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Home sweet home?
M's hitters not thrilled with Safeco's distant dimensions
Posted: Thursday July 15, 1999 05:14 PM
SEATTLE (CNN/SI) -- The view from Safeco Field is dazzling. There are more than 40,000 seats with great sight lines. And, of course, it has all the latest fan-friendly amenities.
But with the new ballpark set to open July 15, Seattle Mariners hitters are already feeling sentimental about the old Kingdome.
When the roof is open at Safeco, balls are far more likely to stay inside the park.
"I still think they need to do a little bit more experimenting with the diameter of the ballpark," Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner said. "I think they need to move it in a little bit and kind of make it fair for everybody."
The right-field foul pole is 14 feet farther at Safeco Field, but the wall is 15 feet shorter. Still, it definitely will not be the cozy hitter-friendly confines that the Kingdome was.
"We've all been playing baseball our whole lives and they know when they get into a ball with your best swing and it hits the top of the wall or may barely just get over it," center fielder Brian Hunter said. "It has a lot of players that are skeptical about it."
Count Ken Griffey, Jr. among the skeptics.
After taking batting practice at Safeco recently, Junior told the Sporting News, "I think ownership will be smart enough to change the dimensions if they see a lot of guys start leaving or not want to come here."
Fact is, Safeco should not drive Griffey and his left-handed bat away. This season all of his homers to right at the Kingdome have traveled far enough to clear Safeco's 386-foot right field fence.
But Griffey has griping just as loud as his right-handed teammates. With pitchers, however, it is an entirely different story.
"I think the pitchers are very optimistic and excited moving into this beautiful stadium," Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "I hear them cheering and talking a lot more than hitters."
Playing in the controlled atmosphere of the Kingdome, the Mariners led the majors in home runs the each of the past two seasons and they're leading again this year.
Safeco is not only bigger, but with the roof open, it subjects long balls to the mercy of wind, temperature and the notorious moist air of Seattle, all of which can clip precious distance off the flight of a batted ball.
"That's just the facts of the game," Rodriguez said. "As a baseball player, you have to perform in any environment you're up against. I think it's going to be a great challenge for this particular team, but future teams the Mariners may have to go into more speed- and pitching-oriented teams."
Safeco's dimensions have already been altered from the original design. But the Mariners will give their new home a chance.
Then, it could be back to the drawing board.
"Let's wait and see what happens when the games start and see how the ball travels and see how many balls go out or don't go out before we make that determination," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "So I think it's wait and see."
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