World Series MVP Mike Lowell took one look at the 201-foot left-field line and smiled.
“I could do some damage here,” he said.
The Coliseum’s cozy confines were also to the liking of Boston teammate David Ortiz.
“I wish all big league ballparks were like this,” he said in Spanish after lofting nearly two dozen balls over the makeshift fences in batting practice, then tossing a few more into the stands for good measure.
It might not have been baseball they played on a football field Saturday night, but it sure looked fun.
In batting practice, for example, one of Kevin Youkilis’ shots made the short trip to the left-field screen so quickly it stuck in the net. Then in the third inning, he hit one over it.
Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, thankful he wasn’t pitching on this night, ran to the clubhouse to retrieve his digital camera and take photos of the wiffle ball-sized field.
“This is unbelievable,” he said, pointing to the left-field power alley, a cramped 280 feet from home plate. “That’s what I played on when I was 12.”
But Buchholz, who still looks 12, wasn’t playing against Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones and Russell Martin when he was in junior high. So trying to squeeze big leaguers onto a field too small for a decent putting green required some compromise, resulting in a game that was more like Arena Baseball than a true major league game.
Even Pete Carroll, USC’s 56-year-old football coach, was able to go deep there, hitting three balls over the left-field screen last week. “I owned it,” Carroll boasted Saturday.
The field was so small the Dodgers used only two outfielders, positioning left fielder Andre Ethier in left-center and center fielder Jones on the dirt behind second base and allowing him to take throws on stolen-base attempts. Boston’s alignment was more traditional, though it was uncertain why because when the Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal lined a ball off the left-field wall in the first inning, it was played by Julio Lugo, the Red Sox shortstop.
And the first base coaching box was so close to the Dodgers’ dugout, Boston’s Luis Alicea could engage them in conversation. While whispering.
“It’s a true exhibition game,” said Boston infielder Alex Cora, who admitted he wasn’t totally sure what would be exhibited. But he was willing to go along since the game was a benefit for the Dodgers’ anti-cancer charity ThinkCure.
“If the fence is 100 feet [away], it’s 100 feet. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s for a great, great cause. I’m more impressed by the number of seats out there.”
And virtually all of them were filled, with hundreds more fans standing along the right-field fence in the peristyle end of the Coliseum, making Saturday’s crowd of 115,300 the largest in baseball history.
“It’s more of an event,” said Boston Manager Terry Francona, whose team is already two games into its regular-season schedule. “We’re just going to have to be flexible.”
Like Tim Powell, whose flexible travel plans allowed him to come all the way from Indianapolis with his 16-year-old son Robbie to see the game.
“We just love baseball,” the elder Powell explained.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, who called his first game at the Coliseum in 1959, put it this way late Saturday: “It’s not a game. It’s a celebration. What a spectacular night.”