The offseason upgrades are not limited to Miami’s roster, as Marlins Park will feature new synthetic turf and shorter fences for the 2020 season.
The seemingly ever-changing Marlins Park will sport a few new looks for the 2020 campaign. While roster changes are being made to improve the Marlins‘ on-field product, that product will literally be presented on a new field.
The Marlins announced on Wednesday on their ‘Beyond the Bases’ blog that a synthetic grass surface will be installed for the upcoming season, thanks to a corporate partnership with Shaw Sports Turf. This new playing surface will replace the natural grass which struggled to take root at times in the retractable-roof stadium.
According to the announcement, the turf should closely mimic the surface play of natural grass.
"The B1K: Batting A Thousand by Shaw Sports Turf is a dual fiber turf system comprised of Shaw’s high-performance Strenexe® XD slit film and Bolt® monofilament. This system provides excellent durability and functionality by minimizing infill “splashing,” maintaining adequate infill levels across the field. The Bolt fiber provides realistic ball roll, friction and natural grass aesthetics. These characteristics ensure the experiences of the players and fans will be maintained at the highest level."
Miami will join the Texas Rangers, who open their new stadium Globe Life Field in 2020, with the new synthetic turf for this season. In 2019, the Arizona Diamondbacks installed the same surface in Chase Field.
In an interview with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic in August, Diamondback’s infielder Nick Ahmed said he hadn’t experienced any bad hops on the infield. Ahmed said the turf “behaves as close to grass as any artificial surface” on which he has played. He called it “definitely slower” than the grass.
This new synthetic system should play more realistically than other artificial surfaces like Astro-Turf. Notoriously fast and bouncy, Astro-Turf was said to impact player durability, leading to injuries. This is perhaps most notably associated former Marlin Andre Dawson, who played for 11 seasons on the artificial turf at Olympic Stadium for the Montreal Expos and had 12 knee surgeries.
Miami CEO Derek Jeter said the following in a press release regarding the new playing surface.
"“In going through the process of evaluating the playing surface at Marlins Park in 2019, we set out to find a solution to combat the challenges we have experienced with growing natural grass in Marlins Park. We appreciate the extensive research and new technology from our partners at Shaw Sports Turf to help us deliver a consistent playing field designed to enhance the safety for players and the playability for baseball.”"
Marlins Park will also feature slightly different dimensions in 2020. Straightaway center field will now be 400 feet from home, whereas it had been 407 feet for the last few years. In right-center field, the wall will now be 387 feet (previously 399).
The stadium has always been a “pitcher’s park,” but this adjustment may change that thinking.
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On ‘Beyond the Bases,’ Jeter is quoted about the new dimensions.
"As we enhance the playing surface at Marlins Park, we felt it was also appropriate to take the opportunity to evaluate our outfield dimensions. We made the decision to adjust the distance of the outfield fence, which will now be more in line with the field dimensions you see across many of today’s ballparks."
The Marlins were last in the MLB with 146 homers last season, 68 of which came at Marlins Park. According to Jordan McPherson’s article today in the Miami Herald, the Marlins would have had 19 additional home runs last season with the new dimensions. McPherson notes the opposition would have also had 19 additional home runs playing at Marlins Park with the new distances.
While this change may affect the pitchers, it’s a positive move for the team. Having the ballpark’s dimension more in line with what’s seen around the league will help market the team to free agents in the future.