DETROIT – A surprise press conference followed the Detroit Tigers’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on April 12th. Owner Chris Ilitch and General Manager Al Avila jointly announced that the outfield fences for Comerica Park are to be moved in immediately following tomorrow’s series finale with the Twins.
Comerica Park’s outfield territory will be transformed from one of the largest in all of Major League Baseball to the very smallest. The left field (345 feet from home plate) and right field (330 feet) foul poles will remain in their current locations but center field will be moved in to the MLB minimum of 400 feet. Strangely, the outfield walls will now be in straight lines from the foul poles to a corner in center field. This means the new power alleys will be, by far, the shortest of any stadium.
“We’ve finally had enough of Lynn Henning’s screaming in the press box every time a Tiger hits a long fly ball that doesn’t clear the fences,” explained Avila. “The fences will be moved in as far as legally and feasibly possible. We did not want to wait until the offseason because many members of the press box are tired of Lynn’s tantrums.”
When asked how these dimensions would be allowed by Major League Baseball, Ilitch noted that Commissioner Rob Manfred had approved the change since it completely follows Rule 1.04 Note (a) of the Official Baseball Rules:
Any Playing Field constructed by a professional club after June 1, 1958, shall provide a minimum distance of 325 feet from home base to the nearest fence, stand or other obstruction on the right and left field foul lines, and a minimum distance of 400 feet to the center field fence.
“This is the only language that indicates playing field dimensions, so Mr. Manfred said that we were able to make these changes.” Concerns about the new fence design violating the spirit of the game were raised but Avila did not agree. “Fans come to see our players hit home runs. An increase in scoring is something that I very much welcome. Besides, our outfielders are pretty bad defensively so this should make their jobs a bit easier.”
Ilitch noted one difficulty with the quick changeover. “The outfield fence will temporarily be eight feet high and made of chicken wire. We hope that this will be in use for no longer than month and that a permanent, padded fence will be completed in that time.”
The bullpen, which was built following the 2004 season, will be expanded following the 2017 season. The additional amenities have not been finalized but are rumored to include a helicopter pad to speed up the Detroit-to-Toledo transfer of mediocre relievers.
A grass slope will be added beyond the new center field fence. Logo-shaped shrubberies are a possible addition, according to Ilitch.
The reclaimed area in right field will be transformed into the Faygo Party Pop Pavilion. This was a suggestion made by longtime color commentator Jim Price. “The Faygo Party Pop Pavilion will be a special section that includes all-you-can-eat hot dogs and nachos along with unlimited Faygo fountain pop,” said Ilitch. “A heated, keyhole-shaped swimming pool will be constructed and if any player hits a home run into the pool, they will be rewarded with a new Buick Skylark compliments of Zubor Buick.”
At the end of the conference, Avila announced a roster move: Reliever Aníbal Sánchez would be added to the 10-day disabled list. When being informed of the changes to the fences, Sánchez, who has surrendered 60 home runs in the last three seasons, fainted and fell on his pitching arm. X-ray results were negative. Southpaw Blaine Hardy has been recalled from the Toledo Mud Hens to take Sánchez’s place in the bullpen.