SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The irresistible talents of the Kansas City Royals' outfielders may be tested by the inscrutable elements of San Francisco's quirky right field when the World Series resumes on Friday.
Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and Nori Aoki all had a cram course on Thursday's off-day in gauging caroms off the AT&T Park wall ahead of a Game Three that will snap a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven championship.
"It's tough," said center fielder Cain, who has been filling up a highlight reel with an array of diving catches this postseason. "Rusty Kuntz, our outfield coach, was hitting balls off the wall for us today and I mean the ball was going all over the place."
The 24-foot-high brick wall begins 309 feet (94.18 meters)from home plate at the foul pole but angles out steeply in two stages to 421 feet as it nears center field, with padding alternating with chain link across the bottom.
"You try to read it as best as possible," said Cain. "But the way the brick is built and the chain-link fence, it's possible the ball can go any which way."
Speedy outfielder Dyson, who frequently comes into a game as a late-inning defensive replacement, said the angle often shoots a ball away from the right-field line.
"It kicks away from you, everything goes towards right-center," Dyson told Reuters after practice.
That is, unless it hits the softer, lower part of the wall and drops with a thud.
"There's a lot of ground to cover, which is in our favor," Dyson suggested, referencing the Royals' speed in the spacious outfield.
"Hopefully (batted balls) don't get above, where we can't catch it, and have to play it off the wall. If we do, just try to make sure we don't look crazy out there."
And then there is the wind, often blowing in hard off China Basin, the section of San Francisco Bay directly behind the wall.
In the National League Championship Series both the Giants and Cardinals misjudged fly balls they thought would hit high off the wall or over it for home runs only to see them knocked down by wind for what should have been potential catches.
"You have to be careful. There's a lot of uneven surfaces out there," said Aoki, who has previously played in San Francisco's stadium from when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We have to back each other up as best as we can.
"It might be better to have the mental image that two people are going after the ball," he said, stressing the importance of backing one another up.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury