Category Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

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World Series a Celebration of Ballpark Architect Janet Marie Smith’s Work

Janet Marie Smith was standing on the concourse of Fenway Park prior to World Series Game 2 when a friend approached. After a minute of conversation, the man asked Smith where to find the elevator, only to realize the mundanity of his question when posed to an architect lauded as having changed the trajectory of baseball.
“It’s like asking Picasso where he painted,” he said with a laugh.
“Go right up there and take a left,” Smith pointed and said with a soft Southern lilt, deflecting a compliment so many others have heaped upon her.
Smith has worked on projects as a vice president of planning and development for four clubs: the Orioles, the Braves, and both World Series participants this year, the Red Sox and Dodgers. She worked in Baltimore on precedent-setting Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has reinvented the way clubs and cities think of ballparks. She led the project to convert Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic Stadium into the Braves’ former home, Turner Field.
The Boston Globe has described her as “the architect credited with saving Fenway Park.” And now she is working in Los Angeles to modernize Dodger Stadium. The two stadiums are two of baseball’s three oldest ballparks and two of its most prized venues, a physical connection to the past unmatched in most other sports.
“The writers in Boston have, for 10 years, been touting her for the Hall of Fame, and I would second that,” said Dodgers president Stan Kasten, “for the fact that she’s been involved in such great projects in so many different cities and is still called out on every project to give an opinion.”
During a guided tour of Fenway Park earlier this week, Smith demurred when asked by SportTechie about her career legacy but reflected on the work she’s done and continues to do.
Janet Marie Smith at Dodger Stadium (Courtesy of LA Dodgers)

Seats in Fenway used to sit empty as the first pitch approached. The road along the first-base line—then known as Yawkey Way and since renamed Jersey Street—would fill with fans “waiting until the last minute to enter because it was so congested inside,” Smith said. Only when the national anthem began would people push through the gates.
Smith’s first initiative was to petition the city of Boston to convert the street into part of the venue on game day. Yawkey Way was already closing to cars because of the mass of people nearby, but now turnstiles were set up with only ticketed fans allowed to enter, easing the crunch of the crowd. This mimicked what was done in Baltimore with Eutaw Street beyond the park’s right-field line becoming a pedestrian mall with concessions, merchandise, and activities.
Jersey Street (formerly Yawkey Way) prior to a game in 2017 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
“Eutaw Street was like art imitating life,” Smith said, “and the idea of putting turnstiles on Yawkey Way was like life imitating art.”
Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912—the same week the Titanic sunk. For years, prior Red Sox ownership had wanted to build a replacement, but the project never gained traction. When the new owners, led by John Henry and Tom Werner, purchased the franchise in 2002, they installed Larry Lucchino as president, who hired Smith. Only after several piecemeal improvements did the ownership affirm plans to keep Fenway in 2005.
I hadn’t aimed to work in baseball. I was aiming to change a city.Janet Marie Smith
“Larry’s advocacy for them was that we would do things that he called low-hanging fruit. The thesis was, even if we wanted a new ballpark, it’s going to take five years-plus. So why don’t we go ahead and spend the money to do these things—it’s not huge dollars—and we’d reap the benefit in that time period and, if it works, you’re part of a puzzle piece, and if it doesn’t, we still have the benefit of them.
“The commitment to saving Fenway was really triggered by having done enough of those projects that there was confidence we knew we had the city’s support.”
Turning the road into a de facto concourse was the first “litmus test,” Smith said, in seeing how fans and the city would react.
“Larry often said, ‘The Rule of Two-Thirds: Dream anything you want to dream, propose anything you want to propose, study anything you want to study, then do two-thirds of it.’” Smith said.

On the night the Red Sox opened the Big Concourse, an expanded right field entertainment area, for the first time in August 2003, Smith stationed herself among the entering throngs. She hoped to watch reactions and listen for fan feedback on what she called her “favorite idea” of the renovations.
This had been a $6 million investment adding 25,000 more square feet, doubling the width of the concourse from 30 feet to 60, and tripling the usable space between Gates B and C. The project involved repurposing an adjacent building being used for parking and converting its interior into a commissary, tearing out old restrooms and relocating them with upgrades, connecting what had been the isolated bleachers section, asking Boston to decommission an alley, and installing a new array of concessions and activities.
Smith distinctly remembered one gentleman, who turned to his friend and said, “They painted this whole thing since I was last here.” Of all the changes, the man noticed only the paint.
“Great,” she recalled of her reaction. “We wanted it to look like it had always been.”
Big Concourse at Fenway (Joe Lemire)

A young woman working as a Fenway tour guide told Smith this week that, when her family had left-field grandstand season tickets as a child, her father refused to buy her anything to drink. The issue? There were no women’s restrooms on that side of the park, nor any easy means of egress. A bathroom trip required fighting dense crowds halfway around the ballpark.
We wanted it to look like it had always been.Janet Marie Smith
Smith set to work tearing out walls, expanding concourses, improving ADA accessibility, and revamping the periphery of the ballpark while keeping its core intact. She gives credit to the architectural team at DAIQ and the structural engineering firm, McNamara Salvia. These enhanced, free-flowing passageways and gathering areas outside the stands themselves proved prophetic, helping historic Fenway seem current.
“This wasn’t a major strategy because we’re not that smart, but if you look at baseball, the trend in baseball is moving away from everybody in a fixed seat, No. 2 pencil, keeping score to much more milling around rooms, social areas,” Smith said. “While that was not our motive, the end result is we have that.
“Without meaning to suggest that we were somehow ahead of the curve or had a crystal ball of how fans are going to use this space, we had ourselves set up so that worked for us.”

As Smith took one seemingly innocuous step on the concourse, she narrated what was really happening. “And now we’re back in Fenway,” she said.
Fenway’s Green Monster seats in 2013 (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
What’s not obvious to fans is that Fenway Park is actually three buildings. Walls have been knocked down and the structures seamlessly integrated, but the old laundry building down the right field corner has the commissary and concessions. The Jeano Building (formerly the John B. Smith Building) along the left field line has been attached—the upper levels to widen the concourse and the lower level to install a batting cage for the visiting team. The Jeano Building used to be an automobile showroom; where the car elevator once was is now a fan stairwell and a means of walking to the Green Monster Seats. “We made a conscious decision not to make it look new and fresh,” she said.
“She is so open to ideas,” said David Ashton, whose eponymous design firm has worked with Smith for decades. “That’s, I think, one of her greatest strengths. She doesn’t just out of hand say no.”
The most visible and most famous addition to Fenway were the seats atop the 37-foot left field wall. Much of this new construction hangs over the Landsdowne Street sidewalk, meaning the Red Sox had to buy the air rights from the city. The signage is cantilevered forward so that it remains on team property.
“The fans obviously reacted well to it,” Smith said, “and made us feel like the idea of preserving Fenway wasn’t like preservation as in an object under glass and how do we keep the way it was, but how do we change it, how do we modify it, how do we make it work for today’s environment while still keeping its charm and its memories intact.”

A contractor putting up I-beams during the Fenway renovations diverted from his task. Rather than bolting them together as was done in the original construction, in this one (undisclosed) section, he began welding the beams together. Smith saw this happen and took action.
“Just, go ahead and weld the bolts where they ought to be,” she said. “Don’t tell me and don’t tell anybody else. We just wanted it to look like the original Fenway down to the details.”
As it is, Fenway has several forms: the original 1912 construction, a major 1934 enhancement, and the 10-year renovation plan that began in 2002. The ballpark cost $650,000 to build in 1912 dollars, close to $17 million in today’s money. The renovations bill for a decade of work until 2012 reached $285 million. In all, the Red Sox added some 3,000 seats to their capacity, in chunks of a few hundred here and a few hundred there.
Fenway Park is now listed as a national landmark, and a report by the Boston Preservation Alliance said of Smith, “Architect, planner, public relations expert, her overall accomplishment was really translating everyone’s needs into a cohesive reality.”

As Orioles president, Lucchino used to fine employees $5 for uttering the word “stadium.” He didn’t want some grand, impersonal structure, but a true home—a ballpark. Maryland’s governor in the 1980s, William Donald Schaefer, had been Baltimore’s mayor. He remained committed to revitalizing downtown and was insistent the Orioles build their new home near the city’s Inner Harbor.
“Each had a vision, and they were perfect together,” Smith said. “On their own, either one of them would have failed. Larry’s dream built out in the suburbs of Columbia would have been Disneyland, and Governor Schaefer’s dream without the architectural support that he got from Larry would have maybe been Kansas City on the outskirts of Baltimore. I still don’t think the world appreciates what an important collision of ideas that was.”
Smith led the Orioles’ efforts in collaborating with global architectural firm HOK Sport (now known as Populous) and Joe Spear, the founder and principal overseeing the design. Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 and altered the sport forever. No longer did clubs build generic concrete slabs housing a diamond. Instead, they emphasized cozy, retro, downtown ballparks that celebrated the local team and city. That, she said, is her proudest accomplishment, not any individual feature of the park.
“The real answer is that it started this movement into sports in general—but baseball in particular—of moving into inner-cities and trying to be a part of the urban community,” Smith said.
Eutaw Street at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Smith grew up a Braves fan in Mississippi, studied architecture at Mississippi State, and landed a job coordinating the development of Battery Park City, a primarily residential community in lower Manhattan built in the 1980s.
“I hadn’t aimed to work in baseball,” she said. “I was aiming to change a city.”
After attending an Orioles game at the old Memorial Stadium, Smith applied for the job. She had most recently been working on Pershing Square in Los Angeles but saw an opportunity.
“I can’t say honestly that it was ever even a dream until the minute it hit me the idea that the Orioles were going into downtown Baltimore and looking to do this old-fashioned, urban park,” Smith said. “Underscore ‘urban’ for me because I really had always admired the way Baltimore had changed itself from an industrial city into more of an entertainment center by adding the aquarium, the science center, put in the convention center downtown. All those things were so new for American cities, particularly those in the Northeast who had lost their industry.”
Her submission had initially been placed in the rejection pile, but Lucchino reviewed it anyway and liked her outsider view—that she hadn’t worked in sports was, to him, a plus.
“My work on Battery Park City very much influenced my thoughts about Camden Yards,” Smith said, “because it was one of the first big projects in America to shun the planning of the ‘60s and ‘70s of a tower and the park and these sort of ‘object’ buildings as opposed to something that was more contextual and integrated with the city.”

Dodger Stadium is best known for its “iconic tableau of the bleachers, the palm trees, the San Gabriel mountains,” Kasten said, adding: “We will never touch that.”
Smith’s work in Los Angeles follows a similar vein as at Fenway, albeit with unique challenges. Fenway is a century-old park jammed into the confines of city blocks; Dodger Stadium is carved into a mountain.
General view of Dodger Stadium (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
“So all of our expansion there has been to build these plazas out that are on the same level as the concourse, but it’s not a true concourse because every entrance is at grade,” Smith said.
Kasten first hired Smith in Atlanta to work on Turner Field (and also Phillips Arena), meaning Smith has worked for four clubs but two team presidents, Kasten and Lucchino, twice each.
The Dodgers have upgraded team clubhouses, expanded restrooms, improved WiFi, and other amenities to make game day more of a 21st century experience, Kasten said, adding that more work is slated for completion prior to the 2020 All-Star Game.
“It’s all about preserving a team’s history, being fan-friendly, and providing new technology and new offerings in a setting that is respectful of history,” he added. “That’s really important to her.”

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How Analytics Is Shaping the 2018 World Series and Baseball’s Future

Ahead of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, SportTechie spoke to Vince Gennaro to get insight into this year’s Fall Classic matchup and the future of analytics in baseball. Gennaro is the president of the Society of American Baseball Research and associate dean and clinical associate professor of NYU’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport.
The Impact of Analytics on the 2018 World Series
“Both teams are very prepared in that both teams have studied the information available to them. What I do think though is that the Red Sox were constructed in a way that is really completely in step with today’s game. I think the Red Sox have done a terrific job—as have the Dodgers.”
“The teams that are most likely to reach the World Series, or certainly the ones that make the postseason, are the teams that are in the top third of the league in analytics, and then also are particularly good at blending that with the scouting side of the sport. The blending is an important aspect. Analytics will not give them all the answers, but it will be a great component of the decision process along with top scouting insights from expert individuals who have years and years of experience.”
Baseball’s Analytics Era
“There’s so much that can be unlocked in the experience of insights of the people who have been around the game for years who are observing specific attributes that we’re not measuring today. I don’t know that that will ever change, but it’s also because we’re really in the early stages of analytics. It’s taken a real leap forward in the last three or four years in the Statcast era, but that’s only the beginning of the explosion of Big Data. From 2005 to 2015, that 10 year window, we increased the volume of data of what goes on during a baseball game by 1.3 million times.”
“We’re on the cusp now of integrating beyond what goes on on the field of play. We’re now talking about integrating neuroscience information. We’re talking about integrating biometrics about health and wellness.”
Engaging Fans With Data
“Numbers—data, statistics—are deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. While in another sport that might seem like almost intrusive on enjoying the sport, it is actually one of the ways that people have learned and enjoy the game of baseball. Either by looking at the back of the baseball card when they were a kid growing up or going to a ballgame with their mom or dad and scoring it on a scoresheet. Those parts are very culturally ingrained.”
“Now when you take it to the next level of getting into things like exit velocity and launch angle, that’s an acquired taste. That’s going to be something that some fans drive on and seek out, and other fans would perhaps consider that would interfere with the romance of the sport.”
Baseball and Sports Betting
“Baseball is ripe to see betting expand and part of it is that there are so many ways to analyze the game. And one of the reasons there’s so many ways to analyze it is the key component of the game is this discrete matchup, the confrontation between the pitcher and the batter. A lot of other sports are more continuous—flow sports—and they’re harder to assign value. They’re harder to isolate and measure.”
“This is the stuff that teams do all the time: They assess how their hitters respond to certain pitchers. Not by looking at the fact that they got six hits in 15 at bats, because that’s not significant enough, but rather how do they react to the pitcher that releases the ball from a certain point. How do they react to pitches that have downward movement. How do they react to a pitcher who pitches more to the inside part of the plate, to one who throws a changeup. All these different attributes of pitchers are meaningful in terms of how a hitter is expected to perform.”
“When you start clustering pitchers by similarity and seeing how hitters hit against those, you can start to make some real inferences. And when you rack all that up, when you look at a team’s roster and you say ‘Well you know what? This is not a great pitcher that they’re going to face, but they’re at a real disadvantage today because none of their hitters perform particularly well against this type of pitcher.’ That’s where the bettors will be attracted to inefficiencies like that in the market that may or may not be reflected in the odds.”

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The Value of Data for Players
“J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox has really optimized his talent with the use of analytics. He has crafted his swing, his swing mechanics, so that he gets maximum impact for the talent that he has. He becomes in many ways a model for other hitters … Here’s a guy who understands the dimensions of the ballpark. One of the wonderful great things about baseball is that the ballpark dimensions vary so much. He understands the dimensions of the ballpark that he plays in—Fenway Park in Boston—and has tailored his swing for that ballpark. I think he is a really textbook example of a player who has remade his career using information to his advantage.”
Talent Versus Intelligence
“It used to be talent trumped everything. But today because of the volume of information that exists, and how much we know about a player, how much a pitcher knows about a hitter, how much a hitter knows about a pitcher before they even face them, it’s the ability to continue along that chess match.”
“We know what the holes in this guy’s swing are, we’re going to exploit them. That used to take months or years to figure out with a certain hitter. Now you will know that probably before they take their first major league at bat.”
“I do think that if we could find a way, a good way to assess an athlete’s learning agility, his ability to incorporate new information into his game, then that will be another variable that will help select really great talent.”
“Just because someone performs well at the mid-level in the minors, it doesn’t mean he’s the best candidate for promotion to the next level of the minors, or that he projects necessarily to success at the major league level. It depends on what his skills are, and it also depends on obviously the quality of competition he’s facing. But it finally also depends on whether he’s adaptable enough, once people respond to him, to be able to make that next chess move.”
Home-Field Advantage in Los Angeles
“I would expect the Dodgers to put up a more formidable showing back in LA. That 40-degree difference of temperature is not a trivial thing. The Dodgers are not accustomed to playing in the weather that we saw in Boston, and the Red Sox are a little more accustomed to that, so I think that we’ll see a more even series.”
“Like most American League teams, the Red Sox are supremely built for the designated hitter. They will lose that when they go to the three games in LA now—Games 3, 4, and 5—and I think the pendulum will swing back to LA having an upper hand. Not just because you’re playing at home, but because they’re not as designed to employ the DH the way the Red Sox are, and the Red Sox are not designed to take one bat out of the lineup and have the pitcher hit. That they both hone their games appropriately to the leagues they play in will make the home-field advantage a pretty pronounced thing.”


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