Major League Baseball made history last week on the eve of July 4th in Fort Bragg, NC, where it played host to the first-ever professional sporting event inside an active military base. The game was between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, a contest in which Miami won, 5-2.
Once an abandoned golf course, baseball made the most out of their chance to say thank you to the men and women who serve their country and reshaped it into a 12,500 seat ballpark. With the success of Fort Bragg, and the positive social media outburst, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has explained over and over how he would love to expand Major League Baseball’s horizons and play baseball games all over the world. Just like we’ve seen with the NFL in London every season, and the NHL in Sweden and Finland in 2011, an experiment like this could very well work, especially with how baseball is developing and changing more and more into “Youngman’s” sport. Manfred has explained before that he would even go as far as expanding the league to 32 teams, and putting franchises in Mexico and Montreal. We know he is serious and willing to showcase the great game of baseball to anywhere in the world.
With that being said, where could other regular season baseball games be played at outside of the prototypical ballpark? Names like the Polo Grounds, which stood standing in upper Manhattan from the 1890’s to 1960’s comes to mine, as well as Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. Whether it be in North America or not, or how crazy it may sound, and whether or not it can truly happen, let’s explore some options.
This one is by far the longest shot of happening, but it’s still fun to think about. Doubleday Field is located two blocks away from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. From 1940 to 2008, countless MLB games were played at this park, (called the Hall of Fame game) but were discontinued eight years ago because of “inherent challenges of scheduling teams in the modern-day game.” Doubleday Field is currently used by the Cooperstown Hawkeyes of the Collegiate Summer Baseball League, but minimal activity goes on with other uses.
With the Phillies and Rays playing their Hall of Fame game in 2003, it marked the milestone of every MLB team playing in this spectacle. And, in the last 10 games played at Doubleday Field between MLB teams, there have a been a combined 166 runs scored. The teams that played in these games are irrelevant, however an output of 16.6 runs per game is definitely a sight to see.
There are huge knocks about playing an MLB game here, however. Seating capacity is only 9,791, and Cooperstown is a village with a population of roughly 1,800. Although they would definitely sell out, by it being a world-famous place for baseball, it is definitely a huge experiment and wouldn’t bring in as much revenue as let’s say playing a game overseas. An MLB game here would have to be marketed and prepared for over a year at least.
Some interesting things about holding an MLB game here are the dimensions of the field, which plays into the high amount of runs per game. Left field measures out at 296ft, center field 390ft, and right field 312ft. These dimensions are very short in comparison to the average MLB stadium, making it much easier for home runs to occur. A classic game in the summer showcasing the oldest rivalry in baseball between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox could possibly have you betting on seeing over 20 runs combined.
Olympic Stadium (Montreal)
Holding an MLB game here is a definite possibility. After years of holding spring training games here for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox, there has been no problem selling out the 45,757 seated multi-purpose stadium. Olympic stadium is a packed house for exhibition games only.
The Montreal Expos played their home games at “The Big O” from 1977-2004 and posted an all-time record of 2,753 – 2,943- 4 during their 36 years in Montreal before ultimately being relocated to Washington, D.C. This wasn’t a complete failure before being relocated, but with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s somewhat urgent desire to bring a baseball team back to Montreal, holding a regular season game here would be an awesome experiment that wouldn’t be one to regret. The city of Montreal has proven they have a lot of love for the game that left them over a decade ago.
The Canada Day game on July 1st that is played by the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre could very well be tried out at Olympic Stadium. In the previous four Canada Day games the Jays have played, they’ve squared off against the Indians, Red Sox, Brewers, and Tigers. We actually see games outside of the AL East more often than not out of this small sample. With a booming, and pre-existing “Torontonian” (and other surrounding areas) fan base, a July 1st game, or even a weekend series between the Jays and one of the New York teams would prove to be a sight to see.
Olympic Stadium (London)
With the NFL, NHL, and NBA all touching ground and playing regular season or preseason games overseas, Major League Baseball looks to join the club. Manfred has already expressed his desire to bring a baseball game to London, and it could happen as early as next year in 2017. Manfred has continuously expressed how he wants to keep putting a lot of work into international developments. Something we’ve seen him show a lot of interest in after successfully being able to get ballgames streamed online in China.
The MLB definitely needs to make a huge first impression, and just a short while ago we might’ve been able to send the best rivalry in baseball between the Yankees and Red Sox over there easily. However, it isn’t this feasible anymore. Options for opponents would most likely be elected to American League teams in an attempt to try in luring fans into a baseball park, especially overseas.
Possible American League options could be teams that are emerging as favorites to win the league pennant this year, such as the Indians, Rangers, Blue Jays, or Red Sox. Candidates from the National League ranges from the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, or even the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Seating capacity at Olympic Stadium in London is said to be approximately 60,000, but there is no definite number as a baseball setting would still have to be built. Also, the weather is a huge factor when the possibility of playing a game in London arises, as a game at the start of the year in the months of April or May is most likely not an option. If it were to ever occur, the best months for a game has to come in the summer, where the temperature is much hotter.
Thankfully, the Cuba-America relationship is patched up, and after a preseason game was seen at Estadio Latinoamericano this past March between Tampa Bay and the Cuban national team, it’s time for a regular season game to be played here. It is now a definite, and easy possibility. Baseball is more than just a game to these two countries. The goal for the MLB in Cuba was to showcase the need for a system where Cuban players can come to the United States more freely, and work toward a system that will run smoother when players come to America to make a career out of the game.
Cuba’s largest baseball stadium holds 55,000 people, more than enough to be tenants for a regular season game. There’s no telling on how soon from now an MLB game could be played here, but the spring training game this season was definitely a step in the right direction. Major League Baseball could explore season opening games in Cuba in the month of April, as an easy geographical location to southern United States. A high-octane event like this would do wonders in kicking the regular season off with a bang.
Due to geographical concerns, the teams that could make the trip to Cuba must be in close proximity, as Tampa Bay and Houston fit the bill in AL, where as the Miami Marlins and Atlanta for NL.