Cubs considering adjustments to new Wrigley Field lights

Overall, the new LED lights have been an improvement. But there’s one issue the Cubs are trying to address.

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Seiya Suzuki walks under the Wrigley Field lights.

The Cubs could make some adjustments to the new LED lights at Wrigley Field.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

An hour after a night game at Wrigley Field, the diamond is usually empty, glowing under the lights. On Tuesday night, though, a group of men huddled in left field as Ian Happ, still in his Cubs uniform, helped direct the pitching machine at home plate as it launched high fly balls.

It turns out switching to LED lights isn’t as simple as installing them and letting them shine.

The Cubs are considering adjusting their new lights now that they’ve had eight night games under their glare.

This LED chapter, though not as storied as the earlier sections, extends Wrigley Field’s winding history with stadium lights. Overall, the change has been an improvement, from the obvious energy-efficiency impact, to the visibility in every corner of the field, to the broadcast brightness.

“They’re bright,” third baseman Patrick Wisdom said. “Really bright.”

Only some fans have complained about how much darker it feels in the stands by contrast. Most have embraced the light show during “Go, Cubs, Go.” But one subtle issue has cropped up in the first six weeks of the season.

The lights are so bright that when a fly ball rises above them, it disappears for the corner outfielders.

In any park, there’s a risk of a high fly at its apex hiding in the darkness, but a few of Wrigley Field’s neighborhood-location quirks exacerbate the problem. The lights are relatively low and close, and none of them are pointing in from the outfield to provide back lighting.

It’s not an issue in every game, or even every series. Cardinals outfielder Brendan Donovan said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t even noticed the new lights, and the Cardinals outfielders weren’t talking about them during the three-game series at Wrigley Field this week.

For the most part, infielders are far enough under the lights that the invisiball effect doesn’t reach them. Wisdom said he lost one high pop-up earlier in the season but relocated it and made the catch. If anything, ground balls are better lit than before.

Even center field is well covered.

“I have no issue,” Bellinger told the Sun-Times, “because I have lights coming from both ways.”

Bellinger, after changing into street clothes Tuesday night, joined the group testing the lights “for the fun of it.”

“We were just wondering what’s possible,” he said.

The group also included president of business operations Crane Kenney, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and engineers from Musco Lighting, the company that installed the LED lights in November.

Cubs spokesperson Julian Green told the Sun-Times the field was already scheduled for a light audit from MLB, which the league office conducts every other year at all of its ballparks.

MLB had commissioned Musco to perform light tests after installation to make sure the brightness was in compliance with the league’s standards, Green said. But the Cubs took advantage of having MLB representatives on site Tuesday to combine the players’ observations, the engineers’ expertise and the league’s guidelines to see what adjustments might be possible.

If the Cubs make any changes to the brightness or the positioning of individual lights, it won’t be until after they receive the results of the audit.

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