Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SMALLS TALK: You Play Right Field?

Whenever someone asks me what position I play, I always try to gauge their Baseball IQ before issuing a response. If the person seems to have a grasp on the game - or better yet, some playing experience at a competitive level - it's a no-brainer: "Right Field."

But if the inquirer strikes me as the type of fan who's surprised to discover baseball spikes are actually metal - or someone who would pronounce the first name of Chone Figgins as it is spelled - well, that's when it gets tricky. When fielding the question from this lesser-informed type of baseball fan, my reply becomes decidedly more vague: "Outfield."

The second response is less specific, but it's no lie. Whether you're a corner guy or a center fielder, outfielders are often times labeled by the all-encompassing 'OF' tag.

But while I've played hundreds of games at all three outfield positions, during the last few seasons, I've found myself in Right Field night after night. It's become my everyday spot, and the definite answer to which position I play - so why not just say so? 

Think of your Little League team. The positions are essentially predetermined: the kid with the best arm pitches, the best athlete plays Shortstop, the oversized slugger plays First Base, the scrappy hard worker is behind the dish, the speed guy plays Center, and the kid who's there solely because his Dad wants him to play organized sports - the player who couldn't tell you whether he's a Righty or a Lefty - well, he's in Right Field.

He's not playing Right Field, he's in Right Field - picking flowers, wearing his glove as a hat, lying down making 'grass angels' - you name it, I've seen it. These are my fellow Right Fielders.

It's superficial, but it's a stigma that will forever accompany the Right Field position in the minds of those with minimal baseball knowledge. And it doesn't matter how far you've made it either - while debating the talents of Nick Swisher, I once heard a Swisher basher scoff as he argued "but he plays Right Field!" as though Nick was only on a Big League team because his Dad knew the coach.

It's funny seeing the faces of those foreign to the game when they hear I play Right Field. You see them racking their brain: "Didn't Franklin Wineguard play Right Field on my Bombers team? He was awful." And then it clicks in their mind - he was the worst player on their team. And just like that, I have become the professional baseball equivalent of young Franklin.

The truth is, there's no one out there who's always played Right Field - it's a position you grow into. In fact, so is Left Field. Second Base, too.

Almost every Right Fielder in college baseball played a different position in high school. Personally, I patrolled Center Field in my school boy days, but once I got to college, I was no longer the fastest outfielder. My teammate took over Center, and I was bumped to Right.

Right Field has a different dynamic than Center. The Center Fielder captains the outfield, and has fly ball priority over every player on the field. He has more ground to cover, and it is his job to move his corner guys positionally according to scouting reports, specific counts, and game situations. In Center, defense is the number one focus. 

Right Field is a little different. As opposed to Web Gems and outfield assists, you're more concerned with batting average and RBI's. Right Field is a hitter's position - your offensive production will determine your playing time, not your putouts. A coach of mine once told me, "You could be the worst defensive player on the field, but as long as you drive in more runs than your defense allows, everyone will love you."

That may be true, but I'm not about to let my defense resemble that of my Little League counterparts. Defense will always be an important part of my game, but it's true: hitting rules all.

While I loved the defensive responsibilities of Center Field, I'm enjoying my role as a run-producing Right Fielder as well. I'm proud to play Right Field - although I may still not be ready to tell everyone what position I play.


  1. right fielders have better arms than left fielders. so you got that going for you.

  2. Hilarious! I knew you would get funnier as the season started! Love the references to little league, so true!

  3. excellent post, very entertaining, and superb writing per usual. advice to all lower level hard!!!

  4. one of your better photoshopping efforts... clearly you arent too busy with baseball!!

  5. Great post - reminds me of something that happened with my 15 year old step son, Aaron last week. During a family get together my next door neighbor asked him what instrument he played...I thought to myself, please say " percussion ", but he followed it up with the truth " I play the triangle " ...

    curveball strike threeeeeeeeeeee

  6. Brilliant post Scotty....good luck this week! We are rooting for you big time!