Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Guess Field growing larger

The 36 home runs hit at Gordon Blue Guess Field this summer won't likely be touched in 2011, but outfielders will need to cover more acreage to prevent extra bases on long fly balls.

When the season starts in June, the fences at Guess Field will be as much as 50 feet deeper in places. Though Guess Field has never been noted as a launching pad, 25 of the Bobcats' 33 home runs in 2010 were hit at home, while the pitching staff gave up 11 more before hometown fans. Only 29 combined home runs had been hit at Guess Field in the Bobcats' first two years, however.

The team's general manager, the man for whom the field was named, said the change won't necessarily turn Guess Field into a black hole for offense, but it will favor whoever is on the mound.

"I like to call the field as becoming more 'pitcher friendly'," Guess said. "especially in left field."

Guess said that while home run totals may drop, the deeper fences will likely lead to more balls dropping in front of outfielders. New manager Kyle Medley will have to build his team around the new dimensions, which could change the complexion of the offense into a singles- and doubles-hitting club.

Currently, Guess Field measures 310 feet down the left field line, 290 in right, 350 in center and 340 in the power alleys. General Manager Guess said he does not know the exact dimensions of the altered field.

Regardless of the effect a deeper outfield will have on Marion's offense, fans will notice a new, larger scoreboard to tally the runs. A 16-foot by 6-foot scoreboard will be put up just over the right field fence to replace an old one about half that size. The new scoreboard will also feature an indicator light telling fans whether a ball put in play was scored a hit or error.

Work on expanding the field has already begun, with Crittenden County's road department moving dirt before Action Fence Co. of Salem replaces the outfield barrier. The City of Marion has also poured in $5,200 to help cover the costs of the change. The park board is overseeing the alterations.

Both the new fence and scoreboard were part of a package of changes promised when the Bobcats first took the field in 2008.