Evans lauds Victorino for his work in right field
Gold Glove Award winners talk about quirky dimensions of Fenway Park
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago, the man long considered to be the best defensive right fielder in Red Sox history was asked by the club to give Shane Victorino a pointer or two.
It made perfect sense.
Dwight Evans had spent all but one season of his 19-year career with Boston, and he knew every nook and cranny of the most challenging right field in the Major Leagues.
Victorino was entering his first season with Boston and had played mostly center field in his career.
The chance encounter finally happened prior to the home opener last season, and it didn't last long.
"Well, last year they wanted me to talk to him in Spring Training, and I never got the opportunity," said Evans. "I was up there Opening Day and he looks at me and he goes, 'I'm supposed to talk to you about right field.'"
It was almost as if Evans had too much respect for Victorino's ability to give him a full-on tutorial.
"I said, 'Well, you know what, Shane? You've won a Gold Glove three times. You know how to play the outfield.' I told him that my barometer out there was Pesky's Pole. I'd always line myself up with that," said Evans, who is in currently in the midst of his annual stint as an instructor for the Red Sox in Spring Training.
And right after Evans said that and listened to the response, he could tell that Victorino spoke his language.
"He said, 'You know what? I've been looking at that and I think the same thing.' And he had only been in the park a couple of times, but he'd been down here in Spring Training, the dimensions are the same. That's kind of his barometer," said Evans.
"With a right-handed hitter, you line yourself up with the bags, second base and third base. He knows all this stuff. I can't teach him anything. He's a great right fielder. Fenway Park has the biggest right field in all of baseball. But he does a great job and I'm proud of him."
After that chat on Opening Day, Evans probably already knew that Victorino would emerge into the best right fielder the Red Sox had since … well, Dwight Evans.
"He's a great guy, too," said Evans. "He makes guys in the game play harder and play better. He's intense. He's fun to watch."
The Gold Glove Victorino won last season in his first full season as a right fielder was the fourth of his career.
It was the first time a Boston right fielder had won a Gold Glove since Evans reeled in the last of his club-record eight in 1985.
At the age of 33, Victorino is halfway to matching the Gold Glove trophies that reside in the Evans household.
"I've got a long way to go," Victorino said. "Guys like that who played in one position and have been so successful, those are the type of people you want to pick their brain."
That said, Victorino understood why Evans didn't get carried away with the advice.
"It's just going out there and getting a feel for it," Victorino said. "It's really hard to sit there and say, 'OK, well, this is what I did,' unless I go out there and experience it. Yeah, he can tell me some things. And that's what he did. He informed me of certain things, like the thing about the wall being short and going to your left on a ball down the right-field line and how the level of the wall plays sometimes."
Though he's had a full season of playing in Fenway Park, Victorino still has a thirst to increase his knowledge on defense.
"I always want to learn," Victorino said. "I never think that I know it all. I always want to learn and pick a guy's brain like that who had a lot of success and was probably one of the best right fielders in the history of Fenway Park. And I saw him here the other day. I'll probably pick his brain about some other things I have a question on. As I said, you've just got to go catch 'em."
What makes it harder to 'catch em' at Fenway than in other right fields?
For starters, the varying dimensions. Going down to the corner in right at Pesky's Pole, the distance is a mere 302 feet from home plate. But when you get to the front of the bullpen, it jumps all the way to 380. And the height of the wall also differs subtly from one point to another.
"To me, it was learning how that ball down the line, the fading short-liner plays," Victorino said. "That's the one that got me. Sometimes it's going to hug the line. Or sometimes I felt like a ball was hit and it's going to foul and then it ends up staying fair. That was the one play for me that was the toughest. And then once it bounces, is it going to sit on that line or is it going to kick and run along the wall?"
Since his retirement from baseball after the 1991 season, Evans never stopped watching the Red Sox. In fact, he still lives in Lynnfield, Mass., and is a frequent visitor to Fenway Park.
He has enjoyed watching all of the right fielders come through town, but none more than Victorino.
"Trot Nixon was good out there, and so was J.D. Drew," said Evans. "J.D. was really good out there and had a good arm. But you've got a guy in Shane, it's hard to get him out of the lineup. He's really got to be hurting. Believe me, they've got the best guy out there right now. When he's feeling good and healthy, there's no one better than him right now in Fenway."
There was a long stretch of time when the same thing was said about Evans, affectionately known throughout Red Sox Nation as "Dewey."
"Fenway Park was like the back of my hand," said Evans. "I really enjoyed that and I took a lot of pride in it. I worked hard. You know, I wasn't really good at enjoying the moment. I had a lot of things going on at home with my kids and stuff like that. Now when I go into Fenway Park or I do the legends suite and they play that little [highlight montage], I'm like, 'Man, I was a good player.' I wasn't too bad."