Once again, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi left sports fans stunned Wednesday night, when he made an awe-inspiring catch during Game 2 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The play came during the top of the fifth inning, after the Dodgers’ Brian Dozier sent a ball flying into left field toward the Green Monster. The hit was no match for Benintendi, however, who charged toward the ball, leapt off the ground, and executed a graceful maneuver to make the out.
People immediately took note of Benintendi’s impressive positioning mid-air while reaching for the ball.
Within moments, the Internet had fully latched on, and fans started Photoshopping the image: He was likened to Super Mario grabbing coins from a question-mark box, and Michael Jordan soaring through the air.
Most notably were the comparisons made between Benintendi’s form and that of professional ballet dancers.
But what did the experts think of his form?
“I watched the game last night and I saw it in full speed, and then now seeing it again, looking at it right now in slow motion — which is even better — it already brings to mind a classical step, a really classical step,” said Patric Palkens, a dancer with Boston Ballet. “It’s something we use in ballet all the time. We call it a grand jeté.”
Palkens, who grew up in Chelsea and is appearing in this year’s production of “The Nutcracker”, said that was where his mind immediately went after the play.
The difficult move is classified by that straight, extended position of a performer’s front leg, their slightly bent back leg, and the way they leave the ground, Palkens said. Also important: the angle of the torso and how the arms are outstretched.
The 28-year-old dancer said a grand jeté can take years to get right, and the fact that Benintendi was able to pull something similar off in a split second during gameplay is “pretty damn impressive.”
“It is called a grand jeté for a reason,” he said. “It’s one of the largest jumps in classical ballet. . . . It’s meant to be done at full speed and with as much height as possible. It’s up there on a list of difficult moves.”
Below, Palkens breaks down Benintendi’s form, from head to toe.
The arms and torso
Palkens said Benintendi used his right arm and shoulder to twist forward and catch the ball, while keeping his left arm out at shoulder height, almost at a 90-degree angle, which is nearly identical to how performers might position themselves while executing the move.
“One thing that we use a lot in ballet as a methodology is this idea of opposition,” he said. “He throws his left arm back to allow his right arm to go forward. That twisting of his torso — you can see his left arm goes back first so he can get that right arm forward and that’s something we use in ballet all the time.”
Palkens said it’s all about timing when it comes to the body’s position while in the air.
Apparently, Benintendi pretty much nailed it.
“The position he is in at the height of the jump when he catches this ball is just shy of a truly classical ballet position,” he said. “The point of [the grand jeté] is at the height of the jump to be in this position. And he does that, without even thinking. The man is a natural jumper. Look at him.”
He said the fact that he throws his left leg first is a key part of how dancers jump.
“He really stretches out to get his legs in that kind of little split,” Palkens said, “which is also what that position is meant to be, borderline on a split.”
If not for the slight bend in his back right leg, Palkens said he would give Benintendi a 10 out of 10 for form.
“It’s just got to be a little turned out, and a little bit longer and he’s in the right spot,” he said. “I say I’d give him a 9 out of 10. Just, like, 10 minutes [of practice] and we could make it perfect.”
Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.