The Batter’s Eye” - 04/19/19
In honor of April, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's sports eye safety month observance, let's talk baseball. Who knew that every baseball field in the major leagues has a "batter's eye"? On top of that, who knew that no two are alike and recently ranked, Boston's Fenway Park was lowest on the list and PNC Park in Pittsburg is top of the list with its creativity and dedication. Some are team oriented, and some are built in honor to the region. So what is a batter's eye? Standard in ball fields dating back to atleast the late 1800's, the batter's eye, short for "batter's eye screen", is a dark surface that allows the batter to see the pitched ball against a sharply contrasted and simple background. It is solid, dark in color and located beyond the center field wall of the baseball stadium. It is strategically located in the line of sight of a batter, facing the pitcher, awaiting a pitch. The brilliant contrast area allows the batter a safer and more successful view of the incoming pitch. With average pitching speed in the major leagues anywhere from 92mph to over 100mph, an uncluttered background seems only fair.
Fenway park was constructed long before the batter's eye was a mandatory feature of every MLB ballpark. For day games, the batter's eye is made by laying a large black tarp material over a section of the center field bleachers, covering seats, not to be sold. Night games, mother nature offers an organic batter's eye, allowing the batters more contrast to see the ball after dark and allowing the park to sell those seats. This can be a tricky arrangement for double headers at the park that may start mid day and go on late into the evening. The Red Sox have creatively managed that problem by selling those seats along with a complimentary solid colored dark t-shirt to fans to wear in that particular section. Must be odd for the batter to have that screen, albiet a dark contrast area, be made up of moving, living, cheering fans.
Next time you go to a MLB baseball game, check out the batter's eye. If you are lucky enough to travel and take in a few different MLB stadiums, see how creative other teams get with establishing that batter's eye screen.