MESA, Ariz. -- After nine years in the National League, Andrew McCutchen has played his fair share of games at AT&T Park as a visitor, so he has a basic understanding about the quirkiness of the ballpark.Still, the norms surrounding Spring Training are a little odd. Teams play around 30
MESA, Ariz. -- After nine years in the National League, Andrew McCutchen has played his fair share of games at AT&T Park as a visitor, so he has a basic understanding about the quirkiness of the ballpark.
Still, the norms surrounding Spring Training are a little odd. Teams play around 30 games, some at home, some on the road, but never in the actual park they'll play when the games start to count.
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This is not anything most players notice when they're just going through the normal Spring Training preparation. But for a player adjusting to a new team, a new position, and who is about to play a full season's worth of games at a new home ballpark, isn't this concept just a little strange?
"You just prepare in any way that you would prepare for the regular season," McCutchen said. "Right field is right field. There's really nothing you have to adjust to besides balls off the wall. That's pretty much it."
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Still, while dimensions add to the uniqueness of each field, AT&T Park has one extra element that makes it stand out even more. It's not so much the way the ballpark is built, as it is where it's located -- San Francisco, arguably one of the country's most scenic cities, and, in specific areas, one of the windiest.
This makes watching a game at the ballpark highly entertaining. It also makes playing a game there sometimes challenging. Right field, especially, creates its own unique environment, with an odd-shaped brick wall and the swirling gusts that come off McCovey Cove.
McCutchen, who has played 28 games at AT&T Park as a visitor -- albeit in center field -- appears ready for it.
"The ball hangs up there, for sure," he said. "I've played there for the last nine seasons. It's not new. I know the way ball carries. The flags could be going one way and the ball goes somewhere totally different. I'll be prepared and ready for that. I know what I need to do; it's not going to be that big of an adjustment."
Hunter Pence, who patrolled right field for 5 1/2 seasons for the Giants before moving to left this year, had the same sentiment. He had no problem adjusting to AT&T Park after spending the first part of his career with the Astros, who play in climate-controlled Minute Maid Park, and parts of two seasons with the Phillies.
Pence, in fact, quite likes the roominess of right field in San Francisco.
"There's so much space," he said. "I found it fun because it gives you a lot of time to run."
The craziness of the wind, Pence said, is the only thing to be extra aware of. Balls that hit the wall are not a problem -- it's the ones that hit what Pence called the "wall of wind" that can make things interesting.
The key seems to be to not overrun balls but not give up on any, either.
"No matter how hard they hit the ball, take off running after it," Pence said. "Because a lot of times, it's going to die, and you have a chance to catch it."
McCutchen is used to playing in the elements. He had plenty of gray, drizzly days to push through in Pittsburgh and, playing in the same division as the Cubs for nine years, has had ample experience running around an outfield in the windiest of all windy cities in the big leagues, Chicago.
So maybe playing in the City by the Bay won't be all that different.
"I'm a center fielder, so going to right field is going to be a little less running," McCutchen said. "The angles are a little different, but you just have to go get the ball.
"Balls down the line, balls that are going to go foul in the stands, may stay in place. Those are things that you have to prepare yourselves for. Just be prepared on every pitch, and everything else will take care of itself."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.