The Edmonton Prospects have called RE/MAX Field home since 2012. And, owner Patrick Cassidy can’t recall a time when one of the team’s players hit a ball that even reached the base of the centre field wall.
Not only is the wall a whopping 420 feet from home plate, it’s 30 feet high. To clear it, a hitter would need to hit the ball with just the right amount of loft, and get at least 450-460 feet of distance on the drive.
“No Prospect has even hit that wall,” says Cassidy. “But, because of how far back the wall is, there’s lots of room in the outfield. Lots of extra-base hits in the alleys. To cover the ground, the outfielders really have to scamper.”
For those of you not super familiar with the game of baseball, I’ll put it this way: It would be harder to hit a home run over the centre field fence at RE/MAX Field than it would be in any park in the Major Leagues.
Even though the way the game is played has radically changed over the past 20 years, the game is seeing a record amount of home runs and strikeouts. Pitchers throw harder than ever, and hitters swing for the fences. Major League Baseball saw a record amount of home runs hit in 2019, leading players such as Houston Astros ace pitcher Justin Verlander to question if the baseballs being used were “juiced,” meaning that subtle changes had been made to make them fly farther.
But home-run trots are rare at Prospects games. The team plays in the Western Canadian Baseball League, one of several “wood bat” summer leagues in North America that gives amateur players from colleges the chance to play when school is out. And, in Edmonton, the players are greeted by a stadium with dimensions that are, well, intimidating.
“It is definitely a pitcher’s park,” said Cassidy.
The wall has been nicknamed “The Other Green Monster.” The original, more famous “Green Monster” is the left field fence at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. That wall is 37 feet high, but, in the left field corner, it’s just 310 feet from home plate, and hitters who hit balls that might be fly outs in other parks can clear that Monster. In Edmonton, just getting the ball to the base of its Monster is a feat.
Cassidy said that, to his knowledge, only three players have ever hit a ball over the centre field fence, dating back to when RE/MAX Field replaced the old John Ducey Park 25 years ago, back when the Edmonton Trappers, playing in the AAA Pacific Coast League, still existed as a Major League farm club. Two of these three dingers came in AAA games.
The first to do it was Mike Busch of the Albuquerque Dukes, who would go on to play 100 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The second was Michael Cuddyer, even though there is some dispute that, even though the ball had the distance to clear the centre field fence, it actually went out a few feet to the right of it. Cuddyer would win the National League batting title in 2013 as a member of the Colorado Rockies.
Despite the lack of the long ball, Cassidy said there have been no discussions about bringing in the fences, a move some Major League teams have made in the past in order to boost home-run numbers. Instead the focus will be on more pressing issues; replacing the infield turf, getting a new scoreboard and replacing the stadium lights with energy-efficient LEDs.
Today, new ballparks tend to have much smaller dimensions than the stadiums of the past, as the trend is to make cozier parks that offer more chances to see (and catch) some dingers.
The fact that everything about RE/MAX Field goes against current baseball trends makes it all the more interesting. Baseball, by nature, is anachronistic game; it’s fantastic that our baseball stadium is a throwback to the stadiums of old, like the huge centre field expanses of long-since-demolished parks like Detroit’s Tiger Stadium or New York’s Polo Grounds.
This article appears in the April 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.