Thursday, January 8, 2009

MLB To Play First Annual Summer Classic At Staples Center

New York, NY (Jan. 8) - In a nod to the National Hockey League's successful Winter Classic games, played outdoors in football and baseball stadiums, Major League Baseball announced that it will hold the First Annual Summer Classic -- a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Madison Square Garden.

The game, to be played on June 29th, will be the first in an annual series of games played in various arenas and stadiums throughout the country.

The Yankees and Red Sox will each wear throwback uniforms, and MSG will be converted into a baseball stadium for the day, albeit an oddly configured one.

Because of MSG's limitations, the left field foul pole will only be 188 feet from home plate, but the right field pole will be 375 feet away. Straightaway center field will be 245 feet, and the power alleys in left and right will be 225 feet and 266 feet away, respectively. To compensate, 75-foot high walls will be constructed, extending from the left field pole to right-center field.

In addition, the game will feature balls made of a heavy, clay-like substance, and the pitcher's mound will be 40 feet from home plate, instead of the traditional 60 feet, six inches.

Also, right-handed hitters will be forbidden from pulling the ball into left field, and any ball that hits the overhead scoreboard will be considered an out.

"This is what America is all about," said commissioner Bud Selig as he announced the unprecedented event. "We would be remiss if we didn't completely reconfigure our boundaries and squeeze a baseball park into a hockey and basketball arena for our loyal fans."

The Garden will be fitted with 35 tons of infield and warning track dirt and gravel, along with 22,000 square feet of Field Turf, a transformation that Selig said would take "just a few weeks."

Because of the remodeling, MSG will only be able to seat about 9,000 fans for the game. Tickets, Selig said, would be available on the Internet the morning of the game only.

Legendary former Knicks players Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing, plus former Rangers stars Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle, will each throw out ceremonial first pitches.

Yankees players are looking forward to the Summer Classic already.

"I used to watch Knicks games at Madison Square Garden a lot as a kid," said newly-signed pitcher CC Sabathia. "And I used to wonder what it would be like to one day play a baseball game there as a member of the Yankees. Now my dream will come true."

"It'll be awesome," said shortstop Derek Jeter. "Playing in Yankee Stadium was an honor, but to step into the batter's box near the very same spot where Ewing and Reed used to put up their jump shots -- well, that's pretty amazing."

Selig also said that at the seventh inning stretch, the Knicks' dancing team will perform, some tumblers will do some things involving mini-trampolines, and that both teams will have a morning "bat around" the day of the game.