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Blackmon details travails of CF play in NL West

Unusual play in opener an example of challenging OF configurations in division
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon raised his glove hand to catch a first-inning fly ball on Thursday night under the balcony that hangs above the tall center-field wall at Chase field. He considered the possibilities, and none of them were good.

You could argue that what became Lamb's two-run double was catchable. It hit the lower portion of the wall, after Blackmon had pulled his glove back. But the unique conditions made it a difficult play.

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PHOENIX -- Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon raised his glove hand to catch a first-inning fly ball on Thursday night under the balcony that hangs above the tall center-field wall at Chase field. He considered the possibilities, and none of them were good.

You could argue that what became Lamb's two-run double was catchable. It hit the lower portion of the wall, after Blackmon had pulled his glove back. But the unique conditions made it a difficult play.

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"That ball came really close to hitting the overhang, then missed it, but it also hit that little angle where the 413 sign is -- and that juts out a little from the rest of the wall," Blackmon said. "And it hit three or four feet off the fence. You can't slow down, and you can't dive. So it's kind of unique here, with some of the bounces you can get."

Chase Field opened in 1998 amid a run of new ballparks that tried to recreate nuances of parks past. Many old ballparks were shoehorned into the cities. Nowadays, these unusual configurations can create strange plays and even controversy with fans or railings in that gray area between a home run and not. Add to that varying materials, sometimes in the same wall, and it's a challenge.

"There are some places, especially in the American League, that have weird things going on in the outfield," Blackmon said.

During his National League West travels, there are challenges in the various center fields. For example:

AT&T Park, San Francisco: The park has what's known as "triples alley" in right-center field, and sometimes the ball hugs the circular portions of the wall, the way a puck would going around the boards in hockey.

"It plays really big, so most of the time the features along the wall don't come into play unless you're chasing down a bouncer," Blackmon said.

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"The only thing about that is the center field isn't flush all the way along," he said. "There's an angle that comes out toward the left-field side of center field. Sometimes you can bump up against it and actually impact the wall before you think you're going to get there."

Chase Field: Balconies bracket center field. Above the padded lower portions of the wall in center, there is brick. In the middle, above the 407-foot sign, the brick is bracketed by columns of brick that can create an odd bunce. Oh yeah, and there is steel railing at the front of the balconies. It means a little extra pregame preparation.

"I throw some balls off the padding," he said. "I throw some balls off the brick above the padding. You kind of watch what balls do in batting practice when they hit the railing. You want to be ready for anything. You don't want to be surprised when the ball hits off something that isn't in every park."

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The notable exception is Dodger Stadium. The biggest challenge is a speaker right above the center-field wall that transmits some of the loudest public-address announcements, rally sounds and music in creation, but that doesn't bother him much.

"The music is certainly loud, but during the game, it plays like a small outfield -- like you can catch anything that doesn't go over the fence, almost," Blackmon said.

And don't forget good ol' Coors Field, Blackmon's home ballpark. A couple seasons ago, the "Bridich barrier" (affectionately named for general manager Jeff Bridich) went up in center and right-center above the padded wall to prevent some "cheap" homers.

"You have to watch how it bounces off that chain-link fence at the top," Blackmon said.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon