Homers will be a bit harder for Cubs, Cardinals to hit in London

The center field wall will be 392 feet from home plate, seven feet deeper than four years ago, as part of changes that Major League Baseball said came about because of some seat restructuring at London Stadium.

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Workers transform the soccer pitch at London Stadium to a baseball field at London Stadium for next weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals series.

Workers transform the soccer pitch at London Stadium to a baseball field at London Stadium for next weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals series.

Lucy North/PA via AP

Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals hitters will have to work a little harder to match the Yankees-Red Sox slugfests from 2019 when they play in London because the fences are being pushed back.

The center field wall will be 392 feet from home plate, seven feet deeper than four years ago, as part of changes that Major League Baseball said came about because of some seat restructuring at London Stadium and not because of the high scores in New York’s two wins over Boston.

The Yankees and Red Sox combined for 10 homers over two games playing on artificial turf at the home of Premier League soccer club West Ham. New York won 17-13 and 12-8.

In other changes, the power alleys are increasing five feet to 387 feet, the dugouts will be repositioned, and the foul territory will be greatly reduced to make the whole thing feel more authentic.

“When you’re out at home plate, and you’re looking (out) it looks like you’re in a totally different ballpark than you were in 2019,” Murray Cook, MLB’s official field consultant, told The Associated Press.

Even with the increase, the center field fence would be among the shortest in the majors. The 16-foot wall in center field is back — Michael Chavis’ first inning three-run homer for the Red Sox in the first game barely cleared it. It slopes down on both sides to eight feet around the rest of the outfield.

Down each line will be 330 feet — same as last time — but the seating adjustments will bring fans closer to the field.

“The new dugouts and the new seating configuration kind of pitch out like they would typically down the foul line, whereas in 2019 they were more a straight line behind home plate,” Cook said.

The artificial turf is from Montreal — the 2019 turf was donated to the Farnham Park national baseball and softball complex outside London — and the clay is again from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

“All these things that we’ve implemented this year we can re-use again,” Cook said.

MLB plans to stage games in London in 2024 and 2026 — with Paris being eyed as a host city in 2025. The Cardinals and Cubs were scheduled to play in London in 2020, but the games were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

London Stadium in 2021 upgraded to an LED lighting system. Previously, the stadium lights were covered in chicken wire to protect them from flying baseballs.

“This year we only had to cover one panel with chicken wire, the rest are covered with a special grid that (the stadium) came up with to cover each fixture,” Cook said.

The venue was built for the 2012 Olympics and was designed for minimal wind. It’s often still called Olympic Stadium. Capacity is 62,500 for West Ham games.

The June 2019 games drew 118,718, a mix mostly of Americans who flew over, expats living locally, and Britons.

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