How The World Series Could Be Decided By The Right Field Wall At AT&T Park
Game 3 of the World Series is just hours away, and so please let me introduce you to the Giants' 10th man: the right field wall at AT&T Park. The area you see above is known by many names: Triples Alley, Willie Mays Wall, The Pence Fence, The Circus Room. But mainly it's a house of mirrors where anything and everything can happen.
It's so cute how the Kansas City Royals outfielders were fielding practice caroms off of the right field wall in practice on Thursday, as if that's going to help them over the next three games. This is an area that has driven veteran outfielders mad -- outfielders who play for the Giants. The 2014 Royals have never been here before.
Above is a handy guide to the different quirks and features of right field, and we're pretty sure it doesn't cover everything. I've seen hundreds of games at this park, in person and on TV, and even I don't know what happens when the ball hits the Levi's sign. Here's former Giants' right fielder Nate Schierholtz attempting to explain everything else:
"The most confusing part (of right field) is you never know what will happen," Schierholtz said. "If the ball hits any part of the screen (chain-link fence covering the arcades), it will come off soft. Off the bricks, it's a guessing game. You never know for sure, it's an educated guess."
The education started in 2007 when Schierholtz started watching and listening to teammate Randy Winn, a master of this right field. If there is a secret, it's in spending quality time in batting practice and in games, watching and experiencing.
And that's quality time that the Royals will not have.
"When the ball gets up in the air out there, it's like Candlestick Park all over again," said Eric Byrnes, who played that field one game when he was with Oakland. "Playing out there, that was the only time in my career I was ever afraid in the outfield. The sun was in my eyes, the wind was swirling. I was just praying they didn't hit it to me."
Fortunately for the Giants', their current right fielder is just about as quirky as their wall. Hunter Pence plays it as well as anyone has -- his catch off the chain-link fence during the NLDS vs. the Nationals has become one of the most iconic images of these playoffs.
But even Pence hasn't totally mastered right field. No one can. Many of the signs out there have raised letters. Plastic raised letters. Just so, you know, there is more of an undecided factor on where a ball hit off them can go.
With tight foul ground, gusts that whip off the bay, twilight starts and pesky seagulls that hover around in the late innings, a lot of balls become adventures in San Francisco. In 2007, Ichiro Suzuki hit the first inside-the-park home run in an All-Star game when his shot off the right-field wall took a weird ricochet.
Yes, don't forget the seagulls. The above paragraph is understated: in the late innings the birds can swarm like they're in a Hitchcock movie.
Face it Royals: you are through the looking glass. Good luck and pray for strikeouts.
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