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Salt Lake Bees: There’s more to playing outfield than catching flies

It looks inviting, but Spring Mobile’s outfield — and others — are full of hazards.

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That’s why, he added, continuous chatter is vital.

"Communication is important, especially here," Cousins said. "If all three guys aren’t on the same page, stuff is going to fall in and pitchers aren’t going to like you."

At a glance

Three outfield commandments

Learn to love the walls » Bees outfielder Matt Young: “An outfielder’s best friend, no matter where you are, is batting practice. Just take a couple rounds live and see how the ball [reacts].”

Be patient » Bees outfielder Matt Hawpe: “Do not do something silly that turns a double into a triple or a homer.”

Keep talking » Bees outfielder Scott Cousins: “It is important, especially here [Spring Mobile Ballpark]. If all three guys aren’t on the same page, stuff is going to fall in and pitchers aren’t going to like you.”

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And while pitchers may love it when outfielders can take away an extra-base hit or home run by climbing the wall, running into them can be bad for one’s health.

More often than not, the padding isn’t very good in minor league parks. So it’s important to learn the warning track.

"Some are smaller than others," Young said. "Outfielders talk about it right away."

Thames, who’s played for Toronto and Seattle, doesn’t really feel the track.

"It’s more like an instinct," he said. "When you’re in full stride, it’s like one step to the wall."

There’s not a whole lot of give to the Spring Mobile Ballpark walls, either. More than one dazed outfielder has been dumped into a heap on the red-cindered track. But hesitation can cause an outfielder to T-Rex it, or not extend his arms fully to catch the ball.

"The worst is when someone says you have room and you really don’t," Cousins said. "It happened last year in New Orleans, and I slammed into the wall, knocked my hat off and fell to the ground."

Some major league ballparks are famous for their rare dimensions. But minor league parks have their quirks, too, including the Pacific Coast League.

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At Las Vegas’ Cashman Field, the walls are high and hard. At Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park, there is an incline in center field, much like the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.

"[Isotopes Park] kind of ate me up a couple times," Cousins said.

Even the outfield grass is examined. Does the baseball snake through it or does it run straight and true? Are there potholes out there?

Thames said Fenway Park’s Green Monster, with its dented steel facing and scoreboard, has been the most difficult wall for him to play.

Whatever the puzzle, the successful outfielder learns to unlock them all.

"If you’re too anxious, you look stupid," Cousins said. "No one wants to see the back of your jersey."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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