One of the beauties of high school baseball is the wide variety and interesting settings of prep diamonds. Not only are high school fields less standardized, they're often shoehorned into the strangest of spots.
Take fields in Massachusetts, for example. As documented in depth by the Boston Globe, Massachusetts high schools feature some of the most uniquely oriented fields in all of baseball. None of those may be more unique than the field that Braintree (Mass.) High calls home. It has the right-field fence and foul territory defined by the town hall.
As you can see in the photo above, Braintree's field doesn't have a foul pole; it has a building. The setting has required some rather unique rule modifications to work in the town hall. Among the alterations from traditional rulebooks are the following procedures, as outlined by the Globe:
While French's Common can no longer host tournament games under MIAA rules, the first thing to know is there is no outfield fence at the park. Most of the two-story town hall acts as a wall, where the bounce is in play. A hit that lands on the roof is a double but if the ball hits a green pavilion on top, or clears the roof all together, it is a home run. Part of the building is only one-story high, providing an easier target for a short home run.
For easy extra-base hits, balls that roll under the first-floor staircase or down into the basement stairwell are ground-rule doubles.
If a hit kicks around the back of the Town Hall, fielders have to run into a parking lot after it. Stranger still, the visiting bench is situated so it creates a blind spot between part of the backstop and third base.
And fans think Fenway's Green Monster is unique. Imagine chasing a ball down a stairwell or turning to find a brick wall when chasing a deep fly ball.
According to one pitcher who has opposed Braintree squads on multiple occasions, the unique dimensions of French's Common can give opposing squads a major headache.
"I've been a pitcher here for three years and I've kind of realized it's more of a hitter's field than a pitcher's field, so I can't be aggravated when I pitch here," Abington (Mass.) Archbishop Williams pitcher Andrew McBride told the Globe. "You've got to play more as a team here. It's all about defense when you're here. It's a lot different playing here."
While French's Common may be the Bay State's most unique park, it certainly isn't alone. The Globe also noted North Easton (Mass.) Oliver Ames High's Frothingham Memorial Park, which features an enormous tree in play in the outfield, Marshfield (Mass.) High, which has a right -field wall created by the school building itself, and Rockport (Mass.) High's Evans Field, which has a 30-foot-high hill in the middle of right field.
While these bizarre characteristics can make Massachusetts prep parks a hybrid baseball field/obstacle course, they also clearly speak to part of what is great about high school sports, putting wins and losses in perspective as just part of the game, along with unique features that just aren't found anywhere else.
"It's unique," Oliver Ames coach Leo Duggan told the Globe of the tree at Frothingham Park. "But it really doesn't come into play that often — surprisingly. People will say that it does."
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