Home News Brandon Nimmo, Harrison Bader say London Stadium turf is bouncy

Brandon Nimmo, Harrison Bader say London Stadium turf is bouncy

LONDON — Brandon Nimmo and Harrison Bader described the turf field at London Stadium using the same word: bouncy.

West Ham United typically plays on a grass field, but the grass was stripped after the club’s final soccer game of the season in May to be able to create a baseball field. The turf has been tested to make sure it’s safe for players wearing spikes, but as a result, the surface has a lot of give.

The Mets noticed it right away during their Friday workout.

“It definitely alters the way you kind of go after the ball,” said Bader. “But listen, at the end of the day, both teams are playing on it. I definitely run a little faster, it’s more springy. So that’s always nice.”

The Mets came away from the workout anticipating shallow hits in their weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies. They weren’t necessarily anticipating how difficult it would be for the outfielders to read the ball off the bat, but they found out Saturday in a 7-2 loss.

The shadows created by the partially enclosed roof and the shorter, flatter-looking stands made for a challenging day in center field and right field. Nimmo didn’t have as much of an issue with the shadows in left field, but Bader and Starling Marte struggled in center and right fields.

Marte missed a fly ball from Edmundo Sosa down the line during the fourth inning. Left-hander Sean Manaea was already having a tough time finishing hitters off and had Marte made that play, he would have been out of the inning with the game tied at 1-1. Instead, with two on and two out, Sosa hit an RBI single to keep the inning going and give the Phillies the lead.

The Phillies scored six runs in the inning, dooming the Mets.

“I kind of had to wait for the ball to get out of that shadow where it was,” Marte said through a translator following the loss. “Where I was positioned — where I started out positioned, it was just tough to see that.”

Marte had been positioned toward the middle and while he charged toward the right line after Sosa hit the ball, there was a moment of hesitation. He said he tried to read Sosa, who didn’t appear to know where it was going.

“He was also kind of lost,” Marte said. “I knew that a ball had been hit, but I just couldn’t pick it up right there. When I saw his reaction and I saw him move, I was able to pick it up shortly thereafter.”

Bader wasn’t able to get to a fly ball in center in the inning either. He came close, diving to catch a line drive from Kyle Schwarber. He managed to cover the ball on the ground and limit Schwarber to a single, but Christian Pache was still able to score.

However, Bader’s effort was obvious. It wasn’t as easy to see with Marte. His hesitation could be construed as a lack of hustle.

The numbers don’t help his cause: Marte’s -8 OAA is the worst among all qualified right fielders this season.

The 35-year-old was derided for his lack of defense in the outfield last season, only for him to reveal that he was still in pain from his October 2022 groin surgery. The Mets eventually shut Marte down for the season and he had to see a specialist.

However, Marte is healthy now and the defensive analytics don’t look great. He’s fighting the notion that age is catching up with him. Maybe it is or maybe it isn’t, but the Mets still value his strong arm in right field.

“He’s made some great plays, especially some throws in some key moments,” said manager Carlos Mendoza. “He’s working really hard… But his arms has won some games for us.”

Marte sees it as an issue of positioning.

“I think a lot of the plays that I’ve struggled with this year have been the ones that have been down the line,” he said. “I think those are the conversations that me and the coaching staff need to have going forward.”

It might be a tricky playing surface, but the Mets and Phillies both largely praised the job MLB did to get a soccer pitch ready for a baseball series. If there were any complaints, they weren’t public.

“Both teams are dealing with the same thing,” Bader said. “You just adjust on the go.”


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