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Parade Day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

World Series Victory Parade

After their historic 108-win season was capped off with a World Series Championship, the Red Sox took to the streets of Boston for their victory parade.  As a season ticket holder, I was invited to the ceremony at Fenway to kick off the festivities.  I didn’t get an invite last time, but I had seen it on TV, and we were excited that we’d get to see the whole team get on the duck boats without having to camp on the street before sunrise just to get a good spot.

The display in the right field concourse that showed photos representing each of the 108 regular season wins was updated to include 11 more from the postseason.

The display in the right field concourse that showed photos representing each of the 108 regular season wins was updated to include 11 more from the postseason. (It was updated some time during the ceremony, because the final photo was missing when we first entered the park. Good thing we walked by it again on the way out!)

The ceremony was fun.  Kicked off by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, we got to hear from and cheer for Red Sox ownership, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, manager Alex Cora, World Series MVP Steve Pearce, ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Kelly, and Brock Holt.  It ended with a surprise visit from Jerry Remy, who missed the end of the season after undergoing cancer treatments.

Red Sox ownership Sam Kennedy, John W. Henry, Linda Pizzuti Henry, and Tom Werner now have four trophies to cart around to events. But Werner set it down facing to the side, and no one on the stage noticed. From the stands, people yelled out, "Rotate it," as our pictures all looked silly. Finally, one of the photographers on the stage sneaked over and fixed it, eliciting a cheer from the crowd.

Red Sox ownership Sam Kennedy, John W. Henry, Linda Pizzuti Henry, and Tom Werner now have four trophies to cart around to every event. But Werner set the newest one down facing to the side, and no one on the stage noticed. From the stands, people yelled out, "Rotate it," as our pictures all looked silly. Finally, one of the photographers on the stage sneaked over and fixed it, eliciting a cheer from the crowd.

First year manager Alex Cora pulled all the right strings all year long.

First year manager Alex Cora pulled all the right strings all year long.

Nathan Eovaldi got a warm welcome after his impressive performance, pitching multiple innings on back-to-back days as a starter and a reliever, including a record 97 pitches in relief in the 18-inning Game 3. His young son Jace also took to the mic to say, "Let's go, Red Sox!"

Nathan Eovaldi got a warm welcome after his impressive performance, pitching multiple innings on back-to-back days as a starter and a reliever, including a record 97 pitches in relief in the 18-inning Game 3. His young son Jace also took to the mic to say, "Let's go, Red Sox!" (You can also see that the trophies are lined up properly now.)

World Series MVP Steve Pearce, who grew up a Red Sox fan, addressed the crowd.

World Series MVP Steve Pearce, who grew up a Red Sox fan, addressed the crowd.

Brock Holt brought his son Griffin onto the stage.

Brock Holt, who became the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game during the Division Series, brought his son Griffin onto the stage.

It was great to see Jerry Remy onstage, and he looked like he was thrilled to be there.

It was great to see Jerry Remy onstage, and he looked like he was thrilled to be there.

We thought we’d get to see everyone board the duck boats inside the park like they’ve done in years past, but they didn’t; the ceremony ended and they went to board the boats in a roped off area outside the park.  From there it was a scramble to find a place where we could see the actual parade.  We ended up dashing up several flights of stairs (and around a barrier that may or may not have been meant to keep us out) to the top level behind the right field roof deck.  That turned out to be a good vantage point to see them all, though we were too far away for them to hear our cheers and acknowledge.

Cue the duck boats! We couldn't find space on the spiral staircase that goes down to the Big Concourse, so we went up to the right field roof deck to overlook the intersection of Ipswich and Boylston streets.

Cue the duck boats! We couldn't find space on the spiral staircase that goes down to the Big Concourse, so we went up to the right field roof deck to overlook the intersection of Ipswich and Boylston streets.

Pedro Martinez, who serves as a special instructor, holds one of the trophies aloft as he rides on a duck boat with Red Sox management.

Pedro Martinez, who serves as a special instructor, holds one of the trophies aloft as he rides on a duck boat with Red Sox ownership.

The duck boat with Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Nunez, and Eduardo Rodriguez rolls past.

The duck boat with Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Nunez, and Eduardo Rodriguez rolls past.

Lots and lots of people gathered at the intersection of Ipswich and Boylston, even climbing on the roof of the gas station.

Lots and lots of people gathered at the intersection of Ipswich and Boylston, even climbing on the roof of the gas station.

Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Tyler Thornburg, and Bobby Poyner go by in their duck boat.

Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Tyler Thornburg, and Bobby Poyner go by in their duck boat.

Blake Swihart waves as his duck boat passes.

Blake Swihart waves as his duck boat passes.

When the last duck boat passed, we got the brilliant idea to hop on the T and go a few stops up to the Arlington/Boylston area ahead of the parade, and experience it again that way.   (Let the record show that if they had driven all the duck boats inside Fenway so that we didn’t have to go outside to watch the parade, this plan would have worked.)

On te way to the T station, we saw the 2018 banner flying over the John Hancock building. Its weather beacon was lit up with flashing blue and red to commemorate the World Series win.

On the way to the T station, we saw the 2018 banner flying over the John Hancock building. Its weather beacon was lit up with flashing blue and red to commemorate the World Series win.

But unfortunately the T was so packed it was going very slowly.  At both the Copley and Arlington stops, people dressed in Red Sox gear were packing the train because the parade had already passed them.  Not so at Boylston (yet), so we hopped off, ran up more flights of stairs, and saw the last duck boats were just coming through.  Not wanting to give up, we started rushing through Boston Common, dodging food trucks, skateboarders, and dogs in Halloween costumes along the way, trying to overtake the parade.

The duck boats pass by Boston Common, while my mother and I try to outrun a parade.

The duck boats pass by Boston Common, while my mother and I try to outrun a parade.

We (sort of) caught up as Mooke Betts' duck boat passed. In the back of the boat, Tzu-Wei Lin holds up the trophy.

We (sort of) caught up as Mookie Betts' duck boat passed. In the back of the boat, Tzu-Wei Lin holds up the trophy.

We did end up catching the last few players as their duck boats passed the Park Street station, albeit with my telephoto lens.  But hey, no one ever said Championships come easy!

October 31, 2018 • Posted in: 2018 Games, Events • No Comments

The Fenway 500

This week I reached a personal milestone – my 500th game at Fenway Park.  When I realized a year ago that my current pace was getting me close, I pulled out all my old scorecard books and ticket stubs and totaled them all up in a spreadsheet.  The big day came Monday, August 20, a game against the Indians.

Happy 500th to me!

Happy 500th to me! That necklace that the Red Sox gave out after Big Papi hit his 500th home run comes in handy for all sorts of formal occasions.

It all started May 9, 1987.  Here’s the story of my first game at Fenway Park: May Ninth.  (The funny thing is I wrote this in 1998, when I had been to a whopping total of 13 games at Fenway.)

My second game (don’t worry, I’m not going to list them all) was the following month, with my school’s 8th grade Boston trip, where we came down from Maine to see the Aquarium, Science Museum, and a Red Sox game.  That’s why we we had gone as a family in May, so my first game wouldn’t be with my Yankee-fan science teacher.

The Fenway skyline and "skybox" seats as they were in 1987. I remember picking out that outfit so I could wear red socks to match.

The Boston skyline and Fenway's "skybox" seats as they were in 1987. I remember picking out that outfit so I could wear red socks to match.

Over the next few years, we’d try to get to a game every summer, and then when I started at Providence College, there were school trips up to Boston once a year.  I remember borrowing a Class of ‘94 sweatshirt from a friend (I was ‘95) one time so I wouldn’t look out of place on a trip sponsored by a dorm of upperclassmen.

Ticket stub from my 4th game at Fenway, a 10-5 loss.  Certainly wouldn't have guessed at the time that 15 years later I'd have season tickets a few rows in front of where I sat that night.

Ticket stub from my 4th game at Fenway, a 10-5 loss. I certainly wouldn't have guessed at the time that 15 years later I'd have season tickets just a few rows in front of where I sat that night.

After college, I went to grad school in Kentucky, then worked in Atlanta for a few years.  I always worked in a game at Fenway when I’d fly home to visit.  In 1998 I went to my first Red Sox road games, seeing them in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Anaheim that year.  (The 24 Red Sox road games I’ve seen in 10 ballparks over the next 20 years are not counted in my 500.)  Here’s the story of the game I flew up for in August 1999: Red Sox vs. Mariners.

I flew up to Boston for a game in August 1999. Remember when Pedro was late getting to the ballpark and Jimy Williams benched him and started Bryce Florie instead? That was my Game #14 (8/14/99).

I flew up to Boston for a game in August 1999. Remember when Pedro was late getting to the ballpark, and Jimy Williams benched him and started Bryce Florie instead? That was my Game #14 (8/14/99).

My favorite game of the 500 I’ve been to at Fenway was also my first playoff game, and only the 15th I’d ever attended.  It was Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS, in which the Sox staved off elimination by beating the Indians 23-7, and again it involved an improbable flight up from Atlanta.  Full story here: My Favorite Game.

Ticket from 1999 ALDS Game 4 on 10/10/99. The Red Sox won, 23-7.

Ticket from 1999 ALDS Game 4 on 10/10/99. The Red Sox won, 23-7.

After the 1999 season was over, I finally moved to Massachusetts.  My first act was to splurge and get tickets to 7 games at Fenway Park during the 2000 season.  It started as one game per month, but I added a second September game to see Carlton Fisk’s #27 retired.  That was game #21.

Game #20, on August 23, 2000, was the first time I kept score.  NESN was handing out K cards (competition for WEEI’s red K’s in the height of the Pedro Era) and there was a scorecard on the back.  Scoring had always fascinated me, but I thought it would be too complicated while focusing on the game.  Turns out it’s not, and a new obsession was born.  My other memory from that game is that there was a long rain delay before it started.  I was joking about making stuff up to write onto the scorecard, but then when the game finally got underway after 10:00, I was glad I hadn’t filled it all in fictitiously.  That was back in the days when a huge chain link fence separated the bleachers from the rest of the park.  Because that game started so late, they actually opened the gate and let the bleacher people sit anywhere they wanted.  When it finished up at 1:04 am (as conveniently noted on the scorecard), the T had stopped running, and we had to take a cab back to the car – the first of 3 times out of the 500 where I needed to call a cab.

In the lineup on the night of 8/23/00 were Jose Offerman, Trot Nixon, Brian Daubach, Carl Everett, Troy O'Leary, Lou Merloni, Jason Varitek, Mike Lansing, and Manny Alexander.  Mo Vaughn played first base for the Angels.

In the lineup on the night of 8/23/00 were Jose Offerman, Trot Nixon, Brian Daubach, Carl Everett, Troy O'Leary, Lou Merloni, Jason Varitek, Mike Lansing, and Manny Alexander. Tomo Ohka started, with Derek Lowe recording the save. Mo Vaughn played first base for the Angels.

I started buying a scorecard magazine every time I went.  I kept the first couple, but remember throwing out the one from September 9, 2000, (Game #22) because the Red Sox lost to the Yankees.  The next year I planned on going to 24 games, so I made my own scorecard book. Now I have a stack of 18 years’ worth.

Lots and lots of scorecards!

Lots and lots of scorecards!

Game #23 was Opening Day 2001. I’ve been to every Opening Day since (with a 13-5 record).  I went to 24 games in 2001 (12-12 record).  In 2002, my record was even worse (11-16), but Game #49 was an all-time classic – Derek Lowe’s no-hitter.  Full story here: Diary of a No-Hitter.

The first of many Opening Days. For me, 4/6/01 was Game #23.

The first of many Opening Days. For me, 4/6/01 was Game #23.

The Cowboy Up season of 2003 was successful for me – I went 21-9, including the night they clinched the wild card (Game #102, 9/25/03) and a dramatic win in ALDS Game 3 (Game #103, 10/4/03).  A walk-off win on April 15 (Game #75) finally brought my personal record above .500 to stay.  (My record after 500 Fenway games is 283-217, 66 games over.)

Game #105 (4/15/04) was the first game in the “Tenth Man Plan” package I bought for the 2004 season.  It was supposed to be a one-year package, but when the Sox won and the offseason became hectic, they made them renewable, and that’s how I became a season ticket holder.  (I’m 74-70 in those seats.)

Daniel Nava posed for pictures with fans on Yawkey Way on 8/3/10, before Game #289.

Daniel Nava posed for pictures with fans on Yawkey Way on 8/3/10, before Game #289.

I’ve been to some memorable games in the years that followed.  Game #133 was the ring ceremony on Opening Day 2005, when I got the last available ticket in the day-of-game line.  Games #183 and 184 were when Big Papi tied and broke the franchise home run record in 2006.  In Game #189 (4/22/07) the Sox hit four straight home runs.  Game #214 (10/5/07) was Manny Ramirez’s walk-off homer in the ‘07 ALDS, which I got to see after camping out all afternoon in the day-of-game ticket line.  Game #301 (5/4/11) ended at 2:45 am after rain delays and extra innings, another time I needed a cab.  Game #324 (4/20/12) was Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary.  Game #371 (9/18/13) was Dollar Beard Night.  Game #377 (10/24/13) was the only World Series game I’ve been to (2013 Game 2, alas).  Game #456 (10/2/16) was David Ortiz’s final regular season game.

When the Red Sox have a promotion that anyone with a beard gets in for a dollar, you gotta do what you gotta do.  (Just ignore the fact that I spent an additional $6.99 plus tax on the beard.)

When the Red Sox have a promotion that anyone with a beard gets in for a dollar, you gotta do what you gotta do. (Just ignore the fact that I spent an additional $6.99 plus tax on the beard.) Game #371 was officially the cheapest ticket I ever purchased.

So now after 500 games, my record at Fenway is 283-217.  That includes a 7-5 postseason record.  It doesn’t count two that were rained out in less than five innings and had to be replayed in entirety, or twice that I had a ticket for the second game of a doubleheader but got let in early to see the end of the first.  Here are some more stats from my Fenway 500:

Fan Photo Days over the years have given me the chance to get pictures with Keith Foulke (Game #106, 4/18/04), David Ross (Game #348, 4/14/13), Xander Bogaerts (Game #425, 9/6/15), and Hanley Ramirez (Game #490, 5/20/18).

Fan Photo Days over the years have given me the chance to get pictures with Keith Foulke (Game #106, 4/18/04), David Ross (Game #348, 4/14/13), Xander Bogaerts (Game #425, 9/6/15), and Hanley Ramirez (Game #490, 5/20/18).

In 500 games, I’ve seen 34 walk-offs, 18 Opening Days, 12 postseason games, 4 uniform numbers retired, 3 clinching celebrations, 2 triple plays, and 1 no-hitter.  And no sooner was my milestone game in the books, than I was getting ready to come back two days later for Game #501.

August 20, 2018 • Posted in: Personal • No Comments

Game Day

Thursday, February 22, 2018 – JetBlue Park

Red Sox 15, Northeastern Huskies 2 – Game 1

Red Sox 4, B.C. Eagles 2 – Game 2

On Thursday the workouts were all over and it was time for some actual games for the first time in 2018.  This was my first Opening Day of the year (which sounds a little like when they have a “second ceremonial first pitch,” but I’ll also be at the season opener in Tampa Bay and the home opener at Fenway).  Gates open at 11:00 for a 1:00 game, but we arrived at 10:30 and went around back to the practice fields, where we found some of the players taking batting practice.

Eduardo Nunez and Xander Bogaerts wait for batting practice to start.

Eduardo Nunez and Xander Bogaerts wait for batting practice to start.

Mookie Betts shares a laugh with Eduardo Nunez and Lee May, Jr., the hitting coach for the Sea Dogs.

Mookie Betts shares a laugh with Eduardo Nunez and Lee May, Jr., the hitting coach for the Sea Dogs.

When they finished up, we went into the park and found our seats, nice ones in the section behind home plate.  The netting was extended in the off-season to go behind the dugouts and beyond.  Many more seats are now behind netting, so if we have to sit behind it, we might as well be close to the plate.  Dave Dombrowski was sitting a couple of rows ahead of us on the other side of the walkway.  (It’s good the netting was there, though, because during the game a bat flew from a hitter’s hand and went over the dugout, where in past years it would have hit a fan.)

For the first time in 2018: Baseball!

For the first time in 2018: Baseball!

Given that these games are against college teams, we know the Red Sox are going to play mostly minor leaguers.  The first game had about half of the regulars starting, and in the second game, Sandy Leon was the only one from the major league roster.  We also know the starters are only going to get one or two at-bats this early in the spring.  So let me summarize the games this way: the first game had major leaguers who were replaced by guys from Double A, and the second game had Triple A guys who were replaced by players from Single A.

Jalen Beeks started the first game and allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three in two innings of work.

Jalen Beeks started the first game and allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three in two innings of work.

Highlights of the first game included a grand slam by Kyri Washington, who spent last year in high-A Salem, and a triple by Blake Swihart.  Righty reliever Ty Buttrey, who split last season between Portland and Pawtucket, struck out the side in his one inning of work.  Jalen Beeks started the first game, and Chandler Shepherd started the nightcap.  Both are projected to open the year in Triple A.

Boston College players warm up in front of JetBlue's Green Monster before the second game.

Boston College players warm up in front of JetBlue's Green Monster before the second game.

Highlights of Game 2 included doubles by Sam Travis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Oscar Hernandez, a catcher who was serving as DH.

Highlights of Game 2 included doubles by Sam Travis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Oscar Hernandez, a catcher who was serving as DH.

For some reason we had an easier time than usual keeping score.  It’s generally really difficult to keep track of all the substitutions, especially with so many players who are not in big-league camp and duplicate uniform numbers (Game 1 had three players wearing #18) but there was only one I had to look up later, so that’s a win in my book.  By the time the second game was over, we had seen a total of 36 position players and 10 pitchers from all levels of the organization, so it was definitely a day well-spent.

Final Workout

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

On Wednesday the string of hot Florida weather continued, and we returned to JetBlue Park for the final workout before the real fake games begin.  Today we got to see a pop-up drill and watched several of the pitchers throw live B.P.  We also hung around until the very last player had left the field and picked up some good autographs in the process.

Brock Holt nabs a grounder during infield practice, while manager Alex Cora looks on.

Brock Holt nabs a grounder during infield practice, while manager Alex Cora looks on.

Pedro Martinez has been in camp all week to work with the young pitchers, including Eduardo Rodriguez. I heard that Pedro had spent over an hour signing autographs and taking selfies with fans earlier in the week before I came down, but today he was all business. He spent some time watching this fielding drill, but most of his day was spent in the bullpens, which are out of view of the fans.

Pedro Martinez has been in camp all week to work with the young pitchers, including Eduardo Rodriguez. I heard that Pedro had spent over an hour signing autographs and taking selfies with fans earlier in the week before I came down, but today he was all business. He spent some time watching this fielding drill, but most of his day was spent working with pitchers in the bullpens, which are out of view of the fans.

Catcher Dan Butler, who's been in the organization for years and got a cup of coffee in the majors in 2014, waits his turn in a drill. Behind him, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Williams Jerez, and Roenis Elias line up on the mound.

Catcher Dan Butler, who's been in the organization for years and got a cup of coffee in the majors in 2014, waits his turn in a drill. Behind him, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Williams Jerez, and Roenis Elias line up on the mound.

Hanley Ramirez smiles during batting practice.

Hanley Ramirez smiles during batting practice.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s wife and young daughter were among the fans watching batting practice. Jackie smiled in their direction as his daughter waved to Daddy.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s wife and one-year-old daughter were among the fans watching batting practice. Jackie smiled in their direction as his daughter waved to Daddy.

Joe Kelly throws live batting practice. A few picthes later, he was hit in the leg by a comebacker to the mound. He walked off under his own power and was sent for precautionary x-rays.

Joe Kelly throws live batting practice. A few pitches later, he was hit in the leg by a comebacker to the mound. He walked off under his own power and was sent for precautionary x-rays, but we heard later that he was expected to be OK.

Another pitcher who threw live B.P. was reliever Robby Scott, and he helped clear up one of the questions that’s been bugging me all week.  Scott had worn uniform number 63 last year, but he was one of the players who switched to a lower number this year, wearing 36 in practice on Monday and Tuesday.  Meanwhile Eduardo Nuñez had re-signed with the Red Sox over the weekend.  He had worn 36 last year, but that wasn’t available now, and he was just wearing a plain blue workout shirt.  So today when I saw that Robby Scott had switched back to 63, I figured out that Nuñez will be getting his old 36 back.

The other number switch today was Alex Cora, who had been wearing number 28.  That’s the number J.D. Martinez has been wearing, so with his contract just pending a physical, Cora switched to number 20 today.  (Those who follow my website know how I obsess over uniform numbers.)

We got autographs from Mitch Moreland as he was coming off the field. While I'll ask any player in big league camp for an autograph, and I follow the whole organization so I know who most of the prospects are, it's always fun to get someone who's actually on the major league roster. In the background, JBJ signed too, although not where I was standing.

We got autographs from Mitch Moreland as he was coming off the field. While I'll ask any player in big league camp for an autograph, and I follow the whole organization so I know who most of the prospects are, it's always fun to get someone who's actually on the major league roster. In the background, JBJ signed too, although not where I was standing.

Rafael Devers awaits his turn running the bases after batting practice.

Rafael Devers awaits his turn running the bases after batting practice.

The last players left on the field were the catchers, taking batting practice of their own after spending the rest of the day catching live B.P. and bullpen sessions and participating in fielding drills. We had gotten autographs from Sandy Leon and Dan Butler yesterday, but we hung around until they were done, and got Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart to sign today.

The last players left on the field at the end of the day were the catchers, taking batting practice of their own after spending the rest of the day catching live B.P. and bullpen sessions and participating in fielding drills. We had gotten autographs from Sandy Leon and Dan Butler yesterday, but we hung around until they were done, and got Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart to sign today.

After practice, we made sure to check out the new 34 in front of JetBlue Park, representing David Ortiz, whose number was retired at Fenway last season.

After practice, we made sure to check out the new 34 in front of JetBlue Park, representing David Ortiz, whose number was retired at Fenway last season.

Working Out In The Fort

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

It was another day of great Florida weather, and we went back to the Red Sox’ Spring Training complex to watch the workout. The highlight of the day for me was getting an autograph from Mike Lowell, who’s in camp to work with Rafael Devers at third base. After each of the Red Sox’ World Series wins, I’ve taken a picture of me with the trophy and tried to get autographs from as many players as possible who were on the team that year. I just missed getting Lowell’s autograph in Spring Training of ‘08, and I’ve been carrying the photo around for the past ten years, so it was fun to finally get to see the MVP of the series and add his signature to the photo.

My favorite photos from the day are below.

All aboard! The catchers hitch a ride to the far side of the complex for their drills.

All aboard! The catchers hitch a ride to the far side of the complex for their drills.

Brock Holt and Xander Boagerts take turns fielding grounders at shortstop.

Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts take turns fielding grounders at shortstop.

Alex Cora discusses a base-running drill with Christian Vazquez.

Alex Cora discusses a base-running drill with Christian Vazquez.

Craig Kimbrel warms up.

Craig Kimbrel warms up.

Three-fifths of the Red Sox rotation line up for a drill.

Three-fifths of the Red Sox rotation line up for a drill.

I can't wait to watch Chris Sale pitch this year.

I can't wait to watch Chris Sale pitch this year.

A day after making a much-anticipated move, Dave Dombrowski could finally walk around without people asking if J.D. Martinez was ever going to sign. (Now we just want to know when he's going to show up in Ft. Myers, and what uniform number he's going to wear.)

A day after making a much-anticipated move, Dave Dombrowski could finally walk around without people asking if J.D. Martinez was ever going to sign. (Now we just want to know when he's going to show up in Ft. Myers, and what uniform number he's going to wear.)

Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi return from the batting cages to take B.P. on the field.

Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi return from the batting cages to take B.P. on the field.

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts chat while waiting for batting practice to start.

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts chat while waiting for batting practice to start.

Several players signed autographs after practice. Here, catchers Oscar Hernandez and Dan Butler interact with the fans.

Several players signed autographs after practice. Here, catchers Oscar Hernandez and Dan Butler interact with the fans.

This photo was taken after the 2007 World Series, and I've been bringing it around with me for the past ten years trying to get autographs of anyone who was on the 2007 team. Today I finally got to add Alex Cora and Mike Lowell, the MVP of the '07 World Series, who is in camp to work with Rafael Devers at third base.

This photo was taken after the 2007 World Series, and I've been bringing it around with me for the past ten years trying to get autographs of anyone who was on the 2007 team. Today I finally got to add Alex Cora and Mike Lowell, the MVP of the '07 World Series, who is in camp to work with Rafael Devers at third base.

Reporting Day

Monday, February 19, 2018 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

According to the baseball calendar, it was the first full squad workout, but for me, it was finally time to report.  I flew in last night, excited about the forecast for a warm, sunny week.  The players were a little later than usual coming out due to a team meeting, but then they participated in the usual assortment of fielding and batting drills.  It was great to see the whole team* assembled together.  Opening Day must not be too far off!  My favorite pictures from the day are below.

The infielders gathered for fielding practice. Soon they were joined by the pitchers, who also participated in the drill.

The infielders gathered for fielding practice. Soon they were joined by the pitchers, who also participated in the drill.

Rafael Devers fields a ball at third. Behind him, in left field, Jason Varitek watches as the catchers participate in a pop-up drill.

Rafael Devers fields a ball at third. Behind him, in left field, Jason Varitek watches as the catchers participate in a pop-up drill.

The Brockstar is back!

The Brockstar is back!

Eduardo Nunez got a big cheer as he came out for batting practice. After sparking the Red Sox lineup down the stretch last year, he became a free agent. He had just re-signed with the Red Sox, and today was his first day in camp. (Robby Scott switched uniform numbers from 63 to wear 36 this year, so Nunez will need something new. He wore a plain shirt today, so I'm still waiting to find out what number he'll wear this year.

Eduardo Nunez got a big cheer as he came out for batting practice. After sparking the Red Sox lineup down the stretch last year, he became a free agent. He had just re-signed with the Red Sox earlier in the week, and the fans were happy to see him back. (Robby Scott switched his uniform number from 63 to 36 this year, so Nunez will need something new to wear. He wore a plain shirt today, so I'm still waiting to find out what number he'll have this year.)

Mitch MOreland is another player who left as a free agent and then re-signed with the team this winter. He's joined for batting practice by Mookie Betts and new bench coach Ron Roenicke.

Mitch Moreland is another player who left as a free agent and then re-signed with the team this winter. He's joined for batting practice by Mookie Betts and new bench coach Ron Roenicke.

Andrew Benintendi takes some swings during B.P.

Andrew Benintendi takes some swings during B.P.

"Flow Bros" Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi were reunited... some with more flow than others.

"Flow Bros" Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi were reunited... some with more flow than others.

John W. Henry put in an appearance in camp.

Team owner John W. Henry put in an appearance in camp.

I'm looking forward to seeing Mookie back to his M.V.P.-caliber form.

I'm looking forward to seeing Mookie back to his M.V.P.-caliber form.

After practice we enjoyed a trip to Englewood Beach in the afternoon.

After practice we enjoyed a trip to Englewood Beach in the afternoon. We get tired after all those workouts!

*On the way home from the beach we heard that the Red Sox had finally struck a deal with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez.  I’m glad that they waited it out for what seems like a reasonable contract, rather than panicking early on and bidding against themselves.  But now there’s one more player who still needs to report to camp.  I’ll be back at JetBlue every day this week, so I hope to see him soon.

Fenway Gridiron

Saturday, November 11, 2017 – Fenway Park, Loge box 137

UMass 44, Maine 31

On a sunny but cold Saturday afternoon, UMass squared off against Maine as part of the Fenway Gridiron Series.  I’ve lived in both states but didn’t attend either schoool; I was just there to get my Fenway fix a month after the last home baseball game was played.

Everyone's been telling me to watch football to help take my mind off baseball during the off-season. Not sure why, but it doesn't seem to be working.

Everyone's been telling me to watch football to help take my mind off baseball during the off-season. Not sure why, but it doesn't seem to be working.

I was treated to an entertaining (albeit cold) game.  UMass scored a touchdown on their first possession, then Maine ran back the kickoff for a touchdown of their own.  UMass went up 24-7 in the second quarter, but a safety and a touchdown with a two-point conversion helped Maine tie it back up.  UMass jumped out to another two-score lead in the third, but Maine got close and had a chance to take the lead with two minutes left in the game.  My seat was behind home plate, but with an attendance just over 12,000, there were plenty of empties to choose from.  I started out in the bleachers, and spent the first half moving to a different section with every change of possession, so I could see the game from all angles.

It was fun to try to capture pictures of the game action.

It was fun to try to capture pictures of the game action.

As someone who normally photographs baseball, I thought football would be harder with lots of people moving around on every play, but I was actually able to get some good shots of the action. I found it easier to photograph than hockey.  An album with all my pictures from every angle is available on Flickr.  If you’ve ever wondered what Fenway Park looks like reflected in a tuba, check out the album.

November 11, 2017 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

Return Trip

Saturday, July 22, 2017 – Hadlock Field, Portland

Yard Goats 5, Sea Dogs 0

Usually I only make it to one Sea Dogs game a year, but this year I had a second one.  It came only two weeks after the first, but my return didn’t come soon enough to see top prospect Rafael Devers, who had already been promoted to Pawtucket.

This time our seats were on the first base side, right behind the Sea Dogs dugout.

This time our seats were on the first base side, right behind the Sea Dogs dugout.

Today’s starter was Roenis Elias, who was actually on a rehab assignment for an intercostal strain after spending most of the year in Pawtucket.  Although the first batter of the game reached on an error, he was erased on a double play.  In the second, another Portland error meant another baserunner, but Elias got out of it with two fly balls and a strikeout.  In the third, he allowed a solo homer, then a walk and a balk, before getting the next two batters out.  He was lifted with two outs in the third, after having thrown 47 pitches, most likely because he had a limit of 50 pitches for the rehab start.

Roenis Elias went 2-2/3 innings with 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, and 1 K on his rehab start.

Roenis Elias went 2-2/3 innings with 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, and 1 K on his rehab start.

Second baseman Josh Tobias turned a double play in the first inning.

Second baseman Josh Tobias turned a double play in the first inning.

Outfielders Danny Mars, Cole Sturgeon, and Jeremy Barfield wait out a pitching change.

Outfielders Danny Mars, Cole Sturgeon, and Jeremy Barfield wait out a pitching change.

Elias was replaced by Teddy Stankiewicz, whose normal turn it was to start.  He finished the third, and pitched the next 5-2/3 innings.  Along the way he gave up one run on back-to-back triples in the seventh.  The Sea Dogs offense, though, reminded me a bit too much of their big league brethren.  All eight hits they got were singles, and they couldn’t put enough of them together to knock in any runs.  Shortstop Chad De La Guerra, DH Michael Chavis, and catcher Jake Romanski each had two hits, with Danny Mars and Jeremy Barfield accounting for the others.

Michael Chavis was 2-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Chavis was 2-for-4 at the plate.

Jake Romanski also had two hits.

Jake Romanski also had two hits.

Stankiewicz left with one out and one on in the top of the ninth.  The Sea Dogs only trailed by two runs at the time, but it was about to get worse.  Three hits later, three runs were in, and the home team now trailed by five.

Sidearmer Trevor Kelley pitched the ninth.

Sidearmer Trevor Kelley pitched in the ninth.

Third baseman Mike Olt grounded out to end the game.

Third baseman Mike Olt grounded out to end the game.

At least the weather was perfect, and we were treated to a pretty sunset.

At least the weather was perfect, and we were treated to a pretty sunset over the Maine Monster.

Two weeks ago, the 6:00 game had been so short (just over two hours) that it was still light out when we left.  This time it was closer to a three hour game, and the sun was setting a little earlier now.  Even though the afternoon started out overcast, we were treated to a pretty sky in the late innings.  It’s too bad the quality of play couldn’t have equaled the setting.

July 22, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games, Minors • No Comments

Uber-Excited

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4, 15 innings

After the All-Star Break, the Red Sox opened by splitting a four-game series with the Yankees, including a 16-inning loss on Saturday followed by a doubleheader on Sunday.  So much for resting up!  Now the Blue Jays were in town for a four-game set.  I had entered and won a Season Ticket Holder raffle for pre-game on-field passes before Tuesday’s game.  All that meant was I got to enter early and stand on the warning track in front of home plate during batting practice.  Any Season Ticket Holder can go in the early entrance line with Red Sox Nation members 2½ hours before the game, but they’re confined to the bleachers and the Green Monster seats.  This time, I got to enter at the same time but was ushered right down to a roped-off area between the dugout and home plate.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to lift our spirits.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to give love.

When I came in with a couple of other Season Ticket Holders at 4:45, there was a group already on the field wearing badges that said 4:30.  They must have been from some tour group or package, but it meant we couldn’t get up that close.  It was also the end of Red Sox batting practice, so we only saw the last group of hitters: Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, and Christian Vazquez.  Jason Varitek was also out watching with the rest of the coaches.  When Red Sox B.P. wrapped up and the Blue Jays started to hit, we got to stay there, and eventually the tour group left, so I moved up as the grounds crew rolled away the batting cage and set up for the game.  It was really humid and the sky looked like it would open up at any minute, but the rain held off.

I wonder why the grounds crew is sticking so close to the tarp...

When the sky looks like this, the grounds crew sticks close to the tarp.

After getting something to eat, I went out to the bleachers to watch Brian Johnson warm up.  He wasn’t out there yet, but one look at the sky told me why.  It was pretty obvious that rain was imminent, so I thought it was funny that they went ahead with the pre-game festivities (blood donor of the game, bat kids of the game, multiple ceremonial “first” pitches, etc.) even as the sky got darker and darker.  It’s like no one told the P.A. announcer, as he prattled on while the grounds crew started unrolling the tarp around them.  They finally got the pre-game participants off the field and the tarp in place just before the rain started.  I went up to the covered grandstand seats in Section 2 to wait out the delay.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

It poured really hard for about a half-hour, and when it lightened up the grounds crew came back out to start rolling up the tarp.  By the time they were ready to start, it was 8:10, one hour late.  The rain had stopped and it was a lot more pleasant than when I had first arrived, and I went out to my seat in straightaway center, over near the flagpole.  Johnson was pitching because with the doubleheader on Sunday, they needed a sixth starter.  He had been called up before the game along with fellow PawSox starter Hector Velazquez.  To make room, Robby Scott and Sam Travis were sent down.  It was interesting that they had called up two starters, even if both were expected to be here for just a day, but with the doubleheader and a long extra-inning game, the bullpen was pretty depleted.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

Johnson lived dangerously in the early innings, but he managed to escape each time, stranding two runners in the first, three in the second, and another in the third.  In the bottom of the second, a light rain started up.  I like watching games from Section 34, but I know how long it takes to get to the exit ramp beyond Section 36 if it rains, so I figured I’d better make a run for it now while I still could.  I wound up in the standing room behind Section 2 for the top of the third, then moved into an unoccupied seat for the bottom of the third.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Chris Young got the Sox on the board first with a solo homer in the fourth.  But in the top of the fifth, the Blue Jays scored three runs on four hits and a walk.  Dustin Pedroia homered in the sixth to pull the Sox back within a run, and then in the seventh Brock Holt singled, stole second, and scored on Pedey’s double to tie the game.  I had used the seventh inning stretch to move around to empty seats in Section 16 of the infield grandstand.

Toronto threatened in the eighth, with runners at the corners and nobody out, but Pedey took matters into his own hands.  Kevin Pillar hit a sharp grounder to second, where Pedey grabbed it, chased the runner on first back and tagged him himself, and still had time to throw to first to get Pillar out.  All the while, the runner on third couldn’t advance.  Matt Barnes struck out the final batter of the inning to get out of it all unscathed.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Barnes had pitched the seventh and eighth, and Craig Kimbrel threw a scoreless ninth.  Neither team scored during that time, so the game headed to extras.  Even with the rain delay, it was still before midnight, so if they could find a way to win it in ten, I’d have no problem catching the T to get back to my car.  Since Pedey had already had a homer, a game-tying double, and a great defensive play, I just assumed that he had one more trick up his sleeve and that he’d be the one to win it for us.  He batted in the tenth with a runner aboard, but surprisingly hit into a double play.  On to the eleventh!

Brandon Workman gave up a leadoff double, then a hit to move the runner to third, then a sac fly to give the Jays the lead.  An intentional walk and a double play got him out of it.  As he pitched, a message popped up on the scoreboard saying that the last trains leave Kenmore and Fenway at 12:20.  I used the restroom between innings, figuring that if they could win in the bottom of the eleventh, there’d be just enough time to run down the street and hop on the T.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to open the eleventh.  Sandy Leon tried to bunt him over, and the ball bounced high over the third baseman’s head so he reached safely.  Deven Marrero was also asked to bunt, but he couldn’t get one down, and bunted strike three foul.  After Holt struck out, Mookie Betts saved the day with a single that scored Jackie with the tying run, but Xander Bogaerts, pinch-running for Leon, made the third out of the inning trying to advance to third on the play.  At least it was tied up now.  On to the twelfth!

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The move to call up two starters for tonight’s game was looking mighty smart right now.  A rested and stretched out Hector Velazquez came on and pitched a 1-2-3 twelfth.  Again I found myself thinking of other late games I had been to when they held the T later than usual because the game was still going.  If they could win it in the twelfth, I’d head right to the T station and probably still be able to get on.  But the Red Sox went down in order, and the game headed to the thirteenth.  That’s when I downloaded the Uber app and got an account set up.  Velazquez threw another quick inning.  One batter singled, but Christian Vazquez threw him out.

In the bottom of the thirteenth, Mitch Moreland opened the inning with a strikeout.  Bradley struck out too, but the wild pitch got past the catcher and he was able to reach base.  Vazquez struck out for the second out of the inning, and Marerro struck out to end it – the first time I’ve witnessed a four-strikeout inning in person.  (And yes, I was still keeping score; I can use the AB, R, H, RBI, and BB columns to fit up to fifteen innings before I’d need to start on a new page.)

Velazquez had another quick inning in the top of the fourteenth, and then Fenway organist Josh Kantor led us in the singing of the fourteenth inning stretch.  The Sox went down in order again in the bottom of the inning, and it was on to the fifteenth.  I had been to one fourteen inning game before, but this was a new record for me.  At this point, I had already missed the T, and I was down in a comfy field box seat behind the Red Sox dugout, so as far as I was concerned it might as well go 20 innings.  Who needs sleep anyway?

Just after 1 am, Velazquez completed another quick scoreless inning.  Pedroia led off the bottom of the inning – I was still convinced he was going to end up the hero – but he popped up to short.  That brought up Hanley Ramirez, who I had watched in batting practice eight hours ago, and he launched one high over the Green Monster to finally win the game.  Rather than douse him with the Powerade bucket during the post-game interview, as had become the custom, they brought the bucket right to the plate, a great time-saving move!

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Gatorade bucket.

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Powerade bucket.

I left the park and called for an Uber at 1:15.  My driver showed up at 1:30, and I was back to my car in Brookline at 1:45.  With no traffic, that got me home at 2:30, just enough time to catch four hours of sleep before getting to work at 9:00 the next morning.  (I admit it would have been a lot harder to get up in the morning if they hadn’t won, and I did leave work right at 5:00 so I could take a nap before watching the next night’s game on TV.)  But it was by far the most exciting game I had been to this year.

July 18, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Short Stop

Saturday, July 8, 2017 – Hadlock Field, Portland

Fightin’ Phils 4, Sea Dogs 3

After a span of four Red Sox games in six days, I had a gap of almost three weeks before I’d be back to Fenway.  So while the big leaguers went on a ten-game road trip that would be followed by the All-Star break, it was the perfect time for me to head to Portland to watch the Double-A Sea Dogs.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The last few years we’ve been seeing the Sea Dogs in June, but this year we were a little later.  All year I had been following the exploits of top prospect Rafael Devers, figuring there was no way he’d still be in Double-A in July.  Sure, he was only 20 years old and they didn’t want to rush him, but they were having so many issues with third base in the majors, so a promotion to at least Triple-A seemed imminent.  I was happy when Pablo Sandoval was sent on a rehab assignment, because it meant he’d be playing third in Triple-A most nights, leaving Devers in Portland where he could play every day.  The plan worked – he was still on the Sea Dogs’ roster when my July game rolled around, but I was disappointed when I got there and he was out of the lineup for the day.  (It didn’t dawn on me until I saw some tweets later that night about the All-Star Futures Game the next day; Devers was one of the minor leaguers chosen to participate in that showcase, and he had the day off because he was on his way to Miami, where the All-Star festivities were taking place.)  I did have another Sea Dogs game coming up in a couple of weeks, but surely he would be promoted by then.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

With Devers away, the highest-ranked prospect in the lineup was probably Michael Chavis, who had just been promoted from Single-A Salem a couple of weeks earlier.  He had been playing first base with Devers entrenched at third, but was at third base tonight.  Another recently-promoted player was shortstop Chad De La Guerra, who came up from Salem along with Chavis.  He got the game off to a good start with a solo homer in the first inning.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Starting for the Sea Dogs was Elih Villanueva.  At age 31, he’s not exactly on the prospect charts, and I had to look him up online to get the scoop.  He signed with the Sea Dogs in June as a minor league free agent.  He had made his Major League debut in 2011 with the Marlins (giving up 8 runs in 3 innings in one spot start), and last pitched in 2015 in the Orioles organization.  He was granted free agency at the end of ‘15 and didn’t play at all in ‘16.  So it was a pleasant surprise when he had a very good outing.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 1 ER and 7K in 6+ innings.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 2 ER and 7 K in 6-1/3 innings.

Villanueva worked a quick 1-2-3 first.  He let in the tying run in the second on a double and a single, but got out of it nicely by inducing an inning-ending double play.  After that he went on cruise control.  There was one baserunner in the third who reached on an error, and then no one reached base again until a two-out single in the sixth.  He was working really quickly, too.  In the middle of the fifth, he had thrown just 57 pitches.  Even more amazingly, the clock read 6:55 at the half-way point in the game – and the game had started at 6:00.  I had been to so many four-hour games at Fenway this year that even a three-hour “average” game would have felt fast to me, but this one was positively flying!  It was hard to keep up, between taking lots of pictures, scoring the game, following the end of Red Sox’ 4:00 game in Tampa (a frustrating 1-0 loss), and then juggling all of that when the vendor who sells “Sea Dog biscuit” ice cream sandwiches came by.

we had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

We had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Most players used Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo.  I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

Most players wore Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo. I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

The Sea Dogs took the lead in the fifth, when first baseman Mike Olt reached on an infield single, moved up on center fielder Cole Sturgeon’s groundout, and then scored on second baseman Deiner Lopez’s hit.  Villanueva allowed a one-out single in the seventh, and was replaced by Luis Ysla, who I remembered from Spring Training.  Ysla walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases, and two scored on a fielding error by Olt.  Left fielder Danny Mars saved them from more damage by making a diving catch for the second out, and a groundout ended the inning.  But now the Fightins had the lead, and they added an insurance run off Ysla in the ninth.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Jeremy Barfield, son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980's and 90's, was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Jeremy Barfield was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Right fielder Jeremy Barfield, the son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980’s and 90’s, hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to pull the Sea Dogs within a run, but that was all they got, and ended up losing 4-3.  The game ended just after 8:00, and I saw in the box score later that the official time for the full nine innings was two hours and eight minutes!  That’s got to be the shortest game I’ve ever been to – it certainly beats the 4 hour and 32 minute nine-inning game I sat through on Mother’s Day.   The whole thing took less time to play than it took for me to drive up to Portland.  Most years, I get good sunset pictures at Hadlock Field, but this one finished about 20 minutes before sunset, and I was already on the highway on my way home before the sky lit up.

July 8, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games, Minors • No Comments
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