Looking Back at “All-Star Baseball’s” Ballpark Prognostications

This ballpark was what the game designers thought a ballpark in Washington D.C. would look like.

With the recent announcement of next’s year installment of “MLB The Show” for PlayStation 4, the gaming community immediately talked about improvements to the baseball sim. One of the biggest recommendations that has come around every year is more retro stadiums and the ability to create your own ballpark.

But what about creating “future” stadiums from scratch? One baseball video game did that in the mid-2000s.

All-Star Baseball 2004 and 2005 (the ones with Derek Jeter on the cover) might have gotten lost in the hype of MVP Baseball 2005–one of the best sports video games of all time–but they were a force to be reckoned with. You could easily argue that if the game play didn’t match MVP Baseball, the stadiums and the look of the game were on par.

Make no mistake, the stadiums in All-Star Baseball 2004 and 2005 were fantastic. From the current parks at the time (like Yankee Stadium and Safeco Field) to the retro ones (like the Polo Grounds, Crosley Field and “Retro Dodger,” a.k.a. Ebbets Field) to the game’s own fictional parks (like Akklaim Sports Park and the absurd Locko Dome) the game understood the baseball audience. For many baseball fans, the setting for the competition mattered just as much as the competition itself.

But All-Star Baseball 2004 and 2005 (developed by Akklaim Studios Austin and published by Akklaim Entertainment) also imagined the future stadiums of current franchises using either widespread rumors or artists’ renderings to determine the look of these parks. So how do they match up with what actually happened? Through the joys of YouTube, I took a stadium tour (narrated by Jeter) of a few future parks.

D.C. Stadium

D.C. stadium was, of course, the future stadium for a team in the nation’s capital. At the time, major league baseball didn’t have a team in Washington, but rumors had circulated about the Montreal Expos moving there. According to Jeter’s narration of the stadium tour in the game, Washington “leads the list of cities that could support a major league baseball team.”

The stadium itself had a right-field wall that was only 307 feet down the line, but it had a brick wall covered in ivy that was as tall as the Green Monster in Fenway Park. Depending on where the virtual fans sat, you could get a view of the Capitol building in center field. While right field was 307 feet down the line, right center was 416 feet away. On the outfield concourse, you’ll notice half a dozen trees.

The reality: The Washington Nationals played their first few seasons in RFK Stadium while Nationals Park was built. It didn’t include a brick wall covered in ivy, nor is it 416 to right center, but it’s a nice ballpark nonetheless. It’s generic, but nice. Interestingly enough, Nationals Park does have trees just beyond its outfield fences.

Future Oakland

In the next couple of years, the Oakland Athletics will be the only professional sports team to claim the city as its own once the Raiders leave. So there’s been talk about building them a new ballpark to keep them in town, and the team has been talking about a new ballpark, period, for quite some time. As depicted in All-Star Baseball, the future park would have a view of the skyline of downtown Oakland in left field along with a hotel right behind the center-field fence. Some of the hotel rooms will overlook the field, and lodgers would be able to pay special rates for rooms with that view on days the A’s play (thanks for that info, Jeets). The deep dimensions of the ballpark would favor pitchers.

The reality: They still play at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum, and there’s still occasionally flooding with sewage. Several years ago, artist renderings for a proposed stadium in San Jose were revealed. However, with the desire to keep a professional sports franchise in the city, the Peralta Community College District headquarters near Laney College in Oakland has become the new apple of the Athletics’ eye. For now, they’ll continue to play in the park whose last renovations were made possible by the late Al Davis.

Future Twins

The Future Twins stadium in the game is a natural grass surface 13 feet below street level, and every seat is angled toward home plate. The stadium will have wider aisles and seats and a 600-foot retractable roof that can open and close in 15 minutes. When opened, fans would get a few of the lakes beyond downtown Minneapolis. The stadium also keeps the baggy fences from the Metrodome, and the new stadium would favor right-handed hitters and pitching.

The reality: Target Field is pretty much not this. It’s much better looking than the “Metrodome without a permanent roof.” While it’s an open stadium, it doesn’t have the baggy walls from the Metrodome, nor do you have a view of the lakes (and for the better). Besides, that cold front blowing directly into the stadium early in the year and in the postseason would be all you need to think they should’ve gone with a retractable roof.

Future Fenway

Future Fenway Park has the dimensions of the old Fenway, with the center-field triangle staying the same and the Green Monster going back to the pre-seat era. There are more seats and wider aisles, including a Red Sox museum and a Red Sox Hall of Fame. The Green Monster will have a huge scoreboard that’ll dominate most of the top of the Monster. There will be more seats, but in right field instead of in left.

The reality: Seats on top of the Green Monster? Cool. Maximizing as much profit as possible from a small space? Fantastic. But the future version of Fenway being not that much different from the old or current Fenway speaks to the lack of space in the seating bowl (the team has done much to improve the fan experience on the concourses beneath the ballpark). Having said that, if you’ve been to Boston, you know there isn’t exactly a whole lot of room to build a new ballpark for the Sox without going into the suburbs.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Future Yankee Stadium

Speaking of unoriginal, the future Yankee Stadium depicted in All-Star Baseball has the look of the stadium that closed in 2008, with the feel of the pre-1970s renovation. It has a retractable roof similar to the one at Minute Maid Park, and it brings back the old charm of the original park by putting the monuments back in the field of play (the plaques stay behind the wall). There will be three extra decks added in left field and only two decks in right. All of the dimensions stay the same.

The reality: “The House That A-Rod Built” put Monument Park in center field, added a huge scoreboard right above the batter’s eye that I’m still shocked doesn’t distract more hitters and…all of the dimensions stayed the same. Bonus points for seats with obstructed views, though.

We’re here for a baseball game…right?

Future Shea

The home of the New York Mets stays in Queens but has the Manhattan skyline in center field (so I guess the stadium was built in either Long Island City or Astoria). It has a retro look and a retractable-roof, open-air design like Safeco Field. The field’s retractable natural grass surface can be placed on a large platform that slides out in 15 minutes for non-baseball events. It’s 315 feet down the right-field line and 380 feet in the left-center gap. The Home Run Apple is in center field above a patch of grass, creating the batter’s eye.

The reality: Where do we start? When Citi Field first opened, the inside barely matched the color scheme of the original artist renderings. There was nothing in the park that indicated it was the home of the Mets, and everything seemed designed to honor the childhood of owner Fred Wilpon. Fan anger forced the Mets to make the outfield wall blue and bring Shea Stadium’s home run apple in front of the stadium instead of the corner of a staircase behind the bleachers. Fan anger forced the Mets to add pictures of famous Mets around the park. Fan anger forced the Mets to create a stadium that honors the Mets.

Conclusion

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that video games can be a lot more creative and imaginative than the real-life creators of ballparks. One could look to the community surrounding NBA 2K and compare it to what you see on the court to confirm such. While we scream for more retro stadiums and a create-a-stadium option, let’s hope the developers of “MLB The Show” include a few “future” parks for fun, as well.


Stephon Johnson is a staff writer at the New York Amsterdam News. His work has appeared in The Classical, The Sports Fan Journal, Polygon and The Cauldron at Sports Illustrated. He would like hitters to emphasize making contact again. Doubles and triples are OK. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @StephonJohnson8.
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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

“In the next couple of years, the Oakland Athletics will be the only professional sports team to claim the city as its own once the Raiders leave.” Just off the top of my head, I can think of the Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

“The city” is Oakland.

Dennis Bedard
Member
Dennis Bedard

Sorry. That is what i get for reading these articles before i have my morning coffee. On the flip side, there was a time (1968-’69) when Oakland had 4 professional teams: the A’s, Seals, Oaks, and Raiders.

87 Cards
Member
87 Cards

To those in the know about the East Bay Area:

I understand the GS Warriors will vacate the Oracle Arena at the end of 2018 and the Davis Raiders will depart (again) the O.Co at the end of 2018.

I understand the A’s owners want to play in Eastlake (or better yet in San Jose). Help me understand the dynamics of this question:

What are the politics about tearing down the Oracle and/or the O.Co for a new stadium on those sites?

bosoxforlife
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Member
bosoxforlife

The fan anger that Mets fans rightly have is soon going to be overwhelmed by the rising crescendo of fan anger that is rapidly coming to a boil in Miami.

Yehoshua Friedman
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Yehoshua Friedman

This was an amusing article pitting imagination against reality. But talk about fan anger, I am really down on any talk about future stadiums because the multibillion-dollar floating crap game which is professional sports today has as its centerpiece TV revenues with multiple blackouts and conning the local government and taxpayers to pony up for yet another new stadium lest the wonderful franchise depart for greener pastures. We need more Green Bay type community-owned pro franchises which will narrow the gap between the owners and the fans. When you have community ownership you know that the team is going to… Read more »