How New Minor League Lighting Requirements Will Help Hitters, Fielders At Lower Levels

Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

A few years from now, some minor league outfielder will be unaware of how good he has it.

Somewhere, at some Class A stadium in Illinois or North Carolina or Oregon, he’ll step into the batter’s box against a young pitcher at the moment when day melts into night.

Maybe he will strike out. Maybe he’ll smash a ball to the wall. But it will be a fair fight—batter versus pitcher.

And then he’ll wander out to center field. There will be a ball hit into the gap, one of those high flies that sails deep into the night sky. He’ll track the ball the entire way, run it down and start to jog in with the third out nestled in his glove.

As normal as that might seem, it will be different from today, because the ballpark will be twice as bright.


That player won’t ever know the difference. But those who have gone before him will. To fans at a game, one park looks like another. But for the players on the field, there are clear differences.

Some ballparks have even, well-distributed lighting. Others have spots where players—especially outfielders—can step into the shadows. Some have low-slung lighting where fly balls become harder to track.

“You’ll have shadows and dead spots when the lighting isn’t up the standard it should be. (The new lighting standards) will make it closer to the big leagues,” one long-time minor league manager said. “It affects everybody. Where it has the biggest effect is at twilight when the lights haven’t fully kicked in. Sometimes it would be really tough to see because the lights hadn’t taken over.”

Some stadiums are dim. But they won’t be for much longer.

As part of the new Professional Development License facility standards, all full-season affiliated ballparks around the country will be required to upgrade their lights to meet standards previously required only for the top levels of the minors.

Going forward, all full-season affiliated ballparks will be required to be illuminated to 100 foot-candles around the infield and 70 foot-candles in the outfield.

Previously, Class A parks were required to be illuminated to 70 foot-candles in the infield and 50 foot-candles in the outfield.

By comparison, 50 to 75 foot-candles is roughly the lighting of a grocery store. An operating room is designed to be lit at 100 foot-candles. An overcast day can dip to 100 to 200 foot-candles of illumination as well. A sunny day is 10,000 to 100,000 foot-candles. Major League Baseball stadiums are generally illuminated to 300 foot-candles or more.

According to the numbers Baseball America has obtained from recent audits, as few as three Low-A clubs outside the Low-A Southeast League meet the increased lighting requirements. Clubs in the Low-A Southeast League, the successor of the Florida State League, generally have better lighting because they also host major league spring training games. Some have been measured at as few as 50 foot-candles in the infield, half of the upgraded requirement.

The majority of Double-A teams also will need to improve their lighting because most do not meet the 100 foot-candle requirements. Triple-A is the only level where a majority of teams meet the upgraded lighting requirements, which were already in place for the classification under the previous facility standards.

“It definitely will help outfielders develop quicker. Also it will help hitters literally see the ball. Some of those parks were fun to pitch at, but not fun when the outfielder lost a ball in the skies,” said an active minor league lefthander with time in the minors and majors.

“You can definitely tell a difference, no doubt. Me being an outfielder, bad lighting was way more noticeable on defense than at the plate. It’s still noticeably different on both sides of the ball,” said a long-time major league and minor league outfielder.

How much difference does it make? The data is quite noisy, so only broad assumptions can be made. Minor league stats have splits for day and night games, but they cannot easily be divided into day and night games at home and on the road. So a team that plays in a dimly-lit home park but in better-lit road parks will see both reflected in its day-night splits.

In the major leagues, day and night games show virtually no difference in player performance.

In fact, in 2018 and 2019—the last two seasons with full 162-game schedules— MLB hitters hit .251/.320/.424 at night and .248/.317/.419 during the day. They walked at the same rate (8.49% of plate appearances during the day, 8.50% at night) and struck out at similar rates (23.14% in the day and 23.33% at night).

Triple-A, which has had the best lighting in the minor leagues, also has seen very little difference between day games and night games. At Low-A, which generally has had the worst lighting, hitters hit .244/.321/.366 at night and .251/.329/.379 during the day. Hitters walked slightly more often during the day and struck out 1.6% more often at night.

Baseball America looked at day-night splits for the 2018 and 2019 seasons at all full-season minor league levels and the major leagues.

The results show that hitters perform as well or even better at night than during the day in the majors, which has well-lit parks. At the lower levels of the minors, where the lighting is generally dimmer,
there are notable disparities in offensive production between day and night games.

Major league hitters fared slightly better in night games than day games in 2018 and 2019. The opposite was true in the minors, where hitters were less productive in night games. They hit for a lower average, reached base less often, hit for less power, walked less frequently and struck out more often.

MLB .248 .317 .419 8.49 23.14
AAA .267 .343 .437 9.19 21.52
AA .249 .329 .390 9.30 21.80
HiA .250 .329 .377 8.98 21.86
LoA .251 .329 .379 8.87 22.17
MLB .251 .320 .424 8.50 22.33
AAA .267 .342 .435 9.17 22.39
AA 0.247 0.323 .378 8.84 23.02
HiA .249 .326 .372 8.88 23.36
LoA .244 .321 .366 8.68 23.77
MLB 0.003 0.003 .005 0.01 -0.08
AAA -.001 -.001 -.003 -0.02 0.87
AA -.002 -.005 -.012 -0.45 1.22
HiA -.001 -.003 -.005 -0.10 1.50
LoA -.006 -.008 -.013 -0.19 1.60


Teams have until 2025 to fully comply with the new standards, but because there are other, more complicated facility standards such as larger clubhouses and locker rooms for female staff, it’s expected that most minor league teams will upgrade their lights in the next
couple of years. The move will also produce power savings as teams switch to more efficient
LED lighting.

This means the next waves of minor league players will be able to see better on their climb to the majors.

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