Every stadium in baseball has its unique quirks and traits.
Fenway Park has the Green Monster. Wrigley Field has ivy-covered outfield walls. Oracle Park has the deep right-center field gap.
Tropicana Field has the catwalks. And while it doesn’t happen often, batted balls have been known to hit the catwalks and fall to the field, always sparking the question of whether the ball that just hit the ground is a home run or simply a fly ball.
There are several ground rules to know when teams play the Rays at Tropicana Field, and that will undoubtedly come up — as we saw in ALDS Game 1 — as the Rays continue their postseason run. To help clear things up, here’s a breakdown of the rules in Tampa on those lofty batted balls.
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What are the Tropicana Field catwalk rules?
There are four rings of catwalks above the field of play: the A, B, C and D rings.
First, there are the lower two catwalks. These are the C-Ring and D-Ring. Any fly ball that hits those two, or any lights, suspended objects or angled support rods from them in fair territory is considered a home run.
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Then, there are the upper catwalks: A-Ring and B-Ring. If a fly ball hits either of those rings in fair territory, it is fair game to be caught or land for a base hit. Though it might deflect off the rings, it can be recorded for an out, unlike batted balls that bounce off walls in other ball parks.
Here’s a look at where the rings are.
There’s still more to know about the catwalk rules. If a batted ball in fair territory is not judged to be a home run, but does not return to the field of play and is stuck on the catwalk, light or suspended object, it is considered a ground-rule double.
However, if the ball hits anything in foul territory, it is ruled a foul ball and a dead ball.
Tropicana Field dimensions
The foul lines and center field distances are not particularly different at Tropicana Field than at any other ballpark.
According to Baseball Pilgrimages, the outfield is 315 feet to left field, 404 feet to center field and 322 feet to right. But those catwalks add in an extra dimension for which to account. Below are the heights of the rings above the field.
|Ring||Above Center||Above Home Plate|
At just 59 feet above center and 121 feet above home, the D-ring is not far above the field of play. However, given how wide the ring goes around the field, it is unlikely to be struck unless the ball is already headed out of the field of play.
Are there other indoor stadiums with similar rules?
Tropicana Field is the only fixed stadium in the sport.
But there are several other retractable-roof parks in the game that will occasionally have a cover over the field: American Family Field in Milwaukee, Chase Field in Phoenix, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, LoanDeport Park in Miami, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Rogers Centre in Toronto and T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
None of the other parks shares the same potential catwalk concerns that Tropicana Field faces. For the stadiums with retractable roofs, the rules are simply that if a batted ball hits the roof over fair territory, it is in play and if caught is an out. If it hits the roof in foul territory, it is a dead ball.
How many players have hit the catwalks?
There have been many players over the years in Tropicana Field who have hit the catwalks, some have gone for hits, some for outs, some for homers.
The most recent example was Nelson Cruz’s home run in Game 1 of the 2021 ALDS against the Red Sox, when he hit the C-ring catwalk. According to Baseball Savant, it was expected to travel 406 feet after leaving his bat at 105 mph and traveling at a 39-degree launch angle.
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A list of every batted ball to hit the catwalks would be far too long to include here. The list in the postseason is a bit easier.
According to MLB.com, five players have hit a fair ball on the catwalks in the playoffs. Evan Longoria was the first, launching a homer off the C-ring in Game 1 of the 2008 ALDS. B.J. Upton hit the C-ring in 2008 during Game 6 of the ALCS. Willy Adames hit one off the D-ring in Game 4 of the 2019 ALDS. Toronto catcher Danny Jansen became the only road player to homer off the catwalk when he hit the D-Ring in Game 2 of the 2020 AL Wild Card Series.
Perhaps one of the biggest outliers in the stadium’s history came in 2018, when Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier lifted a fly ball that hit off a B-ring speaker in the ninth inning on June 24. The ball was caught by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria for an out. However, Baseball Savant projected the distance to be 335 feet, which would have been a home run had it been hit straight down the left field line, which has a fence at 315 feet at the foul pole.