It took just one-third of a game for Tropicana Field to become a topic of conversation in the 2021 MLB playoffs, and as usual not in a good way.
This time, the catwalks that ring the dome’s ceiling were to blame. One of them stopped a long drive by Rays slugger Nelson Cruz in the third inning of the ALDS Game 1 between Tampa Bay and Boston.
The “C” catwalk (there are four catwalks, labeled A, B, C and D) took the blow. The ball was headed for the left-field seats but caromed back toward the infield instead. Statcast estimated that Cruz’s blast would have traveled 406 feet, well beyond the wall.
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Cruz wasn’t sure what to do, so he kept sprinting until he got the home run signal.
“I had no clue what was going on. I was watching the outfielders. I was, like, what happened? Just thank God it was a homer,” Cruz said after Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory. The home run was the 18th of his playoff career, tying him with Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Jose Altuve for sixth-most all time.
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What, exactly, are the ground rules for Tropicana Field’s circus rings, er catwalks? Here’s a quick primer:
What are the ground rules for Tropicana Field’s catwalks?
It’s complicated. A batted ball that hits a catwalk or other objects that are suspended over the field can be ruled a home run, a ball in play, a ground-rule double or a foul ball. A word-for-word rundown from the Rays’ website:
CATWALKS, LIGHTS AND SUSPENDED OBJECTS:
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over fair territory
Batted ball that strikes either of the lower two catwalks (known as the ‘C-Ring’ and the ‘D-Ring’), including any lights or suspended objects attached to either of those catwalks as well as any angled support rods that connect the ‘C-Ring’ to the masts that support the ‘D-Ring’ in fair territory: Home Run.
Batted ball that strikes either of the upper catwalks (known as the ‘A-Ring’ and the ‘B-Ring’), including the masts that support each of those catwalks as well as any angled support rods that connect the ‘B-Ring’ to the masts that support the ‘C-Ring’ in fair territory: In Play. If caught by fielder, batter is out and runners advance at own risk.
Batted ball that is not judged a home run and remains on a catwalk, light or suspended object: Two Bases.
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over foul territory: Dead Ball.
Cruz’s home run Thursday hit the “C” ring.
A visual of how the rings play:
“Obviously that’s always a topic of discussion whenever you’re coming to play here,” said Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo, a former Ray. “But that’s the ground rules, that’s what they’ve set. It’s part of it.”
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“It threw me off because I thought (Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo) was camped under it, and then I saw the ball bounce, and then I saw Nelson Cruz jogging, so I was really, really confused, but, you know, it is what it is,” Arroyo added.
How many times has a batted ball struck a catwalk for a home run in the postseason?
According to MLB.com, Nelson Cruz is the fifth player to hit a postseason catwalk home run at the Trop. The others:
Evan Longoria, Rays, 2008 ALDS
B.J. Upton, Rays, 2008 ALCS
Willy Adames, Rays, 2019 ALDS
Danny Jansen, Blue Jays, 2020 Wild Card Series