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The Brewers’ Unusual Dirt Around Home Plate

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The Mets have played their last three games in Milwaukee, so I’ve been getting lots of views of the Brewers’ ballpark. And one thing I quickly noticed is that the dirt around home plate looks like, well, a plate.

I first noticed it from the centerfield camera view (shown above), and then of course I became fixated on it, looking at it from various angles:

If you’re thinking, “Duh — that’s nothing new!,” you’re right. I’ve found photos showing that the Brewers’ grounds crew has been doing this since 2019. But for whatever reason (not the least of which is that the Mets only go to Milwaukee once per year), I never noticed it until now. It’s one of those interesting ballpark-specific examples of field design, like the Dodgers’ thin batter’s boxes and the Reds’ odd catcher’s boxes.

I found a few overhead shots that give a better view of the plate-shaped dirt — which, as it turns out. is not really plate-shaped. They use a lighter-colored dirt for the batter’s boxes, the catcher’s box, and two triangular wedges behind the batter’s boxes, but not for the dirt directly in front of home plate. It all gets a bit blurry as the game proceeds, but it still manages to hold its shape pretty well:

I’ve never seen anything quite like this before (anyone..?). The closest comparison I can think of is in Detroit, where the Tigers’ ballpark has a plate-shaped cutout around the home plate area, instead of the conventional circular cutout:

(As you can see in that photo, the Tigers also have the dirt path running from the mound to the plate, a detail they copied from the Diamondbacks, who installed their own dirt path at the suggestion of Buck Showalter, although they later filled it in with grass. But I digress.)

Honestly, I don’t really love the Brewers’ plate-shaped dirt — it feels unnecessary, like a classic case of over-design — but I do love discovering these little ballpark quirks. I’d love to talk to a Brewers groundskeeper about it, but I know from past experience that the team doesn’t like to make its operations staff available for interviews. Dang.

While we’re at it, here’s something Phil pointed out to me during this Mets/Brewers series: As you can see in the screen shot at the top of this page, the centerfield camera angle in Milwaukee is, like, dead center. At most other ballparks, it’s slightly off-center. Not sure if the off-center view is better or if it’s just that I’m used to it, but the dead-center view in Milwaukee is feels almost jarring by comparison. Yet another nuance of athletics aesthetics!

Uni Watch Plus Update

We had 10 Uni Watch Plus sign-ups yesterday (thank you!). As promised, I randomly chose one of the new enrollees, who turned out to be Chip Bell. He’s won himself a Uni Watch prize package consisting of the following:

  • Three Uni Watch pins
  • A Uni Watch koozie
  • A Uni Watch trading card
  • A Uni Watch magnet
  • A set of three Uni Watch coasters

I’ll continue to do this for each day that we receive at least seven new UW+ sign-ups. As I write this, we already have two sign-ups on Thursday (thank you!), so we’re off to a good start today.

Prizes notwithstanding, we’d really like to keep growing the UW+ comm-uni-ty. So if you enjoy Uni Watch and have the means to help support it, I respectfully ask that you please consider joining UW+. (Want to learn more about UW+? Look here.)

Thanks for listening, and for your support of Uni Watch — it’s greatly appreciated.

Comments (23)

    Baseball diamond design is so fascinating. Each team has uniquely shaped details for their diamond/basepath area. Detroit’s is my favorite. I’d love to learn more about who comes up with the designs.

    Are you sure the Tigers copied the mound-to-plate dirt path from Arizona? There are photos and postcards from the Navin Field/Briggs Stadium days where they had this, so it could be said they are ‘reviving an old design’. Now if they would only bring back the original “D” on the home jersey…

    Not 100% sure, no. But the Tigers’ stadium opened three years after the D-backs’ stadium, and the D-backs were the first team in several generations to use that design feature, so I think it’s fair to say that the Tigers were at least *influenced* by the D-backs.

    Yep, the Tigers would have been influenced by the Diamondbacks. The keyhole (that’s the old time name for that path, from what I gather) was fairly compulsory before that. I remember the Tigers added (or subtracted??) the keyhole for the last game at Tiger Stadium.

    A cursory image search suggests they did not have the keyhole on Opening Day 1999, but had it for the Sept. 27 finale.

    One of the unsatisfying consequences of the dead-center camera in Milwaukee is that the virtual strike zone on the SNY broadcast often is superimposed behind the pitcher.

    Interesting. I’m a Brewers fan and love the angle we get for the home broadcast. I guess we get used to what we are used to.

    I find it very jarring when the view is more angled, with the Cardinals’ view being especially extreme. It drives me nuts when a right handed batter’s body blocks the view of inside pitches being caught.

    I assume the used dirt is different because of its performance, not necessary its appetence. The dirt in the boxes and mound being harder for example because its a high traffic area and the rest if the infield being softer, less dusty to soften ground balls.

    On Twitter I posted a UniWatch moment from the new Star Wars story ANDOR. Really enjoyed the shows first three episodes.

    I like this weird shape of the area, it reminds me of putting up the index finger and the pinky (the batter boxes) for signifying “two out”. With the catcher and umpire standing on the rudimentary arm.

    Paul,

    On that little side comment you made about camera angles in MLB ballparks – take a look at this fascinating video that a little over a month old. The depth the creator goes into to analyze these different angles is definitely worthy of recognition within this community.

    link

    Fascinating! I’d be interested in seeing an analysis of Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux based on camera angles. Some of the nastiest looking pitches from both of them seem to be recorded from the low east-west perspective. I want to dig to see if there is any footage from a high north-south perspective and compare my perception of “movement” across the strike zone

    Faaaascinating video!

    I always thought the Tampa/Boston “high and straight on” angle was supposed to show the true left-right movement of a pitch but now I’m wondering. It does seem like the high but slightly to the right angle like the Yankees have is a good one for most pitchers/pitches.

    (As an aside, remember when the Yankees/WPIX stuck with the center field angle that was to the left of the pitcher when everyone was going to the right of the pitcher? You can see it here, with Rags striking out Boggs to finish out his no-hitter in ’83: link)

    I’m pretty sure the Brewers used to have a West-East angled camera. They must have changed it in the last few years

    After watching a few videos, it looks like the Brewers have a different dirt color mid way through the 2019 season, but add the “triangles” in 2020.

    Side note, in 2020, Miller Park was renamed American Family Field.

    Maybe it is just a coincidence?

    “…the plate-shaped dirt — which, as it turns out. is not really plate-shaped”
    I see a generic house shape…a home for home plate?

    If intentional, the lighter dirt around home plate would be a nice cream tie in with Milwaukee’s Cream City brick.

    The “dirt” isn’t actually dirt. It’s conditioner, or the drying agent. Conditioner comes in several colors, I believe. But the contrast in color is usually made by watering. The lighter shade is dry conditioner on top of conditioner that’s been watered. So the different shades of “dirt” have no bearing on performance. Purely aesthetics.

    If it is a dry agent, and the darker parts are wet from the pregame hose down then it is a result of performance not done intentionally for aesthetics. But it could be for both, who cares. The question now becomes why a dome stadium needs a dry agent.

    I am quite surprised that the article on the Diamondbacks stadium didn’t mention the “double warning track” that it featured the first couple of years.

    I’ve been wondering with the new rule changes including language using the outer dirt as reference for shifts (which has long been regulated anyway), if we’re on the cusp of infield dirt and design being more regulated as well.

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