One of the most notable aspects that players and coaches talk about when referencing Tropicana Field is the catwalks up in the roof of the dome. Batted balls bounce off the catwalks, land on the catwalks and even go completely over the catwalks. Many players aren't even completely sure of the rules surrounding the catwalks.
Ever since the day I first stepped foot in Tropicana Field in 2008, I have wanted to go up on the catwalks and check it out for myself. Wednesday, I got that opportunity. With the help of the Rays' very kind media relations personnel and the Tropicana Field director of buildings operations, Chris Raineri, I got the chance to fulfill that desire. I even got to go out on the roof of the dome, which was amazing!
I arranged to have my photographer, Patrick Gamere, and me go up on the catwalks and shoot The Ultimate Red Sox Show. This episode took the word "ultimate" to a new level.
I have to say I was impressed with Patrick going up with me. When I told most people that I was going up on the catwalks, they told me I was crazy and had a death wish. Pat not only went up there, he lugged a 35-pound camera with him!
There are four catwalks in the dome. The lowest is about 90 feet above the field. If a ball hits either of the lowest two catwalks in fair territory, it is automatically a home run. In foul territory, it is a dead ball. If a ball hits one of the higher two catwalks in fair territory, it is still in play. The highest catwalk is about 200 feet above the field.
Even higher than the catwalks is a small platform in the middle of the dome that leads up to the roof. Up a narrow, grated staircase from the highest catwalk is a tight space with a freestanding ladder that goes up to a trapdoor, and the outside of the dome. That is where I saw the best view in all of Florida.
The top of the dome is covered in a rubbery, circus tent-type material that is a bit bouncy, like a trampoline. There are lightning rods and a small hut on top, over the trapdoor. It was a view and experience I will never forget.
I've never been one to get squeamish about heights, so it wasn't a challenge for me to go up there. I attribute that to years of camping and rock climbing/repelling with my family growing up. But I do have to say it was a unique and special experience that I will savor.