09/03/08 6:38 PM ET
Upton's catch has Rays chirping
Robbing A-Rod on Tuesday highlights center fielder's talent
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees led off the second inning and drove the ball deep to center field. Upton took off in hot pursuit, and at the last instant, he made an over-the-shoulder catch before quickly getting his feet up to brace for the collision with the padded wall.
"That was unbelievable," Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "It's one of the best catches I've ever seen to be honest with you. Ranks right up there with the best catch of all time -- that one Gary Matthews Jr. caught against the wall. It's right up there. He ran as fast as he possibly could, and then at the last possible moment reached for it. It couldn't be any more perfect than that."
Gabe Gross was in right field, and he said the thing he admired most about the catch was what happened after the play.
"Most people catch that and just kill themselves against the wall," Gross said. "He had enough wherewithal to know where he was, catch it and get himself into a position where he didn't kill himself. It was pretty special. And the fact he caught that with the last inch of his glove. He stuck it out there and that ball just did find his glove."
When asked about what was going through his mind, Upton said, "You're taught to go get it.
"And that's what I'm out there to do, catch the ball. No matter how you catch it or how it looks, you've got to catch the ball."
Upton is in his second year of playing center field, which actually made Tuesday night's catch a lot more difficult.
"Last year, I was playing a lot deeper, so [the catch] might have been a little easier," Upton said. "I'm definitely playing more shallow this year, so that probably made the catch a little tougher."
A standing rule for playing center field is, the faster you are, the more shallow you can play for the simple reason you can take away more hits in front of you.
"Normally, if a ball is hit over your head, it's hit pretty well and it would be a hit anyway," Upton said. "Catch what can be caught. If it's a hit, it's a hit."
The fans cheered Upton's catch, which brought a contrast to the jeers that Upton has received on occasion for a perceived lack of effort. Pena believes Upton gets a bad rap regarding his hustle or perceived lack of hustle because of his athleticism and the ease with which he plays the position.
"He has such smooth strides, and it may look like he's not trying just because it looks so easy, when in reality, he's flying, he's flying," Pena said. "Just try and run beside him, he'll just blow you away."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.