Jonny Gomes heads into 2015 with the Braves. (Getty Images)

Jonny Gomes has reminder for Hanley Ramirez: Playing left field at Fenway isn't easy

Rob Bradford
March 17, 2015 - 10:02 am
Categories: 

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was only for 1 1/2 seasons, but few have managed the left field wall at Fenway Park as well as Jonny Gomes. It wasn't by accident, and it wasn't just because he was afforded a head start with the left field wall at JetBlue Park. "Well, I wouldn'€™t call myself an ambassador by any means," said Gomes, now an outfielder for the Braves. "I think I played that wall pretty well. But I think the cat is out of the bag that that wall is way different. From the padding to the net, the dimensions, feet-wise, are the same. I wouldn'€™t be in any hurry to master JetBlue'€™s wall for Fenway'€™s wall, but I guess it'€™s a good starting point." So, what would be his recommendation to the Red Sox' new left fielder, Hanley Ramirez? "I wouldn'€™t say experience as much as being extremely open and having the work ethic to learn it," Gomes said. "That wall hasn'€™t moved in 100-plus years and balls are bouncing off that wall pretty similarly to the way they did 100 years ago. At the same time, it'€™s so foreign from anywhere else. It'€™s not like grabbing a wall and throwing a ball off it. There'€™s a lot to be learned off that wall." Gomes, who was hitting third for the Braves' visit to JetBlue Tuesday, was not only good at playing the Fenway wall, but in some ways he was an innovator. Through working on the wall throughout his first spring training, Gomes incorporated a strategy never seen before from Red Sox left fielders -- catching balls directly off the wall instead of letting them bounce. The thinking behind the ploy was that little harm can be done if the ball is missed and gets away in front of the fielder. It would usually be a double, anyway. It's one of the many aspects of playing left field that outfield/first base coach Arnie Beyeler has been working with Ramirez on throughout the exhibition season. (Although the new left fielder hasn't truly been tested too many times thus far.) "He was very creative out there, catching the ball off the wall," Beyeler said of Gomes. "He started working on that, practicing that. That's something that if you don't play enough games out there you'll waste your time trying to do it and you create more problems. He sure opened an awareness of how you can control the game a little better." Now, it's Gomes' legacy that Beyeler is currently trying to pass on to Ramirez. (Note: Ramirez made a nice running catch in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game, cutting in front of center fielder Mookie Betts.) "The biggest thing that stands out to me is catching a ball off the wall, but you have to work on it," the coach said. "You can't go out there and do it, and then you still have to know speed of the runners, situations and if you get caught in between on a ball you change your risk/return on when you do something like that. He was really smart about that and had all kind of game awareness from that standpoint. "It's going to take time. It may take two or three years of getting to know all that stuff out there because you just don't get a lot of those balls out there to you. That's why we hit all those crazy balls out there to him, so it doesn't seem all that different and you can let your ability take over and react instead of thinking about it."