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2007: Diary of a Season

2007 was a year like no other. (Well, maybe one other!) But while the glorious result seemed familiar, the journey to get there took a different route and featured a whole different cast of characters. Along the way, I went to 25 regular season games, four Spring Training games, three minor league games, and even two dramatic postseason games. My stories and pictures from those games, plus a year's worth of Red Sox-related events and celebrations, are on the pages that follow.

Saturday, January 13 - The Roxy, Boston

Bronson Arroyo in concert

Being a Red Sox fan is a year-round job, so my story of the 2007 season begins on a night in January. When I heard that Bronson Arroyo was doing a concert in Boston, I really wanted to go. I thought it was cool that the Key West native who was now pitching in Cincinnati would return to chilly New England in the winter, even though he had been traded away the year before. We got tickets for a show at the Roxy nightclub. Chad Perrone opened, then our old friend Bronson took the stage. He sang for about two hours, doing many of the songs on his Covering the Bases album, and covers of other more recent songs. I was thinking it would be fun if Theo Epstein would join him. It seemed unlikely, though, since the general manager was responsible for trading him away last March. Epstein also sponsors the Hot Stove, Cool Music concert every year, and Arroyo had not attended this year's event. I also knew that Pearl Jam was the general manager's favorite band. My brother had been to a Pearl Jam concert in Boston a few years ago, and Theo had joined them onstage. There were even rumors that he had traveled with the band during his hiatus from the Red Sox front office the previous winter. So when Bronson finished with Pearl Jam's "Black," I concluded there'd be no Theo sighting tonight.

But lo and behold, when Arroyo returned for an encore, he introduced a "special guest" - Epstein himself. As soon as Theo took the stage, we started chanting "Bring Bronson back, bring Bronson back!" Theo grabbed the mic and said, "That might be easier said than done. I think all we can say now is, 'Go Reds!'" He presented Arroyo with a Reds ski cap, and when Bronson put it on, everyone booed. So he took it off and handed it back to Theo, who threw it into the crowd, drawing cheers. Epstein stayed on stage to play Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World". I had to laugh, because that's the same song he plays in the Hot Stove, Cool Music CD released a couple of years ago. Was that the only song he knew? (When I talked to my brother later, he told me that that's the same song Pearl Jam had played when Theo had joined in their concert, so maybe it is the only one he knows! "I'd love to join you in concert," I imagined him saying to any musician who asked, no matter what their usual genre, "but you'll have to play Rockin' in the Free World.") Theo disappeared at the end of the song, and Bronson finished up with the Standells' classic "Dirty Water." After the show, he signed t-shirts and copies of his CD.

Monday, January 15 - Yawkey Way Souvenir Store

Rookie autograph signing

Rookie autograph signing
Closest to furthest: Craig Hansen, Nick DeBarr, Clay Buchholz, Kason Gabbard, George Kottaras, Kyle Jackson, Edgar Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Chad Spann sign autographs
For the middle of winter, this was shaping up to be a great baseball weekend! After the Bronson Arroyo concert on Saturday night, I had Monday off for the Martin Luther King holiday. The souvenir store on Yawkey Way across from Fenway Park was sponsoring an autograph signing featuring twelve Red Sox prospects who were in town for the team's two-week rookie development program. Because it was a holiday, I could park at a meter for free, so I drove in to Fenway through a mix of rain and snow in the early afternoon. The event was scheduled for 4:30 to 6:00, and I arrived shortly before 3:00. Luckily, there was a roped-off area set up inside the warm store. There were only about 20 people ahead of me in line when I got there, but the store filled up quickly. They started right on time, and moved everyone along efficiently. For a $10 donation to the Red Sox Foundation, we could get one autograph from each of the players. Some people had bats or balls to be signed, but I brought an 8x10 printout of a photo I had taken at Fenway last summer.

The players in attendance were Craig Hansen, David Pauley, Kason Gabbard, and David Murphy, who had all played for the Red Sox last year; Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Brandon Moss, to whom we'd be introduced in the coming year; and minor league prospects George Kottaras, Nick DeBarr, Kyle Jackson, Edgar Martinez, and Chad Spann. The Red Sox kept the line moving quickly, so there wasn't much chance for interaction other than a "Thank you" here and a "Good luck this year" there. I was done at 4:45, by which time the line wound around through the roped-off area and then stretched to the rear of the store, easily containing a few hundred people.

February 25-27 - Fort Myers, Florida

Spring Training workouts

The players work out I made my annual Spring Training pilgrimage in the final week of February, just in time for the final three days of workouts. Each day we parked at City of Palms Park and rode the shuttle bus a few miles down the street to the minor league complex, where practices are held. We'd stake out a good spot to watch the players come out to practice, and try for autographs. After stretching out together every morning, the players disperse and rotate around to five fields to do different drills. The big attraction this year was Daisuke Matsuzaka, and hordes of Japanese reporters had descended upon Fort Myers to cover his every move. The Matsuzaka saga had played out all winter long. First teams had to submit sealed bids to the Seibu Lions, and the Red Sox' $51.1 million offer won them the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka and his agent. That was followed by a dramatic last-minute cross-country flight before team officials finally returned home with their new ace. Now in spring training, Japanese reporters and photographers were everywhere, and Japanese Red Sox t-shirts and souvenirs were the hottest items.

Manny passes by
Manny runs by as I (on the far right) look on in amusement
I brought a photo for autographs, and the first day I got mostly minor leaguers and invitees. My biggest of the day was Julian Tavarez, who stopped and admired the photo I had brought. It was from a game I went to last year in which he had pitched, and he stopped to reminisce briefly, "Oh yeah, that was the game against Chicago." The following day I got an even closer brush with a player. We were lined up in the morning behind the barriers set up next to the chain-link fence that encircles the field. Most of the players had already taken the field, when all of a sudden, out came Manny Ramirez. We knew he was going to report late, like he had last year, but he wasn't expected until the following day. So it was a surprise when he came out, but it was even more of a surprise when he went the wrong way out of the clubhouse and wound up on the fans' side of the barriers. He had long braids dyed bright red, a giant smile on his face, and high fives for all the fans as he passed us. When he reached the fence and realized it was a dead end, he turned around, still grinning, and high-fived everyone again on the way out. (It may have only been spring training, but Manny was Being Manny in mid-season form!) For the rest of the morning, we watched different fielding drills, including a good complicated one involving rundowns. They brought some young players up from minor league camp to act as baserunners, and the pitchers and infielders would rotate around their various positions. Later the minor leaguers who were used as baserunners in the drill stuck around to watch Big Papi take batting practice. Earlier in the day, I had overheard one of the coaches telling a reporter that Dice-K was going to throw live batting practice to Big Papi on Field 5 at 11:00. I went over a few minutes early, while most people were still watching the fielding practice on Field 3, and staked out a good spot. When the stars walked over to Field 5, everyone followed. We watched as several Japanese photographers set up beyond the tall outfield fence, standing on ladders to see over the top. Dice-K did pitch, and apparently pretty well, because Papi didn't knock any out, nor did the others in his batting practice group: Manny Ramirez, Wily Mo Pena, and Julio Lugo.

After the workout was over, we got in line for the shuttle bus to take us back to the stadium where our car was parked, when Manny came out in street clothes, walked over to the line, and started signing autographs. Everyone crushed around so that it was impossible to tell who was in line anymore. He didn't seem to be going in order, either, which added to the confusion. In addition to the photo from the Tavarez game, I had also brought a picture of me with the 2004 World Series trophy that I had gotten some guys to sign in 2005. I could hardly even see Manny, but I reached my arm out as far as I could and hoped for the best - and he actually signed my trophy picture!

Dice-K pitches batting practice The next day was the final day of workouts. The highlight of the day for me came while I was standing between two of the fields and a group of players walked past as they prepared for B.P. We called out to each one for some autographs, but Wily Mo Pena and Julio Lugo snubbed us. Big Papi was bringing up the rear, and he stopped and said, "Sure, I can sign a few." There were a father and son next to me who asked him to sign a photo from his walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. They told him they had been to that game, and it was the greatest game of their lives. Then he came to my trophy picture, and said, "Wow, you got your picture with that!" This was my big chance to tell him that I had been at Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, and that it was the worst game of my life, and he said it was the fans' sad faces that night that inspired him on the comeback, and I was there and I was definitely sad. But instead I was in such awe that all I could get out was, "Thank you, Big Papi. I really appreciate it." Oh well! We watched the rest of the drills, and when practice was over we stayed a little longer while NESN's Tina Cervasio interviewed Manny Delcarmen and Joel Pineiro. After major league workouts end for the day, the minor leaguers arrive for their workouts. We got to see Gabe Kapler, who was now a coach for the Red Sox' Single A affiliate Greenville Drive. He signed for awhile, and I was able to get him to sign my trophy picture too. I was also able to get autographs from Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Manny Delcarmen, and a lot of minor league prospects over the course of the three days. See the rest of my photos from the workouts on my Spring Training Photos page.

But when the workouts were over, my time wasn't. In most years the workouts were all I got to see, but now I was able to stay long enough to go to some games.

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This page and all photos copyright © 2007-2008 by Kristen D. Cornette.