Rockies extoll virtues of learning quirks of each park

Rockies extoll virtues of learning quirks of each park

Rockies extoll virtues of learning quirks of each park

TORONTO -- Prior to Monday's game against the Blue Jays, Rockies advance scout Chris Warren and catching instructor Jerry Weinstein walked to the right-field corner of Rogers Centre, throwing baseballs against the fence and observing. Every few feet, they'd repeat.

They noted how the ball deadened when it hit the unmarked padded parts of the wall, and how it rebounded a little better where the wall was covered with ads. They noted the quick rebound from the clear plastic protecting the bullpens in right- and left-center, and the even quicker rebound off the scoreboards along the fences in the power alleys.

Rogers Centre is the only AstroTurf surface the Rockies will play on this year, so Warren and Weinstein tested how the ball reacted when it bounced from the turf to the small dirt cutouts around the bases. They tested dirt around the plate and the foul lines, and noted the expansive foul ground on either side and behind home plate. They threw balls off the backstop. They looked at how the indoor lighting affects various positions.

The routine drew more eyes Monday because of the unfamiliar surroundings of Rogers Centre. But it's a ritual the pair undertake everywhere the Rockies go, even if it's a place where they play regularly.

Actually, it's something professionals do instinctively, and players and coaches at amateur levels should do, but often don't know that they should. But Warren said having him and Weinstein do it early, well before batting practice, has a practical value.

"It's good for me just to give those guys time to rest in the locker room and get prepared for the game," said Warren, a former shortstop in the Rockies' farm system. "They're able to look out for certain places, in case they get a tricky hop or tricky bounce off the wall. It's part of my job. If I can prepare our team to its best point, it's less stuff to worry about, and they can just react to certain situations."

For example, the expansive area in foul ground and from home to the backstop is not only a factor when it comes to fielding foul balls. Offensively, it may make the difference between going from first to second or first to third on a wild throw from an infielder. Defensively, it means outfielders have to hustle, in some cases covering great distances, to back up infield throws.

"Sometimes, they don't figure it out until they get beat, so my theory is: Don't make the same mistake once," Weinstein said.

Weinstein noted that getting to know a field is advice that can make a difference to youth players as well the volunteer coaches who are giving their time, since every field has differences. He offered as an example that the infield dirt at Coors Field runs deeper than at most Major League parks.

"Young shortstops see where the infield is cut, and they stand where they stand relative to the cut," Weinstein said. "For me, you have to work off the baseline. The baseline is always the same, whereas the cut of the infield is always different. So if it's deeper and you play relative to where the cut is, the ball gets to you, and the guy is safe by two steps because you're playing a lot deeper relative to the cut and not relative to the baseline."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.