Arena baseball is what we already have, so criticizing my proposal for side boards as arena baseball is pointless. I am suggesting that we improve on the arena.
Fenway Park By User Sfoskett via Wikimedia Commons
As you can see in any Major Baseball League (MBL) park, such as Fenway Park, the ultimate in arena baseball, the ballparks already have side boards in addition to outfield walls. The problem is that the side boards are too small and are not on the foul lines to keep perfectly good line drives in play.
In basketball and football out of bounds means that the play is over. Not in baseball. For no apparent reason baseball allows some plays to be made out of bounds, i.e., in foul territory… Side boards, baby! That’s it. Bring the stands to the foul lines with a barrier to protect the fans: plexyglass or see through fence like that in the Japanese park where Boston and Oakland recently opened the 2008 season. Any batted ball that hits the board is in play. If hit over, it is a foul out of play like balls hit into the stands now. Some would describe this sarcastically as arena baseball. So? It eliminates all that standing around that sucks the life out of a baseball game. The action would be much more flowing. ______________________________
Occasionally there is a derogatory comment about some of my ideas: arena baseball. It is intended as a play on words for arena football, a hybrid version of the NFL played with hockey style side boards. Using this pejorative is especially odd in that arena baseball was created the first time a barrier was used to limit and define the playing area, something that only hockey does. In basketball and football, when the ball goes out of bounds the play is over. In baseball it varies. Baseballs banging off fences in fair territory are in play. Isn’t that arena baseball? Baseballs bouncing around in foul territory are usually in play. Isn’t that arena baseball? Fair fly balls that carry over the outfield fences, which vary in distance from home plate and height, are home runs. Isn’t that arena baseball? ____________________________
4. side boards (glass or net) on foul line starting no further down the line than the beginning of the outfield grass 50 feet high
10. fly ball caught on warning track is not an out; safety issue; prevents players from running into fences; also eliminates fan interference
11. foul fly caught is not an out
Fifty feet might be a little high but you get the idea. Keep those curving line drives down the lines in play. Do not save the pitchers from their mistakes. Keep the game moving. The objective is to put the ball in play.
There are two alternatives for implementation:
1. Move home plate back so that the current side boards are on the foul lines. This may not be practical since this would move the center of action even further from many fans.
2. Simply place the new screens on the foul lines starting at the front edge of the outfield grass, which is 150 feet from home plate as measured with Google Earth.
This would also provide much needed protection for fans from baseballs and bats, both whole and splintered.