It took just one-third of a game for Tropicana Field to become a topic of conversation in the 2021 MLB playoffs, and as usual not in a good way.
This time, the catwalks that ring the dome’s ceiling were to blame. One of them stopped a long drive by Rays slugger Nelson Cruz in the third inning of the ALDS Game 1 between Tampa Bay and Boston.
The “C” catwalk (there are four catwalks, labeled A, B, C and D) took the blow. The ball was headed for the left-field seats but caromed back toward the infield instead. Statcast estimated that Cruz’s blast would have traveled 406 feet, well beyond the wall.
Cruz wasn’t sure what to do, so he kept sprinting until he got the home run signal.
“I had no clue what was going on. I was watching the outfielders. I was, like, what happened? Just thank God it was a homer,” Cruz said after Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory. The home run was the 18th of his playoff career, tying him with Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Jose Altuve for sixth-most all time.
What, exactly, are the ground rules for Tropicana Field’s circus rings, er catwalks? Here’s a quick primer:
What are the ground rules for Tropicana Field’s catwalks?
It’s complicated. A batted ball that hits a catwalk or other objects that are suspended over the field can be ruled a home run, a ball in play, a ground-rule double or a foul ball. A word-for-word rundown from the Rays’ website:
CATWALKS, LIGHTS AND SUSPENDED OBJECTS:
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over fair territory
Batted ball that strikes either of the lower two catwalks (known as the ‘C-Ring’ and the ‘D-Ring’), including any lights or suspended objects attached to either of those catwalks as well as any angled support rods that connect the ‘C-Ring’ to the masts that support the ‘D-Ring’ in fair territory: Home Run.
Batted ball that strikes either of the upper catwalks (known as the ‘A-Ring’ and the ‘B-Ring’), including the masts that support each of those catwalks as well as any angled support rods that connect the ‘B-Ring’ to the masts that support the ‘C-Ring’ in fair territory: In Play. If caught by fielder, batter is out and runners advance at own risk.
Batted ball that is not judged a home run and remains on a catwalk, light or suspended object: Two Bases.
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over foul territory: Dead Ball.
Cruz’s home run Thursday hit the “C” ring.
A visual of how the rings play:
“Obviously that’s always a topic of discussion whenever you’re coming to play here,” said Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo, a former Ray. “But that’s the ground rules, that’s what they’ve set. It’s part of it.”
“It threw me off because I thought (Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo) was camped under it, and then I saw the ball bounce, and then I saw Nelson Cruz jogging, so I was really, really confused, but, you know, it is what it is,” Arroyo added.
How many times has a batted ball struck a catwalk for a home run in the postseason?
According to MLB.com, Nelson Cruz is the fifth player to hit a postseason catwalk home run at the Trop. The others:
Evan Longoria, Rays, 2008 ALDS
B.J. Upton, Rays, 2008 ALCS
Willy Adames, Rays, 2019 ALDS
Danny Jansen, Blue Jays, 2020 Wild Card Series
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