There’s no doubt that Fenway Park has arguably the biggest home field advantage. A huge part of that advantage comes from knowing the outfield. Fenway is known for its massive right and center fields, which taper into a very shallow left field. And of course, there’s the Green Monster. If a team knows how to use it, they can not only earn runs, but also stop them.
But perhaps no one knows the Monster better than Jonny Gomes. In fact, he’s so good that advance scouts tell teams not to bother trying to advance to second when Gomes is in left field unless he gets tripped up.
Gomes spoke to the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman about his method and the actual science of playing the Green Monster:
First, he accesses whether the pitcher is a lefty or a righty and whether the batter is a lefty or a righty.
Batters hook and slice a ball differently depending on what side they hit from and what hand the pitcher throws with. Anyone who’s played pool and understands the intricacies of applying English to the cue ball understands what Gomes is talking about.
“I’m 30 feet away from The Wall and instead of 310 feet from the hitter like in a normal ballpark, now I’m like 270 — if you’re talking about a big right-hander, that ball’s getting on you hot,” Gomes said. “When you talk about right-handed slice, left-handed slice and top-spin, that gets totally exposed at 270 feet.
“There’s a formula you have to figure out. That ball will kick to the right, to the left or that ball will fall down true. When you throw a ball off a wall, you think it will bounce right back to you. Not in baseball. That ball will bounce that way or that way.”
If the ball bounces off the ladder, all bets are off. Last year, one ball miraculously bounced through and back without touching a rung.
Another variable to consider are the dead spots. When the Red Sox added the Monster seats, they altered the guts of The Wall, and two concrete support pillars were placed flush against it. A ball bouncing off those “hot spots” will have a lot more velocity than elsewhere.
And one more factor to add to the equation.
“There’s really a formula to where you don’t have to be the best outfielder to play that wall good, you don’t have to be the most athletic, you have to know where the ball is going,” Gomes said.
Even for the most baseball-minded person, that’s extremely complicated stuff. On top of having to assess general information about a batter, Gomes has to know specifics about a batter as well. He has to know how fast a batter is and how heavy of a hitter they are. And this all has to happen in the time it takes for a batter to get up to the plate until they hit the ball.
So while Gomes may not be the most productive player at the plate for the Sox, he possesses a skill that most outfielders would need more than a season to master, making him a nearly irreplaceable part of the team.