Oct 25, 2014 1:00 PM
Splash shots still define Giants' ballpark
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Imagine if big league boppers rarely dented the Green Monster at Fenway Park. Or hardly ever hit drives onto Waveland Avenue at Wrigley Field. Or never came close to the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards.
OK, now try to picture San Francisco's ballpark without splash shots.
Tough to do, right?
Those moonshots that plop into McCovey Cove and set off kayak scrambles are surely the signature moments at AT&T Park. They just don't happen too often, though a certain behemoth in black and orange once made it seem that way.
"They'd always show Barry Bonds hitting all these home runs into the water," Kansas City great George Brett said this week. "I couldn't even wait to get here today to see the place."
The Hall of Famer got his first look at the park Thursday when the Royals held a World Series workout. He was surprised by one aspect.
"It's 309 feet down the right-field line. I didn't know that," he said. "I thought it was 330 feet."
Still, there aren't a ton of balls flying over the 25-foot brick wall, carrying past the 27-foot sidewalk and getting wet.
A total of 20 in the last three years, in fact. The Giants hit five this season, opponents hit eight.
Funny how a ballpark known for majestic home runs is really one of the most difficult places in the majors to hit any. Right field, not so simple.
"It's obviously pretty tough if you do the math there," Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "All the elements play into it. It's a high wall, the wind kind of blows in off the water and it's a little ways out there. That's what makes it tough."
The lit-up "Splash Hits" number on the wall keeps track of the balls hit by the Giants that land in the water. To date, it's 68 that's in 15 seasons. Visitors have hit 36, including a shot by Washington's Bryce Harper this month in the NL playoffs.
Bonds did it 35 times.
"Barry made it look pretty easy compared to everybody else," Crawford said.
Crawford did OK this year, sending two shots into the water. Among his current Giants teammates, Pablo Sandoval is the leader with seven.
The Royals held batting practice at AT&T Park on Thursday, a day before they beat San Francisco 3-2 to lead the Series 2-1.
Naturally, Kansas City's left-handed hitters tried to cause a ripple during the workout.
"It seems a little closer. On TV you can make anything look like how you want it to look," third baseman Mike Moustakas said.
"I caught a couple out in front that I managed to hit out. I don't know if they went in the Cove or not. That's a pretty deep shot out there," he said.
Opened in 2000 as Pacific Bell Park, and mostly called Pac Bell before it became SBC Park and later AT&T Park, the stadium appeared to be a homer haven at the outset.
In the very first game, Kevin Elster returned after taking a year off from baseball and hit three homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bonds and two teammates also connected for the Giants that afternoon.
Bonds hit 49 home runs that season, then launched a record 73 in 2001. In those two seasons combined, he put 15 pokes in the water.
By then, the ballpark had earned a reputation. There were plenty of other features the giant Coke bottle, the humongous glove, the views of the Bay Bridge but the splash hits became synonymous with the new stadium.
Bonds' last season was 2007, the year the All-Star game was held in San Francisco. He opted out of the Home Run Derby, but lefty sluggers Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Justin Morneau took part. No one connected for a splash shot.
In the seven seasons since Bonds left, there have been a combined 44 get-wet drives.
"It's not easy. It's definitely not easy. He made it look easy, but it's not easy," said Kansas City's Raul Ibanez, who's hit 305 career home runs.
He would prefer the Royals look to spray the ball this weekend, rather than trying to splash it.
"You probably shouldn't ever think about hitting a ball down the right-field line as a hitter. There's not a lot of benefit for you. It opens you up to all kinds of stuff," he said. "Believe me, I've done it enough. It doesn't work."
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.