Brock Holt, one-time slow-pitch softball outfielder, ready to face challenges of learning position at major league level

May 31, 2014 - 5:14 pm

Before he was asked by manager John Farrell to begin shagging fly balls during batting practice, Brock Holt's experience in the outfield was extremely limited. Holt never played outfield through tee-ball, Little League, high school and college. In fact, Holt has only played outfield on one occasion in his life: during a slow-pitch softball game. "It was fun, man," Holt said. "I caught a fly ball and threw a guy out at home." After taking his normal round of batting practice before Saturday's game, Holt scurried into the clubhouse and emerged with a glove, one bigger than his normal infielder's glove. Holt began to stretch it out and tried to flex the glove as much as he could. The glove, fresh out of the box, looked extremely stiff. Holt ran out to the outfield and began to chase after fly balls, getting a feel for reading the ball off the bat from a new vantage point. Holt, who entered Saturday hitting .299 with a .349 OBP and .390 slugging mark, says the push to increase his versatility by beginning to get some non-competitive reps in the outfield and at first base came from Farrell and the coaching staff. "It kind of helps out with me being able to play multiple positions with certain things within the game so I'm just going to continue to go out there and see the balls off the bat," Holt said. "Then occasionally get over to first base and work with [Brian Butterfield] around the bag and stuff." Holt has yet to take ground balls at first base, but is planning on doing so once he gets a critical matter in order: getting a first baseman's mitt. "I think I can do it," Holt said. "Obviously, you've just go to get over there and find a first baseman's mitt to use first and then get over there with [Butterfield] and I think we'll be fine. Me playing first base is probably, just a slim chance, just in case they need me over there so I can start taking a few ground balls over there and footwork and stuff around the bag as well." In regards to the outfield, Holt has yet to talk at length with any of the outfielders about the position. Holt, however, talked a little bit with Jonny Gomes about the intricacies of playing outfield at Fenway Park, which has one of the most distinctive outfields in baseball. "[Jonny] was kind of telling me, well they told me to take it in center for right now, but I'll be moving around," Holt said. "Obviously not in left right now because of the wall. That's kind of a new thing, but Jonny was telling me about centerfield and how it's easier to see the ball. They don't really slash or tail as much in center. They are more true. I'll talk to most of the guys that play out there to get any kind of advantage and hints I can get." Gomes says that Holt needs to be ready to go out to the outfield and learn from his mistakes. "This is day one but I'm sure we'll get together if his number does get called out there," Gomes said. "At the same time, there's just minimal things you can talk about and then you have to fail at some things, you have to succeed at some things. You make a mistake and then you fix it. If there hasn't been any mistake or success, it's a kind of a clean slate. With him running out there, he might make some mistakes or he might not and then we'll tighten it up from there." Gomes, who has spent significant playing outfield at Fenway from his time in both Tampa Bay and Boston, says that Fenway's outfield dimensions present challenges to any outfielder learning the ropes around the position. "Just starting with left field, where I've been playing for a while, an average fence is usually 335 to 340 feet away," Gomes said. "Where you stand, you stand at about 310, 315 feet away. Well, 310 feet is the wall [at Fenway], so you're way more on top of the hitter. As far as going back on a ball, you don't go back on a ball as much at this place and centerfield becomes, you know, you're number one insurance policy. At the same time, you're almost an extended infielder." Despite the challenges that learning how to play outfield at Fenway presents, Holt is up to the task. "Obviously, it's going to be different," Holt said. "I've never played out there and I'm used to being in the infield but I think going out there in BP and seeing live balls off the bats is going to help. I'll take a round of BP and then go out there and try to run some balls down."