Shohei Ohtani went where almost no one has gone before.
During batting practice at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon, Ohtani put on an epic show, crushing balls to all fields. Yet as impressive as the display proved – particularly a blast by the left-handed hitter just to the left of center field and into the camera well below the Bank of America scoreboard – the Angels two-way sensation delivered an even more momentous blast in a later round of batting practice.
Ohtani crushed a ball that soared deep into the right-field bleachers and crashed in the aisle between sections 41 and 42, about two-thirds of the way up the stairs, before bouncing all the way up to the top of the section and bouncing off the back wall. The ball appeared to land adjacent to Row 32 of the bleachers – just five rows shy of the famed Red Seat (section 42, row 37, seat 21) that marks the spot where Ted Williams is believed to have crushed a pitch on June 9, 1946, through the straw atop the head of the occupant of the seat, Joseph Boucher.
Williams’s homer is described as a 502-foot blast, though physicist Alan Nathan has explained that a homer that explored that distant a realm would have had a projected distance of about 535 feet – a homer of such majesty and scale that lefthanded sluggers such as David Ortiz and Mo Vaughn have expressed their absolute belief that it would have been impossible to hit a ball that far. For decades, no one was believed to hit a ball close to the Red Seat.
There was an architectural and scientific explanation for why no modern slugger had come close to the Williams standard: The construction of additional levels of the park in the mid-1980s altered the wind shear of the venue, in turn reducing the impact that a stiff wind blowing out of the park could have, something that would have impacted the potential top end distance of a ball crushed to rightfield by a considerable degree.
But now, there may be another, simpler explanation for why no one had ever come close to the spot where Williams purportedly hit a ball: Ohtani had never before played at Fenway. And on Friday afternoon, the Angels slugger made a Fenway landmark seem more accessible than anything seen in recent decades.
Based on the video and description of Ohtani’s batting practice smash, Red Sox analyst Greg Rybarczyk estimated the distance at 502 to 504 feet — not quite as far as the projected distance of the Williams launch, but distant enough that any fans wearing straw hats should consider themselves forewarned.