Holt's legend grows with Superman-like grab
In center-field debut, he comes to aid of Gomes, who loses ball in twilight
BOSTON -- It looked like a fly ball to left field. But then Jonny Gomes looked up and suddenly saw nothing but twilight. He desperately wanted to see the baseball, but it just flat-out disappeared out of his sight.
Somehow, Brock Holt, the emerging super-utility man who was making his debut as a center fielder, caught enough of a glimpse of it to make a circus catch, stumbling back as he dove.
Holt wasn't even close to Gomes when he caught the ball, rather several feet behind the left fielder, as he landed a few feet in front of the warning track in front of Fenway's Green Monster.
"It's one of those things where you look over and you see Gomes' arms out and try to do all you can, looking at him, looking at the ball, looking at him -- he never picked it up. Fortunately I was able to get over there and make a play on it," said Holt after the Red Sox beat the Twins, 2-1, on Tuesday night. "I ran to the wrong spot, that's why I had to do that. I thought the ball was going to be somewhere and it ended up somewhere else, that's why I had to kind of dive backwards for it."
It was a surreal play that might not be duplicated anytime soon.
Jon Lester, who threw the pitch to the Twins' Brian Dozier that led to the play, only saw chaos from his vantage point.
"To be honest, I didn't know where the ball was," said Lester. "Jonny's running in, [Stephen Drew's] running out, guys are pointing and screaming and yelling. All of a sudden, Brock just dives out of nowhere for a ball in kind of left-center, and I was looking more for a ball in dead left field.
"The biggest thing that impresses me is not the catch, but the wherewithal of a guy who hasn't played outfield a lot, especially center field, to be backing up and moving that direction when the ball's hit. The guy's a smart baseball player. You could put him behind the plate right now and he'd do a pretty good job."
Holt is emerging into the story of the season for the Red Sox, and his catch was the latest reason why.
The play wasn't exactly blind instinct. Holt sized it up on an incremental basis before finally realizing he had to go for it.
"When it goes up in the air, I'm looking more at [Gomes]," said Holt. "Once I know that he doesn't see it, then I'm trying to find the ball, then I'm looking back at him, just in case he does find it and goes for it. I don't want to just be looking at the ball and we just collide, so I was going back and forth.
"When I figured out he wasn't going to pick it up, I went for it," he added.
"It was kind of late. I was running that way and I noticed he wasn't moving and the ball was by him, so I knew he probably wasn't going to get to it, so that's when I went for it."
Gomes was obviously thrilled with the way the play wound up.
"I guess I don't really have much perspective because I lost it," said Gomes. "I'd like to call that tough love right there -- just throwing Brock to the wolves right out of the gate. I went over scenarios with him early on in the game. For one, it's a tough twilight now with the blue sky, starting to get the sunset. From about the third inning to the fifth inning, if you look at the sky, it's the exact same color as the ball -- kind of an off-white.
"It just kind of erased that lonely feeling for about four seconds that I had, kind of like you're the only one out there."
And after making the play of the night, Holt even made one of baseball's oldest myths come true. He was the obligatory guy who made the great catch leading off the next inning.
Holt doubled off the Monster, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly, which wound up as the decisive run in the game.
"It was the third out, so let's take it in, and you know the old saying, 'You make a great catch, you get a great hit,'" said Gomes. "He led the inning off with a first-pitch double. It all worked out how I planned it."
Given the way things have turned out, it's hard to believe that Holt didn't even make the team during Spring Training. He also only stuck for a week after his first callup in April.
But Holt returned on May 17, following the injury to Will Middlebrooks. And it doesn't appear he will be coming out of the lineup any time soon.
The left-handed hitter is hitting .345 since being installed as manager John Farrell's leadoff man.
While Holt has been a middle infielder most of his career, he became Boston's primary third baseman for a couple of weeks, until Drew's return pushed Xander Bogaerts to third.
Holt then moved to first base -- a brand new position -- for a few days while Mike Napoli recovered from an injury. Then it was on to left and right.
And Tuesday, with Jackie Bradley Jr. getting a night off and Grady Sizemore getting designated for assignment, Holt made his debut in center. Naturally, it worked out better than anyone could have scripted.
"Every time he's at a new position for the first time, we hold our breath a little bit, but he's a baseball player," said general manager Ben Cherington. "I think he's one of those guys that probably grew up more as a baseball player than a particular position. I think he almost enjoys it. He's enjoying the challenge of just moving around and proving he can do it. He's athletic, he's got instincts, he can run, he can throw."