Padres finally decide to move fences in at PETCO Park

The new dimensions at PETCO Park will be in affect for 2013. (San Diego Padres)

The San Diego Padres announced their plans Monday to finally modify sections of the outfield dimensions at PETCO Park for the 2013 season. The Padres front office would like to see PETCO play “fair” while bringing a more entertaining product to the beautiful park in downtown San Diego.

“Our goal is to move Petco Park away from being the most extreme run suppressing ballpark in Major League Baseball,” said Padres Executive Chairman Ron
Fowler. “After an extensive study, it became clear to all of us that some change was needed. PETCO will still be a pitcher’s park; however, it will no longer be the outlier.”

The most dramatic change will be in right field, but will also include changes to the right-center field alley and left-center field. In addition to the fences being moved in, the wall in right field will also be lowered to eight feet, both of which I have wanted to see for years. This feature adds character to PETCO Park and also the thrill factor, which provides potential for outfielders to climb the right field fence to rob would-be home runs. The wall will now be a factor more often, and outfielders will have to play the outfield differently. The outfielders will not only have more chances for exciting catches against the fence, they will also have to anticipate the carom coming off the wall. It could also alter an outfielder’s positioning and make players shade a bit deeper in hopes of snatching a big fly out of San Diego’s thick marine-layered sky.

In right field, the wall will be moved in 11 feet, starting just left of the right field PETCO porch, all the way to the right-center field alley where it will move from 402 feet to a 391 feet. This was one of my biggest concerns as one of the biggest Move In The Fences’ championing fans. Would the Padres just modify right-center field and leave straight-away right alone? The debate for years has been mainly about right-center field, where many (including former GM Kevin Towers) have dubbed it “Death Valley,” and right field specifically. As an über fan, I wanted to see straight-away right field play closer to neutral, like dead-left field plays, which still heavily favors pitching. Anyone who has watched an abundance of games in PETCO Park knows the ball travels much better to left field than it does to right field/right center, although left field is still a major poke.

Ironically, the fence in the left-center field alley will be moved in as well, from 402 feet to 390 feet. Not a shocker, but definitely not what I was expecting. Many pro-move fans wanted to see the visitors bullpen moved. With that said, many of us envisioned that happening where the beach is in right-center field, not left-center. This modification will change the configuration of the home bullpen, and suffice it to say, will allow the visiting team’s bullpen to be relocated to the area behind the home bullpen. The bullpens will run opposing sides from one another. Furthermore, construction and reconfiguration to the home bullpen, along with the modification shortening the dimensions to left-center field, will permit the relocation of the visitors bullpen off the field. This will eliminate further potential risk of injury, while also allowing outfielders in right more room for catches in the foul ground. Also, this will let the Padres (and coaching staff) get a better view of the opposing pitchers in their bullpen as they warm up.

Now, what about the out-of-town scoreboard that currently sits along the right field wall? It looks as though it will be moved to a higher spot above right field, in addition to new fan seating section that will be announced at a later time. I am wondering if we will see something similar in right field, like how the Mets altered their fences and added a party platform in left field.

In the past, general manager Josh Byrnes has echoed many of my thoughts regarding the extremities of PETCO Park saying, “I think the way PETCO Park is configured now is too distorted against the hitters, bad for the fans and affects the psyche of our club.”

Byrnes also acknowledged that, “Since the Padres moved into PETCO Park, this club has the smallest gap between home and road winning percentage in the major leagues,” according to a Union Tribune article written by Bill Center early last year.

It should be noted, straight-away center field and left field will remain the same. The idea among many fans, when they hear such a modification to PETCO Park, seems to be that this modification would go from the most extreme pitchers park in all of baseball to a hitters haven. This couldn’t be further from the truth. PETCO Park will remain a pitchers park, much in part due to the atmospheric conditions.

Some of the reasons I believe this is good for the fans, players and even a winning brand of baseball:

• This should create an environment that is more entertaining to the casual and die-hard fan.

• Fans should be able to see more aspects of the game we love, not just home runs.

• Eliminates unrealistic limitations ownership had set by trying to build a team to fit the park.

• Reduces the difficulty of signing free-agent position players and/or losing those we have developed.

• Focus is on the talent on the field instead of the park dictating the outcome of a baseball game. (People love to cite how exciting pitchers duels are, and I couldn’t agree more. However, dueling true ace’s like a Jake Peavy and Matt Cain is extremely exciting, but Wade LeBlanc dueling Livan Hernandez is not.)

• Creates an opportunity for the Padres to reduce gap between home and road winning percentage.

• Eliminates some of the psychological affect the fences have had on Padres hitters playing 81 home games.

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