The fences at the London Stadium will be pushed back for the MLB’s forthcoming London Series matches at the venue.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will face off against one another at West Ham United’s home in a two-game series across the weekend of the 24th and 25th June.
It’s the first time the series has been played since 2019 when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played one another at the same stadium, with the Yankees emerging 2-0 winners across the two ties.
The match between the Cardinals and the Cubs was due to take place in June 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to those plans. Similar matches in Mexico and Puerto Rico were also cancelled.
The series is now back on and MLB will be returning to the English capital this year, next year and in 2026 as well.
When the Yankees and the Red Sox played each other four years ago, the scores were unusually high, and a total of 10 home runs were notched up. However, the decision to push the perimeter fences back by seven feet (a total of 392 feet from home plate) has been inspired by seat restructuring rather than a desire to curb the high scoring.
These aren’t the only changes fans visiting the London Stadium will witness though. The power alleys will be increased by 5 feet to 387 feet, foul territory is being reduced, and the dugouts are being repositioned. The floodlights at the stadium have also been upgraded to LED lights. Back in 2019 they were covered by chicken wire to protect them from high-flying balls.
The aim of all the changes is to make the London Stadium feel much more authentically like a traditional ballpark in the United States.
“When you’re out at home plate, and you’re looking [out], it looks like you’re in a totally different ballpark than you were in 2019,” Murray Cook, MLB’s official field consultant, told The Associated Press. “The new dugouts and the new seating configuration kind of pitch out like they would typically down the foul line, whereas in 2019 they were more a straight line behind home plate.
“All these things that we’ve implemented this year, we can re-use again.”
Paris is the likely location for the European edition of the international series in 2025, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees reportedly keen to take part.
Baseball has a long history of global expansion going back to 1996 when the New York Mets and San Diego Padres met for a three-game series in the Mexican city of Monterray.
Since then, further matches have been played in Tokyo and Sydney, with Monterray appearing in the line-up again in 2018 and 2019. Regular season games played outside of the US and Canada have now been officially branded under the overarching ‘MLB World Tour’ label.
The league hopes that this kind of expansion will help baseball rival American Football and NBA basketball as American sports that have not only domestic dominance but real global credibility as well.