“The batter’s eye or batter’s eye screen is a solid-colored, usually dark area beyond the center field wall of a baseball stadium, that is the visual backdrop directly in the line of sight of a baseball batter, while facing the pitcher and awaiting a pitch. This dark surface allows the batter to see the pitched ball against a sharply contrasted and uncluttered background.”
Ah, Wikipedia, what would I do without you? Anyway, the history of the batter’s eye is an interesting one that dates back to centuries ago and involves cheating, complaining, and just generally being a jerk. I’m not here to tell that story; rather, I’m going to count down the best batter’s eyes in Major League Baseball.
Every team and every ballpark has one, whether you know it or not, and no two batter’s eyes are the same. Some are team-oriented, some are built as an homage to the region’s geographic features, and some are just plain lazy and unappealing. From #30 to #1, let’s see which batter’s eyes are the downright coolest.
30: Fenway Park — Boston Red Sox
The thing about Fenway Park is that it was constructed long before the batter’s eye was a mandatory feature of every MLB ballpark. That’s fine — this thing opened in 1912.
Their batter’s eye is just a black tarp, lazily draped over center field seats that can’t always hold Boston Red Sox fans because it has to act as the batter’s eye instead. It’s ugly, but nobody is going to Fenway to go look at a tarp, so it’s a passable ugly.
29: Oakland-Alameda Coliseum — Oakland Athletics
Your batter’s eye isn’t going to be appealing to the eyes when it’s also part of a football field. All things considered, the Oakland Athletics do a pretty decent job at making an integral part of a ballpark look presentable despite that ballpark also being the Oakland Raiders’ home football stadium.
Most traveling fans will tell that Oakland-Alameda Coliseum is one of the worst — if not the worst — stadiums in baseball, so it’s okay if the batter’s eye isn’t perfect. The whole thing sucks.
28: Marlins Park — Miami Marlins
I’ve heard that Marlins Park is one of the nicest places in pro baseball to catch a game, and at first glance, their batter’s eye is part of the attraction. It’s dark, it blends in with the aesthetic feel of the park, and it’s big and wide.
But ohhhhh myyyy goddddd that home run sculpture is the epitome of an eye-sore. Nothing says Miami, Florida like some, uh, a fish thing and some palm trees that look weird.
27: Rogers Centre — Toronto Blue Jays
GUY #1: Alright guys, the outfield wall is finished! Take a break and rejoice, men, because that thi- GUY #2: listen i think part of that wall is supposed to be black sir GUY #1: what, oh, oh my god, HEY HEY SHUT UP, maybe nobody will notice... uh, um, just go up there and paint a square of the seats black. Alright? GUY #2: ... GUY #1: PAINT A LITTLE RECTANGLE LOOKING THING OF THE SEATS BLACK, COME ON, IT'S NOT THAT HARD!
26: Dodger Stadium — Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium can employ the Fenway excuse in that it’s really old and wasn’t designed to have a batter’s eye. Also, just like Fenway, it’s just a big ol’ black tarp covering the center field section of the park.The batter's eye is a feature every MLB ballpark has. Some are prettier than others, and @TomDorsa counted down the 30.Click To Tweet
It looks a little more pleasing, and has more character and purpose than Fenway’s tarp, at the very least.
25: Tropicana Field — Tampa Bay Rays
Apparently there’s a restaurant in and around the Tampa Bay Rays’ batter’s eye at Tropicana Field, which helps it climb the standings a little bit.
Had I not learned of this facility, it’d be closer to #30, as the batter’s eye in Tampa looks like an old equipment shed that somebody just painted blue and placed in the outfield seats. It’s not ugly per se, but it lacks character to a large degree.
24: Progressive Field — Cleveland Indians
From research, I learned that there used to be a bar in the batter’s eye of Progressive Field. The Cleveland Indians have since taken it out and placed a… uh, some grass and a few trees in center field.
This is an issue because 1) booze is better than no booze, and 2) the trees and grass don’t really symbolize Cleveland, Ohio. Make it a massive banner of LeBron James instead.
23: Petco Park — San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have the retired numbers of franchise legends like Dave Winfield and Tony Gwynn on their Petco Park batter’s eye, an actual observation deck for television cameras and a legitimate part of the stadium.
It’s also bland, and weirdly has a spinning advertisement board built into it. It’s kind of like the Padres’ uniforms: boring.
22: Busch Stadium — St. Louis Cardinals
Wow! It’s … um, a bunch of grass and a black, matte wall. Busch Stadium is pretty, and St. Louis is even prettier, so at least try to put a little zing in your batter’s eye design.
Busch beer is gross, though, so don’t make it like Busch.
21: Globe Life Park — Texas Rangers
Globe Life Park (also known as Rangers Ballpark, Ballpark in Arlington, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, AmeriQuest Field, and soon to be known as dirt and rubble) has basically the same setup as their 2011 World Series opponents above: a square of green grass and some faint black coloring below.
Maybe the new Rangers’ park, Globe Life Stadium or whatever park design they’ll steal from Houston, will have a better batter’s eye blueprint considering the great skyline that … uh … Arlington has. Maybe make it a waterpark? A silhouette of AT&T Stadium?
20: Yankee Stadium — New York Yankees
I guess the Yankee Stadium batter’s eye is fine and dandy; Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are seeing the ball well enough to hit 100 dingers a season. It also has a cool little deck for fans to chill atop, and a neat monument collection for on-lookers to marvel upon inside.
However, I didn’t see any of that on the first look at photos from the scene. It looks like a typical batter’s eye from the outside looking in, and it lacks that aesthetic appeal of sitting in the stands and watching fly balls travel that way. This is probably the first section of the this article in which I haven’t felt so strongly about something that I need to make a silly joke. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.
19: Nationals Park — Washington Nationals
Um, a question…
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) August 24, 2016
What shape is that? What is that supposed to be?
18: Wrigley Field — Chicago Cubs
The Wrigley Field batter’s eye is just confusing. It’s not made of the customary ivy, but it’s made to be the same color, and it looks like a weirdly compressed press box, but it’s also in center field.
It’s also sponsored by Pepsi, which is a disgrace to soda. Not a good way to win me over.
17: Safeco Field — Seattle Mariners
The Safeco Field batter’s eye is actually just fine. It’s dark, it’s wide, and it serves its purpose in a stadium that has prettier things to behold. It’s also incredibly bland.
There’s also grass in there, but it isn’t a bullpen. The grass is just… there. All hail King Grass.
16: Chase Field — Arizona Diamondbacks
Honestly, I like the way the Chase Field batter’s eye makes the center field wall and the big scoreboard blend into one another. Everything is symmetrical and identical in color.
I don’t have anything bad or sarcastic to say about this one, it just isn’t as cool as what follows. But it’s a solid middle-ground kind of thing that won’t get better and won’t get worse, like the Arizona Diamondbacks (ayyyyyy).
15: Kauffman Stadium — Kansas City Royals
Maybe Kauffman Stadium doesn’t have the best batter’s eye, but the combination of cool stuff in center field is unmatched. The batter’s eye is decent in terms of aesthetic appeal (its shape is awesome and unique), plus you have a scoreboard shaped like your team’s logo and water fountains out there. Straight outta Kaufmann.
This ain’t a countdown of the coolest center field setups, though.
14: Angel Stadium — Los Angeles Angels
The stones out there are a really cool touch at Angel Stadium, and the bushes have become a staple of highlight packages of Mike Trout robbing home run balls.
The home of the Los Angeles Angels is ranked 14th here because of my own pettiness and nothing else. Their batter’s eye is cool, but that patch of grass looks really fun to roll your body down, and you’re not allowed. I’m sorry, but for robbing us of fun, you’re toast.
13: Guaranteed Rate Field — Chicago White Sox
There’s something so Chicago White Sox about their batter’s eye at Guaranteed Rate Field, in that forever they’ve played second-fiddle to the Cubs in the Windy City, and their batter’s eye kind of tries to embrace that. The two rows of bushes on top with that Wrigley-esque feel to them are just perfect.
Otherwise, it’s a formidable feature to a nice park. There’s a party club or something on the top, and the inner sections of it are aligned beautifully. If you’re a minimalist with a fondness for straight lines in park assembly, come to the south side.
12: SunTrust Park — Atlanta Braves
SunTrust Park has a batter’s eye that features some cool trees, a little lake, and a water fountain that shoots a big vertical stream of water whenever the Atlanta Braves score.
I can’t wait until the Braves tear that park down in like three years and make a new batter’s eye.
11: Miller Park — Milwaukee Brewers
Maybe there’s something about how batter’s eyes look better in the relative darkness of a dome, but Miller Park crushes it. It’s all black and dark blue 400 feet deep, with enough height and width to get around for anyone at the dish.
If I could suggest one thing: move that slide to center field and distract the opposing teams with Bernie Brewer sliding down during every Brewers pitch. The opposing hitter would be way too distracted by how cool that slide looks.
Fool proof. Milwaukee Brewers, National League Central champions.
10: AT&T Park — San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park is one of five MLB batter’s eyes that incorporate a rotating billboard used in between innings and before/after games. I think this is tacky, and it nudges the home of the San Francisco Giants down a few spots on the countdown.
Otherwise, it’s about as prototypical a batter’s eye as any. Dark, square, symmetrical, with television camera stands put right up in there. That’ll do; it’s not like anyone hits a home run frequently enough to say the batter’s eye is at fault.
9: Oriole Park at Camden Yards — Baltimore Orioles
There’s nothing special about the batter’s eye at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s simple, it blends into the design of the park, it does its job, and it’s unique (I mean, look at that shape and angle).
8: Great American Ball Park — Cincinnati Reds
The batter’s eye at Great American Ball Park is an unusual but neat mix of the features of various batter’s eyes across MLB. It’s got grass, it’s got advertising space, a cool little deck on top… and then it’s just a big ol’ tunnel. You can’t even see inside that thing.
It’s supposed to be dark. Reds fans are accustomed to dark.
7: Comerica Park — Detroit Tigers
The ideal batter’s eye is unique, has a special kind of semblance to the city of the team it serves, and is appealing to the eye (aside from the actual regulations, dark and wide).
The Detroit Tigers have a giant ivy bush looking thing with an ad for Detroit company Chevrolet on top. It’s also got TV camera accessibility and a certain discreetness to it; you don’t constantly have your eyes affixed to this thing, but you don’t mind looking at it.
6: Coors Field — Colorado Rockies
I really wanna type “Coors” and leave. But no.
When you think of the Colorado Rockies, you think of, well, the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado (of course). The Rockies have a mini mountain and tree set up in the batter’s eye at Coors Field, because they grasp the idea of making unique, imaginative ballpark features.
5: Target Field — Minnesota Twins
This is much less about the actual batter’s eye at Target Field and more about what rests above it. The Twins’ batter’s eye is a black, matte wall with pine twins lined up below on a green patch of grass, and it’s nice, but…
That iconic logo of two men, donning St. Paul and Minneapolis clothing, eternally shaking hands over the Mississippi River is just kind of peaceful to me. A neon sign 46 feet tall and filled with heritage greeting fans willing to sit in 25-degree weather just for baseball is sweet.
4: Citizens Bank Park — Philadelphia Phillies
It’s like four people with different depth perceptions all started building brick walls at the same time, and then someone threw some vines on them. When I mention “it,” I refer to the batter’s eye at Citizens Bank Park. The Philadelphia Phillies play in front of one of the weirdest and most distinctive batter’s eyes in the league, and I promise, what’s above is not a bad description.
3: Minute Maid Park — Houston Astros
I’m an Astros fan, and it’s fine if you wanna play the bias card; but based on my criteria, you can’t. This relatively brand new batter’s eye has everything: it’s a massive green square made of AstroTurf that features an Astros logo bright and center.
Obviously, no other team can link themselves to AstroTurf the way Houston can, so maybe it’s a little unfair, but just look at that behemoth. [Editor’s Note: Tom missed the best part of the Houston batter’s eye, which is the Torchy’s Tacos location just above it, where you can get some divine chips and queso to eat at a standing bar just next to the AstroTurf logo.]
2: Citi Field — New York Mets
It’s dark, it’s wide, it’s directly in center field, etc etc etc, it has all those qualities. But what the Citi Field batter’s eye also features is an 18-foot tall motorized apple with the New York Mets logo that rises with every Mets long ball. You can’t say every park has that.
The apple itself has its own Wikipedia page. So how come it can’t be number-one?
1: PNC Park — Pittsburgh Pirates
Ohhhhhh, look at that thing. First of all, there’s no ugly part of PNC Park — it might be the prettiest park in baseball, but that batter’s eye is just inspiring. The ingenuity and tireless dedication to such a simple, overlooked ballpark feature required to flawlessly etch “PIRATES” into a gargantuan heap of grass and bush is amazing to me.
It’s the work of a group of people who crave perfection, and it’s wonderful.
Hey, you guys wanna sound off in the comments with some fun facts (or swear words) and some cool experiences (or just swear words) or some suggestions for other countdowns (or just a lot of swear words)? Well, go ahead.