MLB teams' empty-ballpark decorations, ranked

August 17, 2020

If you’re an MLB Extra Innings subscriber and you’ve flipped through multiple games in a day, you may have noticed that in the absence of fans Major League Baseball teams have dressed up the seating areas of their ballparks in a variety of ways. The following is a brief overview of each team’s approach, roughly organized from minimalist to maximalist.

Note that I’m not accounting for on-field differences. Many teams have added new advertisements on the backstop, on the mound, and perhaps even on outfield walls, but that’s beyond the scope of this taxonomy. You can look at the Angels images I grabbed and then this video from last year to see an example of one franchise’s changes.

Also, all images were pulled from games in August, except the ones for Busch Stadium in St. Louis, which come from a game in July.

Here we go: Minimalist —> Maximalist

Miami Marlins

When they removed the fever dream flamingo home run celebration sculpture, it signaled the franchise’s shift away from outlandish imagery toward a staid aesthetic. Hence: nothing in the seats.

Detroit Tigers

Nothing behind home plate, nothing in the outfield. Just rows and rows of deep green seats into nothingness.

Baltimore Orioles

Nothing behind home plate, nothing in the outfield. No ads, no cutouts. At least the seats are a slightly lighter, more pleasing, shade of green, and there's a plain green awning in the seats at the edge of the infield.

St. Louis Cardinals

A red sea of seats.

Pittsburgh Pirates

It looks like the Pirates have one advertisement in the outfield, from PNC, their ballpark’s naming sponsor. Other than that, they’ve got nothing in the seats.

New York Yankees

Instead of empty padded luxury seats like we saw in years past, the Yankees have chosen to put blank tarps over the sections behind home plate. Down the lines and in the outfield, some of the tarps have advertisements, but nothing bright or colorful.

Chicago Cubs

Nothing behind home plate, and multiple tarps with ads in the outfield. The ads appear to conform to a one-color edict, as they’re all white-on-green.

Colorado Rockies

Yes, there are cutouts behind home plate, but the Rockies took, perhaps, the least imaginative path possible and used what appear to be Picture Day mugshots of former players. Dinger (the most annoying mascot in MLB) is there, too. The outfield is empty.

San Francisco Giants

They’ve placed cutouts of fans in the seats behind home plate, several of whom are in, I suppose, “wacky” poses. The outfield is empty.

San Diego Padres

Dogs behind home plate! While the outfield is empty, the Padres were the only team I spotted with ads in the stands that are meant to be seen from the traditional dugout well shot of a batter in the box.

Milwaukee Brewers

There don’t appear to be any outfield ads or decorations of any sort in Milwaukee. They do have cutouts extending from behind home plate down the foul lines, however. Extra points for more good doggies.

Kansas City Royals

I don’t approve of the Royals including Marlins Man among their cutouts behind home plate, but I do approve of including C-3PO. Also, the Rockies should take note that this is how to depict former franchise greats in cutout form. The outfield is comparatively empty.

Washington Nationals

I think it’s clear who sponsors the expensive seats in the Nats’ ballpark. In the outfield, blue tarps match the blue seats, but the ads were allowed to be in color, unlike the Cubs’ ads. I think the Cubs’ version looks better.

Chicago White Sox

I don’t know who the White Sox have represented in the cutouts behind home plate, but there are dudes wearing suits. That earns demerits. Behind home plate, they’ve also placed ads over some seats. The outfield has at least one tarp with an ad.

Toronto Blue Jays (in Buffalo)

Since they’re playing in a minor-league park, even a Class-AAA facility, there aren’t many seats in the outfield at all, and so there aren’t many opportunities to do anything with them. Behind home plate, they’ve placed fan cutouts. But the reason I’ve placed the Blue Jays here on the scale is because they’ve installed bright blue tarps over the seats down the lines, but also managed to place their team logo on various seats.

Boston Red Sox

You likely won’t see them from the regular center-field camera, but there are a few cutouts in the seats at Fenway Park. As best I can tell, there are a few behind the home dugout, but you’d be forgiven for missing them because the team has installed big giant branded awnings between the backstop and dugout. I’m also a little concerned seeing people (ball boys?) sitting outside the protective netting and in close proximity to home plate. The outfield seats are mostly empty, but there is a prominent Black Lives Matter sign.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves also don’t have many cutouts in the stands, but at least they put them behind home plate, where they can be seen. They, too, have set up branded awnings, though theirs are at least partly beyond the dugouts. I didn’t see any outfield adornments.

Los Angeles Angels

Clearly, someone with the Angels decided that if outside entities weren’t going to pay for ad space in their empty seats, the team would take advantage themselves. There’s very little going on behind home plate, but if there’s a fly ball to right, you see a couple ads, a public service piece, and multiple giant tarps with the Angels’ logo, both in fair and foul territory. We get it, guys: the Angels are at home. We know it’s the Angels game because we chose to watch it.

Tampa Bay Rays

I don’t get it. Why are there cutouts in the outfield seats, alongside full-color ad tarps, when there aren’t any cutouts in the few visible seats behind home plate?

Minnesota Twins

This is good stuff. Instead of vaguely life-sized cutouts in seats where the center field camera will see them, the Twins have placed Big Heads that look like Wilson on Home Improvement. They don’t appear to have done anything nearly as interesting in the outfield, where there are a few tarps with ads.

Cincinnati Reds

Gotta respect whoever put an infant’s picture on a cutout behind home plate. Why are there so many empty seats in the middle of the frame? Beats me. In the outfield, they made the interesting choice of matching the ad-tarp color with the green wall, rather than the red seats, and they feature full-color ads.

Cleveland Indians

Even in normal times, the backstop in Cleveland is designed such that you don’t really see fans from the primary center field camera, so not much has changed there. But other camera angles show that the club placed a few scattered cutouts in the stands. It looks like the outfield has a takeover campaign from Progressive Insurance, the naming sponsor for the ballpark, featuring cartoon illustrations of the company mascot, Flo, trying to catch fly balls. Sure!

Oakland Athletics

Again, what’s with the Marlins Man cutout? Anyway, the A’s have a long history of cultural shagginess, which I mean in the best possible way, so I’m pleased to report seeing a possum among the cutouts behind home plate. Moreover, while the outfield already had tarps over the highest seats before this season, and now there are a few ad tarps, the team has also hung up banners that are, ostensibly the same ones that fans would have hung up in the outfield had they attended.

Texas Rangers

There are only a few seats visible behind home plate on TV broadcasts, so there are only a few cutouts. Someone also put physical masks on the cutouts, themselves. The outfield has white-on-green tarp ads, but those have been placed above sections that are filled with cutouts.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Behind home plate, the D-Backs break the mold by going with a few cutouts in the luxury seats that appear to show people standing up. The outfield doesn’t seem to have a lot going on, but there is a section near the bullpen that is filled with… something. ENHANCE.

Oh wow I think those are — stuffed bears? Love it!

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have cutouts of fans filling multiple sections across two decks behind home plate and down the lines. There’s also at least one big ad in foul territory. From watching some of their games, it seems the team put some thought into whose images they would use for cutouts and placed them accordingly. That is, Tommy Lasorda is in his usual seat, as is Mary Hart, superscout Mike Brito is there with his radar gun, and so on. In the outfield, the ad tarps are multiple colors, though in this picture, it appears two of them have a default background of dark blue, a different shade than the sky blue walls.

New York Mets

The Mets also allowed multi-sized cutouts behind home plate — check out the two dudes in the front row with massive noggins. In the outfield, where most teams that have outfield ads dictated the tarp color, the Mets allowed advertisers to go with full-color imagery, billboard style.

Houston Astros

The Astros went with fan cutouts behind home plate, though I can’t shake the suspicion the (non-George H.W. Bush) guy in the suit is either a politician or, like, a lawyer who’s paying for the exposure as a kind of advertising. It looks like they might have a Chick-Fil-A ad on the first base side, with two cows and an oversized baseball glove, but more interesting is that they’ve filled entire sections with cutouts both in foul territory and the outfield, while leaving other sections completely empty. I can’t figure the pattern. The second deck features tarp ads with photography, which seems ill-advised, but I’m not the one buying the ad space.

Philadelphia Phillies

This is dedication. It appears the seats behind home plate are occupied by cutouts of a mix of frontline pandemic responders, fans, and the Phanatic in a mask, with varying head sizes. Better yet, the stands down the lines and into the outfield have been filled with cutouts! Now I need to know how, or if, they’re rotated, if cutouts are “sitting” in their likeness’s season ticket seats, and more.

Seattle Mariners

So fine, they have a T-Mobile advertisement among the cutouts behind home plate. But just look at how many cutouts there are in this ballpark! They’re everywhere!

(See all these images, plus a few extras, in one place here.)