Why are GABP dimensions so hitter-friendly?

January 29th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Hitters love it. Pitchers, not so much.

Great American Ball Park has some of the cozier dimensions among Major League stadiums. Pitchers often complain that a fly ball that would be a routine catch in most facilities is often a home run at GABP.

The numbers back up that frustration. Since GABP opened in 2003, there have been a Major League-leading 3,713 home runs hit there through the 2020 season. Oriole Park in Baltimore is ranked second with 3,636 homers.

According to ESPN’s 2020 MLB park factors, GABP was rated as the most extreme hitter’s park. It had a Major League-leading home run rate of 2.140, with any rate above 1.000 favoring hitters. Rogers Centre in Toronto was second at 1.657.

Why are the dimensions so friendly to hitters? Much of that was borne out of necessity but not entirely.

Unlike predecessor Riverfront Stadium, which had a stadium acreage of 48, GABP has an acreage of 29. It was built on a smaller footprint between Riverfront and the arena currently known as Heritage Bank Center. While half of the seats are on the lower level and closer to the action, the upper decks are steeper.

Because the new stadium was essentially wedged into its downtown location, architects had to create a gap of separation between the upper decks on the third-base side to keep the seats from encroaching Fort Washington Way on Interstate 71. Some have speculated that the wind patterns through the gap help push baseballs driven toward right field.

Riverfront Stadium was a shared facility for the Reds and the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. When the Bengals moved to their own stadium in 2000, the Reds demolished the outfield section of seating ahead of the 2001 season to make room for GABP.

The fence dimensions for Riverfront Stadium had to be changed to accommodate construction of the new ballpark. The left-field corner was moved from 330 to 328 feet. Center field went from 404 to 393 feet and the right-field distance was 325 feet.

GABP’s outfield dimensions closely mimic those of Riverfront. The left-field distance is 328 feet with a 12-foot wall, center field is 404 feet and right field is 325 feet, with both having a wall height of 8 feet.

“It was a way of trying to still keep a little bit of the old stadium,” said Rick Walls, the executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame. “Of course, the gaps aren’t the same, but your corners in right field, center field and left field are Riverfront numbers.”

Fans often ask why the Reds don’t simply move the fences back a few feet. That would require the removal of hundreds, if not thousands, of seats. The street of Mehring Way is just outside the ballpark on the right-field side.