Every major league ballpark features its own unique quirks that affect the game. But few impact it as uniquely as the multiple catwalks that hang above the playing surface at Tropicana Field. Those controversial catwalks have been a continuous nuisance for Major League Baseball, and were front and center again during Game 3 of the ALDS when not one, but two of Ben Zobrist popups hit the catwalks during his fourth inning plate appearance.
Zobrist's first catwalk ball was an easy one for the umpires to call since it got stuck and never came back down. As per the ground rules, the ball was ruled dead. Zobrist's second catwalk ball was a little bit trickier, however, since it was a pop fly straight up in the air at home plate. The ball clearly struck one of the higher catwalks that's labeled the "B-ring" as it peaked, then floated down into the glove of Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in foul territory.
Initially, home plate umpire Dana DeMuth ruled Zobrist out, which would have been the correct call prior to the change in ground rules MLB approved before the 2012 postseason. But Rays manager Joe Maddon was quick to remind him of the new ground rules, which state that any ball hitting the B-ring is immediately dead. After a quick conference, the call was corrected, allowing Zobrist's plate appearance to continue.
Credit MLB for attempting to make the ground rules less complicated, but it's still far from a perfect situation. In this case, Clay Buchholz got the short end of the stick. Instead of retiring the lead-off batter on an easy four-pitch popup, Buchholz would eventually walk Zobrist on eight pitches. Granted, Buchholz was able to work around the walk and escaped a bases loaded jam unscathed in the frame, but the extra pitches and added stress had to take their toll. In fact, the following inning Tampa finally broke through on Evan Longoria's three-run home run to tie the game.
The Rays went on to win the game 5-4 on Jose Lobaton's walk-off homer in the ninth, forcing a Game 4 on Tuesday. That will also be played at Tropicana Field.
Rays announce the ball hit the B-ring catwalk and is a dead ball as a result. That's B as in Bad place for baseball.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) October 7, 2013
That's a feeling shared by many.
— Rob Rowan (@BigRobRowan) October 7, 2013
Tropicana field is pretty much a basement with a field.
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) October 7, 2013
Wanna hear a joke? Tropicana Field
— 9 wins (@NotKojiUehara) October 7, 2013
Again, every park has something, whether it's a green monster, ivy on the wall or a yellow home run line that moves all over the place. But only the catwalks at Tropicana Field require their own TV graphic to explain their absurdity.
These announcers have talked more about the cat walks at tropicana field than the game itself
— Joey Robertson (@JoeyRobertson_) October 8, 2013
Here's hoping a new stadium for the Rays isn't as far away as it seems.