Mets hitters including David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda got a preview of Citi Field’s new dimensions Wednesday, when they hit on a back field in Port St. Lucie that has been reconfigured to match the Flushing ballpark’s new look.
“You could tell. And if you couldn’t tell, Jeff was there to remind you,” Wright quipped, referring to chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, who planned to join Wright for a round of golf after the optional position-player workout. “It was fun. It’s a little different down here in Florida. You’ve got the wind. You’ve got the humidity. So the ball doesn’t probably carry as much as it will in different conditions. But obviously if you ask a hitter if they enjoy hitting in a more-hitter-friendly park, they’re going to say yes. And I’m no different than that.”
Said Murphy: “The wind was blowing out to left pretty good, so that felt pretty good. I saw David hit some balls out. I think he hit one out to right-center. I think Jeff came up and said something to him. He was like, ‘See, I told you we brought them in.’ And then Duda hit a couple out to left. And there was one ball, the last swing I took, to 358 in left-center that ran out of real estate that I was like, ‘All right, I kind of like that a little bit.’”
An ESPNNewYork.com study determined 13 shot Wright hit that stayed in the ballpark over the past three seasons would have been homers had the new dimensions been in place since Citi Field debuted in 2009. Manager Terry Collins sees an additional psychological benefit, too.
The old fence on the back field in Port St. Lucie remained intact, with the new fence built in front of it, allowing players to survey the precise changes.
“Today shows you there’s a big difference,” Collins said. “When you walk out there and looked at the actual dimension changes, how many balls were laying behind that first fence? It’s going to be a difference. It’s going to change the way these guys think when they’re at home plate. … I just think this is going to ease some minds. When they walk up there, David Wright is going to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to put a good swing on this ball and hit it hard. And if I hit it to right-center field I have a chance to do some damage,’ where this past year I saw many guys thinking they have to pull the baseball to hit a homer. And therefore we came off some balls or we hit some routine fly balls, or we swung and missed a bad pitch because we’re coming off a little bit.”
Collins predicted lefty hitters will benefit, too.
“Lucas Duda became a very good hitter because he drove the ball to left-center field as a minor leaguer -- which is something you try to teach every minor league player,” Collins said. “Most players, at a certain level at professional baseball, they want to try to pull. They want to try to hit homers. And you work and work and work to try to get them to understand they can drive the ball the other way. Lucas Duda, that’s what he did. And when he got to the big leagues, he said, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to start pulling the ball to hit a homer.’ So I think it’s going to make a big difference. The same with Ike [Davis].”