Gone with the wind
As I arrived for last night’s game, pulling into the parking lot was quite different from the last homestand, when the Bay Area, like most of California, was suffering through a record heat wave. Not only had the temperatures returned to normal, the notorious wind was threatening to take off my door as I got out of my car.
The wind is an interesting phenomenon at AT&T Park. During the All-Star Game this year, the media made a big deal (and rightfully so) of the stunning downtown views at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Originally, AT&T Park was designed to sit 90 degrees counterclockwise to where it sits now, with the outfield views featuring the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco looking north. But a wind study showed that orientation would have made the park more windy than the infamous gusts of Candlestick Point, so the decision was made to situate the park as it is now, where the shoulders of the yard absorb the worst of the wind. That decision also gave us the fun of McCovey Cove and the trademark of Splash Hits over the right-field wall, of course.
That said, the wind still can play havoc at AT&T Park. The open archways out in right field (where fans can stand and watch the game for free) allow gusts to come in and create a weird vortex in shallow right field and behind second base. Balls often smack into a wall of air and drop nearly straight down there, making Ray Durham‘s ability to field popups back there pretty impressive. Last night, Randy Winn noted after catching a long fly that the wind was also swirling in deep right. There’s also a jet stream headed straight out to the Bud Light sign in left field — a ball hit at the right height directly to that sign will often carry and carry and carry, right over the fence for a homer. And catchers often look like drunks stumbling out of a bar fielding popups at the plate. Wind coming over the top of the ballpark can take any ball hit just high enough and push it in crazy directions.
But the nice thing is that for the most part, the ballpark does a great job of cutting down the wind that attacks fans sitting in the main seating sections. My season tickets, out in the Arcade, get a little buffeted, but nothing like when I went to games out at Candlestick. And folks sitting in the top few rows of the View level also take more of a hit from wind coming over the top of the yard.
Of course, many of those folks also get to experience some of the most breathtaking views available at AT&T Park, a fair trade, if you ask me. (Check out my 360-degree shot from the View Level here.)