ST. PETERSBURG — In opening a 20-foot wide slice of the centerfield wall, the Rays created a space to give fans a new view of the game.
But it was also news to manager Joe Maddon, who didn't know anything about the change and upon first look Monday had concerns that it could impact play.
"I'm as surprised as everybody else," Maddon said. "I'm seeing it for the first time. I didn't know the utility behind it."
The opening is to the left of centerfield, so the primary concern is that having fans there, and especially moving, could distract lefty hitters as they look for the ball from right-handed pitchers.
Another issue is that the open area is fronted by a chain link fence, so outfielders may have to be more cautious, and the ball will come off the wall differently from the surrounding areas that are covered with padding.
The Rays, who presumably got MLB approval for the change, say the area is open to all fans, though they are not allowed to use lights or flash photography.
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer