ST. LOUIS — When the Cardinals pulled up to Fenway Park Tuesday, many of their players didn’t head to the clubhouse like they usually do.
“Just like a bunch of kids, as soon as they got off the bus or the cab, they went straight out in the stands and looked around,” manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday during his World Series media day presser.
Understandably so. Only a handful of Cardinals have played in Fenway Park. Most of those who haven’t played there had not even been inside before Tuesday.
Carlos Beltran, of course, has played there plenty. He’s a .327 hitter in 25 games at the home of the Red Sox. Randy Choate has pitched in eight games there and has yet to give up a homer to David Ortiz. Matt Holliday has played in two three-game series, and hit a home run. Yadier Molina was there for the 2004 World Series and an interleague series in ’08. Edward Mujica served a home run to Will Middlebrooks in 2012. John Axford pitched a scoreless inning in 2011.
But that’s about it.
“I’ve heard it’s old,” deadpanned rookie first baseman Matt Adams.
Yes, 101 years old, in fact.
Even though most of the Cardinals haven’t played in the majors’ oldest park, they started preparing for the experience days before they stepped inside for their day-before World Series workout. The Cardinals spent the past few days collecting intel from everyone they could on playing at Fenway Park.
“Whatever we get, we throw it to them and they take what they want,” Matheny said. “We’ve had lots of talks offensively, defensively, just kind of prepping them before we get there.”
Most of the conversations have had far more to do with that big wall rising in left field than the cramped clubhouse or roomy right-center field that promises to challenge Jon Jay.
You know it as the Green Monster: 32-plus feet high, 231 feet long and a mere 310 feet from the plate. From the mound or the batter’s box, it looms large. The Monster can give by turning a routine fly into a home run, but it also can take away by turning a rising line drive into a loud single.
For the Cardinals hitters, the trick will be trying to pretend it’s not there.
“We’ve gotten here to this point just doing what we do, focusing on our approach and riding with that,” said Allen Craig, who never has played in Fenway. “The Green Monster is what it is. It’s out there. It could work to your benefit in some circumstances, but it’s not something we’re going to try to take advantage of.”
Either way, Matheny would rather his hitters not focus on the Monster.
“We believe and trust in our swing and trust in our approach regardless of where we’re playing. We don’t make that many adjustments unless you absolutely have to as far as playing to your surroundings,” said Matheny, before adding, “It’s something you have to be aware of.”
While Holliday, a line-drive hitter, isn’t likely to benefit from the Monster (on defense, either, yikes!), lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and Adams could.
“Carpenter is good about going to left-center, so it could help him,” a scout said. “But the one I’m interested in seeing is Adams. The way he can loft the ball, it could definitely help him.”
Adams, mostly a pull hitter, also could benefit from a right-field foul pole that sits just 302 feet from the plate.
Some of the Cardinals who haven’t played Fenway have had a chance to gauge the Monster from visiting the Red Sox’s spring training home in Florida. At 2-year-old Jet Blue Park, a replica Green Monster sits just as inviting — or as imposing — as the one in Boston.
“You notice it, for sure,” Adams said. “It’s huge.”
Lefty-hitting infielder Daniel Descalso said he won’t try to change his approach because of the Monster but admitted that could be easier said than done.
“You just go up there and concentrate on taking your at-bat,” he said. “If you pop one over or pop one off the wall, that’s great. You can’t try to force it over there.”
He paused, “But it is going to play a factor in this series.”
He sounded quite confident of that, especially for someone who, like many of his teammates, never has played at Fenway Park.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.