San Antonio FC made their first trip to play the Tulsa Roughnecks away from home on Sunday. In doing so, they played their first game in a baseball stadium, in this case ONEOK Field, adjusted for soccer.
I had the fortune to see that game live after roughly a week of vacationing with my family. Of the relatively few times I’ve been to a baseball stadium (maybe a handful – I’m really just not that entertained by the sport), this was the first time I had seen soccer played on a baseball diamond live.
We’ve seen the beautiful game transposed in that way before, perhaps most notably in the case of New York City FC for the past year and a half, but also with some friendlies involving European clubs. I particularly remember a couple years ago when Manchester City and Chelsea played two postseason friendlies in Yankee Stadium and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium.
I had, perhaps somewhat foolishly, tweeted about the game being played in a baseball stadium a few hours before kickoff. While I was simply using the Tulsa game as an example to point out the less-than-ideal setup of soccer in a baseball stadium in general, some perceived it as me taking a swipe at Tulsa specifically. It’s hard to deny that soccer in a baseball stadium is less than ideal, but teams have to work with the venues at their disposal, and this was the best the Roughnecks had – and it’s really not that bad of a setup.
By the way, today’s SAFC game will look a bit different, whether you watch it online or in person… 😕 pic.twitter.com/uVpAkOcnLp
— Pitch Black News (@PitchBlackNews) July 3, 2016
What comes with this arrangement? For television viewers, it means an odd, off-center camera angle. You get a better view of the action, if only marginally, when action is on one side of the field. You also might notice little slivers of the considerably large sections of the baseball field which aren’t used. In most if not all setups, this includes the part of the diamond with third and home plates…just sitting there…unused.
For live spectators, the different seating arrangement is perhaps most noteworthy. My parents have two of the best seats at Toyota Field, next to the tunnel in only the second row on the west sideline. If they got a comparable seat at ONEOK Field – or any baseball stadium, for that matter – they’d be quite withdrawn from the action and not so pleased or satisfied with the view. Remember, one of Toyota Field’s biggest selling points is the intimacy and closeness to the field.
Instead, the best seats in the house are arguably on the endlines, behind the goals, because you’re about as close to the soccer field as you can get. We sat there, which put us in a position roughly equivalent to Mission City 118’s at Toyota Field.
As could be expected when you’re sitting at that part of the pitch, we had some of the best seats for attacks heading toward our goal: lots of threatening but fruitless action from SAFC in the first half and the Roughnecks comeback attempt, which did yield one goal, in the game’s final minutes. On the downside, we were very distant from the other goal and SAFC scored both of their goals what felt like miles away.
Had we bought seats at roughly midfield though, likely nothing would have felt like it was close, so it’s reasonable to stand by the assumption that endline seats are the route to go when watching soccer in a baseball stadium. Had I been in the press box like I typically am at Toyota Field this summer, my view would also have felt distant from the action, as SAFC’s advertised view demonstrates.
— San Antonio FC (@SanAntonioFC) July 4, 2016
The reason baseball fields may feel like terrible venues for soccer is soccer-specific stadiums have shown us the gold standard, the ideal viewing experience for fans, press, etc. In these tailored venues, like Toyota Field, there’s hardly a bad seat in the house.
If you can’t play in a soccer-specific stadium though, it’s not the end of the world, as I realized at ONEOK Field on Sunday night. Sure, the setup is odd and the average idealness of seats is lower, but in the end what happens on the pitch is hardly affected or different – that’s why I opted not to ask Coach Powell or any of the players about playing on a baseball field.
Soccer in an American football stadium is better – the likelihood of a running track and slightly smaller field dimensions make it less than perfect, but it functions well enough. In the cases of baseball and American football stadiums, the venue may not be perfect for soccer, but it’s apparently the best option, and it works quite well anyway.
So this means we, San Antonio, are quite lucky. In Toyota Field, we have an amazing, intimate venue built specifically for the game we want to watch. Not everyone is as lucky, so we should cherish our stadium. Next time you’re at Toyota Field, stop and reflect on how lucky you – we – are, then go to your seat as usual and just appreciate it and the game in front of you. And if you ever go to a soccer game away from Toyota Field and find yourself not as happy with the venue, stop for a second and ask yourself: Is it really that bad, or is Toyota Field just really good?
After you stop and think about that for a second, enjoy the soccer – at least that didn’t really change – from whatever seat in whatever type of stadium.