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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

Bird’s Eye View

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 – Pavilion Section 20

Twins 4, Red Sox 1

On Wednesday it was time for my fourth game in the past six days.  But this one was unique because it was part of a technical conference for work.  There’s a conference room on the fifth floor, right across the hall from the press box, that companies can rent out for events.  After meeting our hosts downstairs in the afternoon, we were taken up to the media level, down a hallway past the broadcast booths and the media cafeteria, to the conference room.  During a break, I passed the NESN booth on my way to the restroom, and saw that they were preparing to film the “open” to the night’s broadcast.  When the presentations from the conference wrapped up around 5:00, we got special wristbands allowing us free food and drink at the end of the Pavilion level concourse, and our seats for the game were in “Coca-Cola Corner,” the farthest section of the upper deck over in left field.  Warning: this section is not for those who don’t like heights – when you have to look down to see the Green Monster, you know you’re really up there!

Looking down on the Green Monster.

Looking down on the Green Monster.

It’s funny because I don’t often watch from that level, but I had been in the Pavilion standing room just five days ago, for the ceremony retiring Big Papi’s number 34.  That night I was over on the first base side, though, and the view was very different in left field.

View from Coca-Cola Corner.

View from Coca-Cola Corner.

What wasn’t any different was the frustrating season of Rick Porcello.  He spotted the Twins two runs on three hits in the first inning.  He then labored through some high-pitch-count innings, but kept them off the board through the fifth.  A two-run deficit shouldn’t be insurmountable, but the Red Sox offense continued their equally-frustrating trend of not scoring any runs for him.  Despite having runners on base in every inning, they couldn’t get that one big hit to bring them home.

Rick Porcello wasn't at his best, but he got no support from the offense.

Rick Porcello wasn't at his best, but he kept the Sox in the game and got no help from the offense.

Between innings, as the sun got ready to set, I went to the far back corner of the section, which is actually behind the foul pole, to take some pictures from that perspective.

The view of Lansdowne St. and the Cask 'n Flagon, looking toward Kenmore Square.

View of Lansdowne St. and the Cask 'n Flagon, looking toward Kenmore Square.

View of the ballpark from the furthest corner of the Pavilion level.

View of the ballpark from the furthest corner of the Pavilion level.

View of the Pru beyond the light tower.

Zooming in on the Pru beyond the light tower.

Porcello gave up a two-run homer in the top of the sixth, making it a 4-0 hole.  Finally, in the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox managed to load the bases on a single and two walks.  A big hit would have gotten them right back in it, but instead a groundout to short knocked in the only Red Sox run of the night.

Mookie Betts reached base three times (single, double, walk) but his teammates couldn't drive him in.

Mookie Betts reached base three times (single, double, walk) but his teammates couldn't drive him in.

The Green Monster seats late in the game.

The Green Monster seats late in the game.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Fernando Abad hangs out on the trash can.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Fernando Abad hangs out atop the trash can.

Matt Barnes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

Matt Barnes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

When the Twins switched from their left-handed starter to a righty reliever, Tzu-Wei Lin came in to pinch-hit for Deven Marrero.  I had seen Lin pick up his first Major League hit during his first start on Monday, and I was calling for his first RBI to come tonight.  Instead, he flied out to center – “his first career flyout,” I noted – and grounded out to second.  “That’s his first career 4-3,” I joked to my co-worker.  “We’re witnessing history tonight.”  Sadly, there would be no comeback tonight, historic or otherwise, and despite the unique vantage point, the game ended up with an all-too-familiar result.

The concourse behind the Pavilion level after dark.

The concourse behind the Pavilion level after dark.

June 28, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Cruising With Sale

Monday, June 26, 2017

Red Sox 4, Twins 1

After going to two games over the weekend, Monday found me headed back in to Fenway again. And this time it was Sale Day, only the third time this season I’ve been able to watch the ace at work.

The red lights on the scoreboard figured to get a lot of work tonight.

The red lights on the scoreboard, brighter after having been replaced earlier in the homestand, figured to get a lot of work tonight.

This was also the third of four games in my Sox Pax that had included Opening Day.  Unfortunately my view from that seat is less than ideal.

View from the

View from the (almost) back row of Section 32. Who needs to see home plate anyway?

At least I could see Sale!  (I flashed back to Opening Day of 2002, when I was so excited that the Red Sox opened at home because it meant I’d get to see Pedro Martinez, and then the only part of the field I couldn’t see from my seat was the mound.)  No one ever came and sat in the seat next to me, so I was able to move over and see everything.

It turns out you do need to see the plate when Sale is pitching, because not too many guys advance beyond it. Here's Miguel Sano walking back to the dugout after fanning to end the first.

It turns out you do need to see the plate when Sale is pitching, because not too many guys advance beyond it. Here's Miguel Sano walking back to the dugout dejectedly after fanning to end the first.

Unlike at the beginning of the year, when there was never any run support for Sale, the offense got to work early tonight.  Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia singled to lead off the first, and a run came in the back door on a double play.  Well, better then nothing!  Mitch Moreland followed with a home run into straightaway center, his third straight day with a homer in his first at-bat.  That put the Sox up 2-0, and Sale went on cruise control.

Moreland homerd for the third straight day.

Moreland homered for the third straight day.

Sale’s first baserunner came on a single in the second inning, but the runner, Jorge Polanco, was quickly erased when he tried to steal.  Chris Gimenez hit a solo homer in the third (which was promptly thrown back onto the field from the Monster seats), but there were only a handful of baserunners the rest of the way.

Pedey applies the tag as Sandy Leon cut down yet another baserunner.

Pedey applies the tag as Sandy Leon cuts down yet another baserunner.

Sale was his usual dominant self.

Sale was his usual dominant self.

Tzu-Wei Lin made his first start at third base, and picked up his first Major Lague hit with a single in the second inning.

Tzu-Wei Lin made his first career start at third base, and picked up his first Major League hit with a single in the second inning.

The only time the Twins had two runners on base at the same time was the seventh, when a single and a walk brought Gimenez to the plate with one out.  John Farrell opted to go to the ‘pen and bring in Heath Hembree.  Naturally I was nervous, even knowing that Gimenez had homered off Sale earlier, having seen the bullpen blow a couple of Sale gems in the past.  But Hembree induced an inning-ending double play, started by the sure-handed Tzu-Wei Lin at third.

Sale finished the day with 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, and 9 K.

Sale finished the day with 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K, and 1 standing ovation.

Pedey had 2 hits and an RBI.

Pedey had 2 hits and an RBI.

Pedroia’s second hit of the day drove in an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, and Moreland’s sac fly added another.  Matt Barnes struck out the side in order in the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel came on to close it out in the ninth.  All that was left to do now was dance, and since Mookie had had two hits and scored two runs, he did the honors.

June 26, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments
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