Arizona Diamondbacks’ earlier visits this year to check things out renewed interest in issue. We asked former UBC and present-day minor-league slugger, who took swings there, about it
People regularly wonder how B.C. Place Stadium would work out for baseball. Bruce Yari has some first-hand ideas.
Yari is a 25-year-old Cincinnati Reds first-base prospect from Waterloo, Ont., who’s hoping to be assigned to their Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts affiliate should this season ever get going.
In September 2014, he was starting his junior season with the UBC Thunderbirds when Vancouver Canadians president Andy Dunn was toying with the idea of trying to bring a Toronto Blue Jays exhibition series the following spring training to B.C. Place. The C’s have been the Blue Jays’ short-season, Single-A affiliate since 2011.
Dunn asked then-UBC head coach Terry McKaig to send players to the downtown dome for a round of batting practice. Yari was one of four hitters who took part.
It was all kept quiet.
Home plate was situated in the northwest corner of what’s normally a football or soccer surface, meaning that right field was the short porch. It was measured out to 275 feet.
Your average big league ballpark goes 330 feet down the lines. Yankee Stadium is 314 feet to right field. Fenway Park is 302 feet. Those are the most famous exceptions.
Yari launched multiple balls into the second deck in right field that day at B.C. Place.
“When you’re able to do that, it’s a pretty good feeling. We didn’t get that opportunity too much with UBC then,” explained Yari, who is waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic at a place in Naramata in the Okanagan.
“The ball really travelled well. You have no wind to deal with. Right field was definitely playing pretty short.”
Yari is one of the best position players UBC has ever developed. He was a 24th-round draft pick of the Reds but he’s progressing through their system. He hit the majority of last season in those key No. 4-5-6 spots in the batting order for the advanced Single-A Daytona Tortugas and has 179 runs batted in and a .251 average in 354 games over four years in the lower minors for Cincinnati.
The left-handed hitting Yari looks like he could develop into a bonafide power threat, checking in at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds. The Reds are undoubtedly aiming for that. It’s yet to happen so far. Yari has 26 home runs in his four seasons.
He still made B.C. Place play small that day. A Cavan Biggio, Rowdy Tellez or another big-league hitter with pop from the left side could make it play really small going off that particular showcase.
Dunn declined to comment for this story, but the C’s have yet to move forward with those Blue Jays’ exhibition games. And Dunn and C’s principle owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney have shown they’re willing to take chances and willing to spend money, a fact most evident in the TV time they’ve bought from Sportsnet to broadcast a handful of their games nationally.
That brings us back to the reports from earlier this year about Arizona Diamondbacks staff making two separate trips to Vancouver to check out B.C. Place. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM back in February that the team was looking at a “backup plan,” and cited a possible malfunction with their roof at Chase Field as a possible scenario for needing to play elsewhere. That happened during a game last season to the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks have also been tied to other possible cities, including Henderson, Nevada.
They’ve also had a messy relationship with Maricopa County over Chase Field.
Baseball at B.C. Place isn’t impossible. It has problems, and money solves problems. It would just seem to take a fair bit of money in this case.
You’d have to find a way to move back the right-field stands and create space. That was done when the Blue Jays, Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies played spring training games at B.C. Place in 1994. It was 325 feet down the lines then.
That was also before that $563-million stadium renovation that was completed in 2011. You’d think it would be more difficult and more expensive to move seats now.
There’s also the matter of the high-definition scoreboard that hangs over top of the field. Yari says that it was pulled as high as it would go the day he and his cohorts took their swings there, and that “a couple of balls” still managed to connect with it.
As well, there’s the fact that B.C. Place has contracts in place with both the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, and you’d have to find ways to work around their schedules and appease them.
B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) runs B.C. Place and spokesperson Laura Ballance explained: “B.C. Place is a premier, best-in-class stadium, so of course we get mentioned along with other similar calibre stadiums in North America as a potential venue in any number of instances such as this. I can confirm we have nothing in front us at the stadium related to this topic and in fact, we have our 2020 schedule published on our website which does not include baseball.”
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