Harbor Park‘s riverfront location often puts in the middle of strong winds, posing some challenges for the Norfolk Tides (Class AAA; International League) and their opponents.
Originally opening in 1993, Harbor Park is located along the Elizabeth River and generally has a reputation as a tough environment for hitters. The location often leads to windy conditions at the ballpark, which has an effect on how far the ball carries–the Tides only hit 39 of their 103 home runs at home last season, and the 278 long balls hit there over the past three seasons mark the second-lowest total in the International League over that period (ahead of only Indianapolis). It can also create challenges on defense, with position players having to adjust to tough conditions for tracking fly balls and pop ups.
Windy conditions can particularly be a factor early in the season, which was evident during the Tides’ home-opening series against the Toledo Mud Hens that ran from Thursday-Sunday. More from The Virginian Pilot:
The ballpark’s reputation precedes it on the career paths of minor-leaguers in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Long before he manned right field in Norfolk, the Tides’ DJ Stewart had heard about the challenges of playing with the river at his back.
“There’s nothing like it. Really,” the former Florida State star said. “I’ve never played anywhere like this. I mean, you go to occasional places and you have an occasional windy day, but here it’s consistently windy. It’s just what you got, so you got to deal with it.”
Over the course of the Tides’ first four home games, only once, officially, was the wind blowing slower than 10 mph. During Friday’s game, it sat at a steady 17 mph and often gusted much harder.
The Elizabeth River runs, essentially, perpendicular to the ballpark’s first-base line. Especially early in the spring, the breeze coming off it toward home plate or the left-field corner can be relentless.
The Tides will have time in the early-stages of the season to get acclimated to the ballpark, as last Thursday’s contest marked the beginning of an 11-game homestand. The Durham Bulls come to Norfolk for four games starting on Monday, with the Charlotte Knights visiting the Tides for a three-game weekend series that starts on Friday.