THIRTY81 Origins March 27 2014

This post originally appeared as an update to the Kickstarter project "THIRTY81: A Poster Celebrating the Fields of Baseball", Oct. 1st, 2013.

The THRITY81 Project goes all the way back to 1980 when the nucleic core of the baseball virus was just beginning to attach itself to my DNA. My mother, who infected me, gave me a copy of the Kessler Baseball Handbook, a premium giveaway that included brief team-by-team analysis, full schedules, and notably, basic schematics of the then 26 ballparks.

It was the first time I was able to inspect all of the fields in one place. I studied every detail and was instantly fascinated by the variation in geometry from one ballpark to another. This was my first source and these scans are of the original copy.

Zoom ahead to the spring of 2000. While working as a graphic artist at The Washington Post, I was asked to create a series of graphics for the upcoming baseball preview section. One of the graphics focused on the wave of ballpark construction taking place and three new fields scheduled to open in Detroit, Houston and San Francisco. My original sketches included a comparison of existing ballparks and the trend in asymmetric retro design, which couldn't be further from the concrete multipurpose donuts that many new parks were replacing. However, like many newsrooms where printed space is a premium, the bold concept was reduced to a comparison of just the three new ballparks.

The idea resurfaced again during my time at The Baltimore Sun as the trend of construction continued. Ultimately, I decided instead to focus on another long imagined project — tracking foul balls. During nine consecutive games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I plotted the location of 214 foul balls hit into the seats in an effort to locate the ideal spot to catch an elusive souvenir. Clearly, the viral infection had now crested to incurable absurdity.

I have since left the newspaper business but still remain close to friends and colleagues within the industry. I also continue to explore new visual expressions related to my passion of baseball. Indeed, this past February I once again approached the idea of a ballpark comparison concept. The effort led to a graphic in the 2013 Los Angeles Times Baseball Preview comparing ballpark extremes, though it was significantly abbreviated from the original comprehensive proposal that included all 30 ballparks (that issue of space again). The original unabridged graphic can be viewed here at Visul.ly.

It was about this time that I began to notice many folks were finding success on Kickstarter with small poster projects. I did a bit of research on printing options and discovered a robust cottage industry of silk screen printers. That discovery afforded an opportunity and inspired me to design the original 31 poster series. I decided to brand the concept the THIRTY81 Project — 30 ballparks, 81 homes games.