Where are the foul ball hot zones in each American League East ballpark?
Many believe snagging a foul ball is pure luck. This is true only to a point. There is a science to it as well. Foul ball snagging, in fact, is closer to science than pure luck.
In The Baseball, Zack Hample briefly discusses the locations which review the most fouls: The areas closest to home plate on either of side of the protective netting and extending down both baselines to about the end of each dugout tend to have the most foul balls hit into them. In “Don’t Sit There…or There…or There,” Gil Fried and his team looked at foul ball injury risks. The authors confirmed these same locations are the most dangerous. If you’re a baseball fan you already knew these areas are the “hot zones” in each park.
While luck does play into it, there are ways to maximize the potential of snagging one of these precious jewels from the field. First, needing to know the odds based on attendance; this can be done using the odds calculators. A smaller attendance will increase one’s chances.
Another need is to know the starting pitchers as well as the lineups. The pitcher/batter matchups matter a great deal when determining where to sit in order to increase the chances of snagging a foul ball. While it’s difficult to know this weeks ahead of the game, if fans understand the basic physics of foul balls, they will still be able to maximize their odds.
Frequency of Foul Balls
Of the historical average of 47.7 foul balls hit per MLB game, roughly 29 balls are slapped into the seats. This calculation is based on Fried’s report that roughly 40% of all foul balls are out of play for fans. Therefore, 60% finding their way into the seats. Of these, about 60% (about 17 balls) end up in these “hot zone” areas. This means fans have a great deal of competition for a ball if they are at a game with high attendance.
Although Fried discovered 38% of the foul balls studied traveled down the third base side and 32% went to the first base side, a relatively even spread, for the purposes here we will assume a completely even spread of foul balls into the sections on both the first base and third base lines, the guide below will help fans further capitalize on their chances.
To maximize the potential of a snag, we look at attendance, pitcher and batter match-ups, and where the “hot zones” are in each park.
Baltimore Orioles Camden Yards
Camden Yards had an average attendance of 29246 during the 2015 season. The attendance for the Orioles is in the middle of the pack, but due to high attendance from three other teams in the division, this park comes in as having the second best odds in the AL East for snagging a foul ball because of the low attendance. The best sections will be the even numbered sections between 48-56 and the parts of the odd numbered sections between 47 and 55 along the third base line With extended netting, sections 47 and 48 will not receive many balls. Sections 58 and 60 is in a high probability, but non-hot zone sections. On the right side of the diamond even numbered sections 18-26 and the odd numbered sections between 17 and 27 are the spots with the highest number of foul balls.
Boston Red Sox Fenway Park
Red Sox fans always roll out in full support of their team, as a result Fenway had an average attendance of 35564 during the 2015 season. This park has the second worst odds in the AL East for snagging a foul ball because of the low attendance; Yankee Stadium has the worst. The best sections along the 3B side are between 53 and 64 and 142-150. On the first base side of the diamond, the best seating areas, those sections that will see the most foul balls, are 20-37 and 112-124.
New York Yankees Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium is by far the most difficult AL East park in which to snag a foul ball due to the fourth highest average attendance in the both leagues (39430) during the 2015 season. The best sections will be 24A-27A and 124-127A on the 3B side, 14B through 16 and the next level up between 114B and 116 on the first base line.
Tampa Bay Rays Tropicana Field
If you’re a Rays fan or simply want to have the best chances in all of MLB and in the AL East to snag a foul ball, Tropicana is your honey pot because of the low attendance. Tropicana and the Rays had the lowest overall average attendance of any MLB team with a mere 15322 showing up for games. The best sections will be 109-117 and 112-120. But any of the three sections on the far side of these blocks will offer plenty of opportunities as well.
Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Center
The Blue Jays had the 8th highest overall attendance in MLB, right behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Their average attendance of 34505 during the 2015 season. This park is the third worst in how easy it will be to grab a foul ball with limited competition in the AL East. The best sections will be 126-128 along the third base line and 115-117 across the diamond.
Seating charts adapted from seatingcharts.com.