DETROIT -- Comerica Park's outfield has proven to be a challenge for skilled defensive outfielders ranging from Curtis Granderson to Torii Hunter. Now it's Austin Jackson's turn to find out what it's about.
Jackson proved over the course of a windy Spring Training in Florida that he can handle a Major League center field, taking a true route to fly balls and line drives almost every time. Now, after debuting at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium with a highlight catch at the fence, he gets to roam one of baseball's biggest outfields in a place where several center fielders have had to learn the tricks of tracking fly balls.
Jackson's learning process started Friday with the Tigers' home opener, and it started with some of the least inviting conditions. Though the various flags around the outfield almost always disagree, the flags above the left-field scoreboard -- the flags players usually use as a more reliable barometer -- showed winds gusting out to left with temperatures struggling to get above 40 degrees by first pitch.
It was also a day game, which Granderson used to note would present particular challenges tracking fly balls off the bat. Another past Tigers center fielder, Nook Logan, once noted that as well. One theory is that with the playing field below street level, the concourse reflects daylight at a level where Granderson and others were trying to pick up the path of the ball.
Jackson was anticipating a learning period regardless. Because he came over last December in the Granderson trade, his only time in this park until Friday was around TigerFest in January.
"I think you have to do that at every ballpark," Jackson said of an adjustment, "but especially here. It's probably one of the biggest outfields. I've played in big ballparks before, but this will be a good challenge for me."