Judging the Royals

Jarrod Dyson’s second-best catch

Kansas City Royals left fielder Jarrod Dyson after his catch Thursday.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Jarrod Dyson after his catch Thursday. The Associated Press

Well, if you haven’t seen it by now you’re not paying attention; in the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Jarrod Dyson made a catch that had people comparing him to Willie Mays.

Yordano Ventura had started things off by throwing eight pitches — seven of them fastballs — to the first two Tampa Bay hitters. If there’s one thing you’re looking for when you face Yordano Ventura it’s a fastball and those first two hitters found what they were looking for. John Jason singled to right and Grady Sizemore hit a fly ball to left field.

At first, Jarrod thought it was a routine play — but then the wind caught the ball.

That’s when Jarrod decided to “get on my horse.” I don’t know what it’s like to decide to outrun a baseball and then do it because I do not own a horse. When I dig down deep and run as hard as I can, I feel like I get on an asthmatic Shetland pony with a bad leg. I hit the gas and not much happens; when Dyson hits the gas, afterburners kick in.

The first thing an outfielder has to do when he goes back on the ball is get turned, but that means you have to decide which way to turn; Dyson turned to his left. So Dyson is gobbling up ground at an incredible speed, looking back over his right shoulder, but he knows he’s approaching the wall. He takes his eye off the ball and checks the wall, then looks back up and sees the ball. Dyson takes a few more strides and checks the wall again, but when he looks back up the ball is no longer over his right shoulder; it’s drifted to Dyson’s left and is now directly behind Jarrod’s head — he can’t see it.

This is where things get tricky.

When a fly ball is directly behind an outfielder’s head, he looks straight up and waits for the ball to appear above the bill of his cap. So Jarrod is running full speed, can’t see the ball and then hits the warning track. Dyson said he knew he was close to the wall — just a few strides away — when he felt dirt under his feet. At that point lesser outfielders, and there are plenty of them around, would pull up and play the ball off the wall. The Rays would score and Sizemore would have a double.

Dyson kept going.

Royals fans should appreciate the Royals outfielders and their willingness to challenge the wall. Lots of big-league outfielders hit the warning track and they’re done; they’re not going to risk getting hurt to make a catch. When you see an outfielder keep going, appreciate what you see.

And what you saw Thursday afternoon was Jarrod Dyson not giving up; he had a couple strides left before impact and he hung in there. He was looking straight up waiting for the ball to appear, eventually it did and Jarrod made the catch, took one more stride and hit the wall.

After that he had the presence of mind and accuracy of arm to turn and hit the cutoff man. Like just about everyone else in the stadium John Jaso thought the ball would never be caught and was on his way to home plate. Alcides Escobar relayed Dyson’s throw to Eric Hosmer and instead of the Rays jumping out to an early lead, the Royals had a double play. The standing ovation for Jarrod Dyson was loud and long and there was a whole lot of hat-tipping going on.

And it wasn’t even Jarrod’s best catch.

Jarrod Dyson made a better catch than that?

Well, Jarrod Dyson thinks so. When a reporter said that was the best catch he’d seen all year (the reporter was me) Jarrod said he made a better catch in Boston.

What made the Boston catch better?

Dyson had to climb the wall to make it. Really good outfielders not only don’t fear the wall, they use it. They’ll run full speed, spring up and plant a foot in the fabric that covers the padding (the spikes dig in and help) and then use the wall to go even higher than they could leap on their own. And it’s a play that doesn’t get practiced much.

Jarrod said he practices that over-the-shoulder, behind-the-head stuff in batting practice all the time. He’ll play shallow and run down balls that go over his head. Nobody is practicing hitting a wall and springing in the air to make a catch. It hardly ever happens so the outfielder has to be inventive on the fly.

Art Stewart weighs in

By this time, most of the reporters had left the clubhouse and longtime scout Art Stewart wandered in. Art said it was one of three best catches he’d ever seen in Kauffman Stadium. One was Carlos Beltran reaching over the wall to bring back a home run, the other was Jim Edmonds laying out to catch a David Howard fly ball and Jarrod’s catch was now on the list. So if you haven’t seen the catch Jarrod Dyson made on Thursday afternoon, get on the internet and enjoy one of the best catches you’ll ever see.

But remember, he made a better catch in Boston.

Jarrod Dyson talks about his over-the-shoulder catch in Royals' 8-3 victory over the Rays.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.