A few weeks ago I was visiting San Diego and attended a Padres game. There I saw the Western Metal Supply Building, a historic structure that was integrated into Petco Park rather than being demolished.
Now, more than the park's foundational stone or even the ballfield itself, the Western Metal Supply Building is the focal point of the ballpark. (This may be partially due to the quality of baseball, or lack of it, the Padres have brought this season.) It makes for a great environment for a baseball game, as the game is literally played with a part of the city of San Diego.
It used to be that ballparks were built where there was land to build them. If a large building or a street was in the way, the park was shoehorned into the available space. This created oddities in ballpark design. When left undisturbed, a ballpark has a natural round shape, but when dealing with the realities on the ground, it can be shoved and jerked to fit into almost any urban space. You don't think the Red Sox really dreamed of building the "Green Monster" at Fenway Park all those years ago, right? Due to the awkward positioning of the park hard up against Lansdowne Street beyond left field, they had no choice. Now, it's the defining piece of the ballpark.
It all made me think, if you can construct a ballpark around the Western Metal Supply Building, how about doing it on a grander scale? What would it look like if you took some of the most famous buildings, monuments or structures in existence and designed ballparks around them, in the same sort of way?
So, I did! What follows are the New Baseball Wonders of the World.
The White House
There are security concerns when it comes to redesigning the White House into a baseball park. You probably have to fill out some forms. There may even be some background checks. But when designing a ballpark around a building, at least in the United States, the White House is about as big-time as you can get. A few forms and some phone calls to friends reminding them not to mention the time you were arrested for using a police cruiser as a urinal when the FBI calls isn't too much to ask.
Surrounded by parkland on the north and south (the North Lawn to the north and the South Lawn to the south), the White House isn't cut into the urban fabric like the ballparks in Baltimore and San Diego. There is easily available space, and ultimately a ballpark on the site would take up the park space to the extent it could before interfering with the physical structure of the White House. Namely, the White House wouldn't have to be integrated directly into a ballpark the same way that the Western Metal Supply Building and the B&O Warehouse in Baltimore are in their respective ballparks.
But that doesn't mean it couldn't. Looking down from above, the open bracket shape of the White House and its respective buildings are not unlike an outfield fence in general shape. Perhaps, using the building as the outfield wall and then constructing the rest of the ballpark to the south would be the way to go. Then, in addition to the host of other perks, the occasional home run ball onto a West Wing conference table would be a nice intermission to a long night's policy meeting. Sure, the security lines to get a hot dog might become onerous, but that's the price you pay for safety, friends.
The Great Wall of China
The majority of the Great Wall of China, or at least what we all think of as the Great Wall when we think of the Great Wall, was constructed during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th Century. It essentially delineated what was the historical northern border of China. As such, it's quite long, about 5,500 miles long, which you'll agree is too long for an outfield wall. The other problem with the Great Wall is that much of it goes through the mountains, which presents a logistical problem when building a ballpark. Of course there's the Great Coors Field Conundrum (i.e. how do you pitch so far above sea level), but there's also this: how do you build there? You'd try and select a flat site, or flat relative to other sites along the wall, so there's that, but it would be difficult. The great thing about this article is, since this is a total fantasy, we don't have to get any more in-depth than that! There. Site selected!
Once you get past logistical concerns like the fact that building along the wall would be both impossible and never allowed and the Chinese are as likely to build a ballpark into their Great Wall as we are to integrate a Shuai jiao ring into the Chrysler Building, the wall is kind of perfect for baseball. It's not hard to imagine this section of the wall as an outfield wall similar to that of Wrigley Field. In fact, it's kind of perfect. The turrets and stone would look beautiful as the backdrop to a field. Throw some seating on top and a few vendors hawking Heileman's Old Style (in cans, please) and we're all set.
The imposing faces of the great presidents past stare down at you when you visit Mount Rushmore. It's a sobering sight both for the historical statement it makes and for its daunting size.
Were one to put a ballpark up next to Mount Rushmore, there would be some problems. Ignoring any problems presented by building on Native American soil (just like our government did!), the park would have to be pretty high up, for one, possibly on a riser or stilts. This would avoid a view of the giant pile of rubble beneath the faces of the four Presidents carved into the mountain side. Perhaps this could be the first ballpark with an incline from the infield to the outfield to allow fans to naturally look upwards at the monument. That would also have the side effect of decreasing home runs as the outfield grass would be 20-to-30 feet higher than the infield dirt and hey I think we just solved the problem of Coors Field's altitude!
In any case, there is certainly space available to build a ballpark or several as can be seen in this photograph. Geographically speaking, there is more than enough space where a giant wall in the outfield wouldn't be required, but it would make sense as it would conceal the aforementioned pile of rubble and as newer ballparks have shown, you don't need an odd location to get an odd feature. The faces of the presidents peering over the wall might be creepy but we'd all get used to it. The team could even carve ball caps on to the presidents' heads, thus turning four great presidents and an amazing monument to their lives and their genius into a marketing bonanza!
The Sydney Opera House
Of the world's great sites, perhaps baseball needs the Sydney Opera House the most and, of the world's great sites, perhaps the Sydney Opera House needs a baseball park the least. But no matter! They're getting one because this is a silly baseball article!
The Sydney Opera House sits on Bennelong Point jutting into Sydney Harbour. This presents a problem straight away. How do you build a ballpark around the Opera House when the area around the Opera House is water? You build the first floating ballpark, of course. Either that or you move the Opera House to Baltimore, although, no offense to Baltimore, that presents a much less appealing option. At that point you may as well build a ballpark around the Baltimore Aquarium.
Or, you could be practical and build the ballpark behind the Opera House in the park space available, as seen in this photograph, but that's no fun as it's hardly as destructive.
"How do you build a ballpark around (or in) Niagara Falls?"
"The answer is simple: you don't."
"But if you were to, how would you do it?"
"Right, but if you were to, how would it happen?"
"Oh, well in that case…"
That sums up the logistical impossibility of building a ballpark around a giant waterfall. The Royals already have waterfalls in the outfield of Kauffman Stadium and though they are a mite bit smaller than the falls of Niagara, they also come with a feature Niagara doesn't have:
you can turn them off. (Okay, apparently you can turn Niagara Falls off. Who knew?) So, sure, it's a beautiful picture, but even I can't imagine that.
Photo illustrations by Kenji Takabayashi