugger Joey Gallo said during the first series of the season. “I said that four months ago. You can tell center field and the gaps are going to play really, really deep. You can already see a little bit of a look of shock on a guys’ faces as they round first base when they crush a ball and it gets not even to the warning track.”
The stadium’s retractable roof, however, was only open for seven of the Rangers’ 30 home games — too small a sample size to know exactly how open air impacts play. Even Fred Ortiz, a principal architect who helped design the stadium with his firm HKS, is unsure what the two teams should expect this week.
“It will be interesting to see how prevailing winds will make their way in there and may possibly alter the trajectory of a ball,” Ortiz said when reached by phone Sunday. “But I think that’s to be seen.”
At Globe Life Park — the Rangers’ old, outdoor stadium situated next to the new one — the south prevailing winds came swirling down from the upper deck and created a jet-stream effect that carried balls out to right field.
Globe Life Field was built facing the opposite direction but did show signs of better ball flight when the roof was open.
“When it’s closed,” said Jeff Wilson, who covers the Rangers for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “I think even the Rangers were surprised it was as pitcher-friendly as it is.”
There are other unique aspects to the $1.1-billion venue, which will also host the NL Championship Series and World Series later this month.
Home run distances were set at lengths to commemorate Rangers history, such as 329 feet to left in honor of Adrian Beltre’s No. 29 and 372 feet to left-center to recognize the Rangers’ 1972 move to Arlington.
The fences were purposely built in a quirky, non-linear shape to create unusual angles in the outfield. The synthetic-turf playing surface was made with organic compounds, such as coconut husks, requiring it to be watered even though it’s not real grass. And infield grounders and balls in the gaps play faster than at most other stadiums.
Because parts of the roof and exterior walls are made of transparent glass, tracking fly balls can be an adventure too. Angels right fielder Jo Adell suffered the most infamous example in August when a deep line drive bounced out of his glove and over the fence for a four-base error.
The park’s amenities, however, have received rave reviews, from the steep, intimate seating bowls to the luxurious new clubhouses.
“Nothing against my office at Dodger Stadium, but I feel like George Jefferson” Roberts joked of moving into the Rangers’ home manager’s office for the week. “I’ve moved on up, because this office is unbelievable. This facility is unbelievable.”
And though the large dimensions might limit home runs, the park could create some unforgettable action on balls put in play.
“It’s a beautiful ballpark,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We enjoyed playing here. The park was designed beautifully. We love the dimensions. All aspects of it.”
Staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this story.