As the Phillies take steps to avoid having Citizens Bank Park become known as The Launching Pad North, not everyone is pleased with the changes. From The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Rob “Don’t Call Me Bernie” Parent.
From the foul pole to where it takes a right turn toward center, the wall has been pushed back five feet. And thanks to what looks like a series of Plexiglas hurdles strung together along the top of the padded wall, its height has been increased 21/2 feet.
Big deal, right?
“I don’t think it looks different at all,” said leftfielder Pat Burrell, who was part of Montgomery’s wall-ball class in left and part of a Phillies team that got its first look at the new (again) Citizens Bank Park yesterday. “Why are we trying to cut down on homers? We’re trying to hit them.”
But Burrell could have repeated what everybody else around this place the last two years has observed – how pop-ups just seem to soar outtahere.
Echoing that opinion both last summer and this spring was Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who in a Grapefruit League interview just 10 days ago said: “Coors Field is no longer the park pitchers talk about. It’s the place in Philly.”
Asked then about moving the fences back here, Smoltz added: “I doubt that will matter.”
On that point, he sees eye-to-eye with some Phillies rivals, and maybe even Montgomery, who noted the wind shear coming through the park’s open concourses is still blowing.
Comparing the stands behind home plate in most parks to a storm door, Montgomery said, “We have sort of a screen in the storm door.”
“There’s not too much said about Baltimore being a bandbox, but it is,” Mike Lieberthal said. “It seems like most of the parks in the league are like this… you know, this is a hitter’s park. It’s just like Camden Yards.”
Ah, but it’s different here now. The foul pole in left was kept at 329 feet, but where the wall once went straight across, it now sharply angles back to 334, then across to left-center, where it now proclaims its length at 374.
The change is so significant, the team’s president figured he had to personally conduct an in-service for students such as general manager Pat Gillick, manager Charlie Manuel and wall-ball regular Burrell, among others.
“It’s a little deeper angle,” Manuel said. “If the ball hits on the wall, then what’s it going to do? That’s the only thing I was concerned about. The only real difference I noticed was that little fence they have up there. What is it, like 12 or 18 inches or something?”