A few weeks ago, I was reading this interview with architectural critic Paul Goldberger about baseball stadiums in America when I stumbled upon a reminder from Goldberger that doubles as a breathtaking conversation piece for stoners all across the land:
In both time and space, (a baseball field is) technically infinite … the rules only lay out the diamond itself. The outfield could go forever, in theory. Of course, no outfield goes forever…
Okay, but hear me out: what if it DID?
I would like to propose something that has almost certainly been proposed in the past, but this time it’s different because I’m the one suggesting it. Are you ready for my idea? Are you ready to have your nuts rocked? Okay, here’s the idea:
Infinite-field baseball games.
WHOA. Did I mean, like, all the way infinite? Like, into space? Yes. I did. Could this be done? Logistically, not really. But spiritually? INFINITE YES.
Here is how it would work: during a torpid moment in the sports calendar—let’s say August, because August is slow torture—Major League Baseball stakes out a plot of land somewhere out along the Great Plains, builds a baseball diamond there, and then paints the baselines all the way to the horizon. Anything within those baselines gets bulldozed: homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, grain processing facilities, state capitals, and such and such. Those are all important structures, but this is baseball we’re talking about here. I only care about property seizure if it happens to me.
Now, this field can be anywhere EXCEPT for Iowa, because I don’t need yet another round of basebloggers pulling out hankies for Field of Dreams. Then, as with the NHL’s Winter Classic, the league convenes two teams to play a standalone game at that super-special venue. They can give the game its own name and everything: The Infinity Series, or what have you. Then they can line the endless baselines with portable bleachers and sell a shitload of candy and beer and we all have a laugh. We could even tailgate! FUCK AND YES.
Eminent domain issues aside, there are additional potential drawbacks to staging an infinite-field game. It could become wearisome—grating, even—to watch outfielders chase down balls for minutes at a time. A few of them may drop dead from so much running (many baseball players are fat!). The bleacher seats at Mile 3 will have awful sightlines. They’ll definitely hire Rascal Flatts to sing the anthem. Bob Costas will apparate onto the pitching mound during the seventh-inning stretch to subject us all to a dirge of a lecture about the 1903 Bozeman Tittycats. Those are all serious drawbacks.
But do I give a fuck? Reader, I do not. I give INFINITE fucks more about MLB staging a game out in the middle of nowhere, only this time the middle of nowhere is NOT Cincinnati for a change! I wanna see a game featuring incessant inside-the-park home runs (because the outfield is infinite, you see). I wanna see SIX outfielders, spanning two waves of field depth. I wanna see a third baseman shift over to fucking Dodge City. I wanna see B-roll of wheat fields in between each half-inning. I want vendors to sell state fair garbage to fans who attend: fried cheese, fried Skittles, fried beer, fried baby radishes, hamburgers made of ground hot dog meat, ostrich drumsticks, and more! I wanna see throwback gloves! The ones that look like burnt oven mitts, yeah! I wanna see the sun set in an outfield that stretches for hundreds of miles and reaches an unofficial terminus at the base of a vast mountain, and I want to be high as balls when I see it.
Regular-season baseball can be so rote and forgettable that even the All-Star game—which is ostensibly meant to liven things up in the middle of everything—ends up being likewise. There is a deeply ingrained daydream of seeing sports played in the purest possible setting: a college football game or a baseball game played upon a vast field uncluttered by signage, by neighboring buildings, or by Boston fans. It’s a true neutral-field fantasy that’s easy to yearn for, and not really that hard to execute.
Do it, Rob Manfred. You’ve already dabbled with changing mound meetings and curtailing commercial break times and maintaining butt itch counts and perhaps even instituting a dreaded pitching clock. (ON NOES! TIME!) Here now is an idea that could bring some romanticism back to a sport that terminally obsesses over it. You could do this easily. Land in Oklahoma ain’t pricey. It’s a simple idea, and baseball fancies itself a simple pleasure. But in its present incarnation, MLB always manages to cut off access to these simple pleasures with its endless horseshit.
But with an infinite field baseball game, there is no clutter. There are no stands or Zach Hamples getting in the way of a mile-long dinger. There is no endless horseshit. There is only endless PLEASURE: the bat striking the ball and sending it flying forever over a sun-kissed prairie of an outfield that opens the game up as wide as you ever imagined.
And then, after two innings, you switch back over to Family Feud. Tell me that’s not a perfect afternoon.
The top image, “The Infinite Baseball Fields of America,” is used with permission of Pop Chart. You can buy this print and others at their website.