BOSTON (AP) — Think the Red Sox are asleep at the ballpark? You may be right.
Catching some Zzzzs during downtime could help Boston be more alert during the first coast-to-coast World Series in 20 years.
A sleep room was opened last year at Fenway Park, adjacent to the gym next to the home clubhouse. Two bunk beds contain four queen-sized mattresses.
Steve Pearce used it before hitting a double off Houston ace Gerrit Cole and scoring the tying run during the Game 2 win in the AL Championship Series.
“I was like, I am exhausted. I went upstairs and I took a nap. I didn’t even hit BP that day,” he remembered. “Don’t fight. Just go take a nap, and that’s actually better for you than trying to play a game running on fumes.”
Boston’s World Series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night is just the start of the final stretch of an 8½-month endurance test. Six weeks of spring training is followed by 162 games in 186 days and then a postseason of up to 4½ weeks. Even the fittest, sturdiest players are knackered.
Now add in a 2,611-mile flight to the West Coast after Game 2 and a return East possibly between Games 5 and 6.
No wonder the Red Sox put a new-wave space into the oldest park in the majors.
Because in an industry where little expense is spared in seeking the smallest edge, it may be important to figure in box springs along with box scores.
“Comfy beds, comfy pillows. Really dark. It’s a good area if you want some peace and quiet,” All-Star infielder and outfielder Brock Holt said. “It’s a good place to have just to kind of wind down and get out of all the hustle and bustle, what’s going around the clubhouse, and just kind of get some quiet time.”
The room, about 12 feet by 12 feet, is similar to freshman college housing — with a darkened window that keeps out ambient light. There is a wood floor, and each bunk bed has a five-step ladder. Above are a pair of slightly yellow lights and an air duct that creates a sound a bit like white noise.
Reliever Joe Kelly heads there whenever he feels tired.
“It’s amazing. I love it,” he said. “It’s cold. Dark. Great beds. Very useful.”
A 2017 paper by Northwestern University researchers Alex Song, Thomas Severini and Ravi Allada published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science examined travel by big league teams from 1992-2011.
“We observed that jet-lag effects were largely evident after eastward travel with very limited effects after westward travel,” the authors wrote. “Jet lag impacted both home and away defensive performance. Remarkably, the vast majority of these effects for both home and away teams could be explained by a single measure, home runs allowed.”
Their recommendation: “A starting pitcher scheduled for a game in which the team is jet lagged might travel to the game location a few days ahead of the team, to adjust to the new time zone.”
While many clubs send the next day’s starter to the following city ahead of the team, the pitcher usually travels just a day in advance.
The rest of the team, those players grind it out.
“There are times when your body is just not 100 percent. There are sometimes you’re exhausted,” Pearce said. “Sometimes you just need to shut your eyes for about 30 minutes. And with a small locker room like ours, it’s good to get up there and just hide out for a little bit.”