Among the many changes the Astros made to the center-field area at Minute Maid Park is the positioning of the center-field camera. It now sits atop the Budweiser sign located above the new batter's eye and is much more centered than the prior location in the outfield, off a few feet to the side.
"We worked with ROOT and played with how the shot should look," club president Reid Ryan said. "We're happy with it."
The angle is now in a direct line with the pitcher, batter and home plate, whereas the former angle seemed to be too far to the right, to where it gave an illusion of the pitcher being positioned several feet to the left of the hitter.
That often created an inaccurate depiction on the telecast of what was a ball and what was a strike. It didn't help that it skewed the accuracy of the vertical rectangular box that networks show to display where the ball was in relation to the strike zone.
The Astros had two reasons for making the change: They wanted to improve their accuracy in showing balls and strikes, and they wanted to better optimize the signage exposure behind home plate.
The new angle gives equal exposure to the rotating signage that appears on the backstop.
"We wanted a new camera angle that improves the strike zone the fans see on TV as well as the benefit of the advertisers getting more value for their signs," Ryan said. "Before, you always had a little bit of brick on the side. It didn't look centered."
An independent company that surveys stadium signage in terms of return on investment rated Minute Maid Park in the bottom third of the 30 Major League teams. That rating is expected to improve with the new angle.
In other stadium news, the Astros have installed new netting above the dugouts in an effort to better secure fans' safety during games. The nets extend the entire length of the dugouts and can be manually raised a few feet, which the Astros plan to do during batting practice, so that fans can still obtain autographs from players.
When the Astros announced they were installing the netting in February, Ryan heard from a handful of fans who weren't happy with the new arrangement, but he said no one canceled their season tickets because of it. In fact, more fans seemed to be in favor of the extra protection than against it.
"It didn't change ticket sales," Ryan said. "Some people expressed that they didn't like it, but no one dropped their seats."