Tuesday, March 1, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Spring Training Workout
After playing the college doubleheader on Monday, it was back to a workout on Tuesday for the final time this year. It was technically an unofficial workout, so the concession and souvenir stands were closed, but fans were still able to enter the complex and see what was going on. With minor league camp in progress, the major leaguers were confined to three fields, with everyone who’s slated to be on the Opening Day roster ended the day by taking batting practice inside the stadium, where we can’t go. But we did get to see them all briefly, albeit in some of the stranger drills of the spring, and were able to add to our autographs.
When the catchers finished their initial stretching they all went to one of the practice fields. I thought there was going to be some sort of fielding drill, but instead it was literally practicing walking out to the mound as if to talk to a struggling pitcher. “You’re in control of the game,” directed one coach. “Wait, who was that smiling?” chided another. Then they all walked back off the field and on to the next activity. It’s pretty much the silliest drill I’ve ever seen at spring training, topping even the sliding drill and parachute run. (But it got me thinking – shouldn’t they have a drill where the pitchers practice standing on the mound hanging their heads in shame after giving up a home run? Or, for even more entertainment, have the manager practice taking the ball from a pitcher who doesn’t want to leave the game – imagine watching that during the Schilling era! But I digress…)
After the sliding was complete, the players who will start the year in the majors headed in to the stadium for batting practice, which unfortunately meant we couldn’t watch. But the guys who will likely start in Triple A stayed on the practice field to take B.P. out there.
With the workouts all wrapped up and the weather finally hot, we went back to Englewood Beach in the afternoon. This time it was warm enough to go in the water, and scour the beach in search of the perfect shells.
Monday, February 29, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Game 1 – Red Sox 6, Boston College Eagles 0
On Monday the Red Sox started off the 2016 season with their first two officially unofficial games against Boston College and Northeastern University. We went early and walked around to the practice fields out back. Minor league camp has just started, so three of the fields had kids from the low minors taking batting practice. At the other end of the complex, the major league pitchers were out running. We spotted 21-year-old outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who was the Sox’ first round pick in last year’s draft, and the 7th pick overall. He made it as high as Single A Greenville last year and is projected to move up to High A this year. He was nice enough to sign autographs and pose for pictures after finishing up practice.
Then it was time for some real live baseball, even if it was a pair of 7-inning contests against college teams. The real starting position players were all in the lineup, and it was absolutely beautiful baseball weather.
The big blow in the first game was Mookie Betts’s towering homer over the Green Monster in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez had two hits, and Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Blake Swihart each had one. Jackie Bradley Jr. walked twice. The subs tacked on three more runs on two sac flies and a bases-loaded walk, and the Sox won the first game 6-0.
Game 2 – Red Sox 8, Northeastern Huskies 3
The second game started 40 minutes after the first game ended. Brock Holt and Travis Shaw were the only two in the lineup who will open the season in the majors, and they figured into several of the early runs. Brockstar walked and scored in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the third. Shaw had a single and a double, both of which drove in a run.
The Red Sox survived a sixth-inning rally by Northeastern off Danny Rosenbaum and hung on to win 8-3. Final tally for the day: I got to witness 12 pitchers, 30 position players, 2 wins, and the end of the long off-season. Not bad for one day!
Sunday, February 28, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Spring Training Workout
Sunday brought warmer temperatures, and it finally felt like Florida. The Red Sox had done their photo shoots for baseball cards and promos inside in the morning, so they were a little later than normal getting out to the field. We saw some interesting drills, got a few more autographs, and ended by watching a Big Papi power display. My favorite photos from the day are below.
Saturday, February 27, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Spring Training Workout and Open House
My third day in Ft. Myers brought me back to JetBlue Park for another full squad workout. Big Papi was back in action after being given a day off to work in the batting cages, and Rusney Castillo was on the field after being out several days with the flu. We had fun watching some different drills (although one gave us a scare) and picking up autographs. After the workout, we attended JetBlue Park’s free open house. My favorite pictures from the day are below.
One of the drills we watched was the pitchers practicing catching popups. They were doing so with varied success, and the players and fans alike were all getting into it, oohing and ahhing over nice catches and groaning and needling each other over the misses. The video below shows some of the fun as Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ross, Noe Ramirez, David Price, and Heath Hembree attempt plays that, during the season, may best be left to the infielders.
Everyone was enjoying the drill until Eduardo Rodriguez caught his cleat while backpedaling and dropped to the ground. The whole season flashed in front of my eyes as the promising lefty who’s slotted in as the number three starter lay on the ground and the coach signaled for a trainer. After a few minutes, Ed-Ro got up (to applause from the fans) and walked off the field and into the clubhouse. We heard on the way home that he was doing much better and nothing was broken or torn. I sure hope that’s the case, as his ability to build on his success from last year is a big key to how far this year’s team can go.
After the workout ended, we went into the stadium for the free open house. We got a chance to go into the dugout, up on the green Monster, and onto the outfield grass.
Friday, February 26, 2016 – JetBlue Park
Spring Training Workout
Today I was back in Ft. Myers for my second look at the 2016 team. The temperature was still below 70, but without yesterday’s breeze it felt a lot warmer. I even got started on my annual farmer’s tan. Big Papi was given the day off, and Rusney Castillo still has the flu, but the rest of the team was out working on fielding drills, live B.P., and regular batting practice. My favorite photos from the day are below.
The workout wrapped up earlier than usual because the players were on their way to a charity golf tournament in the afternoon. I was so happy to get an autograph from Mookie Betts that I didn’t even make a crack about whether he should be allowed on the course after his cart rolled into a lake during a golf outing earlier in the spring. Maybe let someone else drive the cart this time!
After lunch we headed up to Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota. It was cooler north of Ft. Myers – only 62 and very windy at the beach. But the water temperature was 64 and felt quite nice, warmer than my favorite Maine beaches get in the summer. We made sure to stop for an orange ice cream (technically I had a chocolate-lime twist) at Nokomis Groves in Nokomis on the way back.
Thursday, February 25, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Spring Training workout
It’s great to be back in “The Fort” for my 14th spring training trip. The first time I went was 2003, also the first year in Red Sox camp for one David Ortiz. I’m still having a hard time comprehending his retirement and it disturbs me to think that when I come back next year he won’t be around. But for now, I’m going to enjoy Big Papi and his teammates as much as I can.
The players took the field later than usual due to an MLB Players’ Association meeting in the morning, but they still held a full workout. Between warmups, fielding practice, live B.P., and regular batting practice I took my usual 300 or so photos. My top ten favorites, in no particular order, are below.
It was a slow day on the autograph front – the only two I got were pitching coach Carl Willis and outfield prospect Bryce Brentz – but those often come in bunches and I’ve got four more days of workouts to watch. After practice we hit the beach in Englewood, north of Ft. Myers. With temps on the “chilly” side for Florida, it was practically deserted, but as New Englanders that didn’t stop us. (Actually the water was as warm as the air, the waves were beautiful, and if it hadn’t been for the wind it would have been perfect.)
September 19, 2015
My Day with the World Series Trophy
Today was the Best. Day. Ever.
All summer long I’ve been scanning my season ticket holder card at games and watching for code words on TV to earn rewards points. I used the points to enter a raffle… and won! And it was the best prize ever – my very own day with the World Series trophy!
The 2013 World Series trophy came to my apartment and spent the whole afternoon. It really makes sense, given how hard I’ve worked over the years to help my team win. They surely couldn’t have done it without me! (Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
So how did I spend my day with the trophy? Just like any other day, only a million times cooler.
We woke up…
got a snack…
watched some TV…
hung out with a friend…
and another friend…
and some more friends.
It was a busy day. Good night!
Believe it or not, I actually predicted this years ago. When the Red Sox won in ‘04, before they even announced that they would be coming to all the towns in Massachusetts, they said they would bring it to the minor league stadiums, to spring training, to the Dominican Republic – all the spots significant to Red Sox Nation. I said, “Well then they should bring it to my living room; it’s significant because that’s where I was when they won it!” But even I didn’t think they actually would! Special thanks to Chris and Donny of the Red Sox who put up with all the silly things my family and I came up with. It truly was the Best. Day. Ever.
Monday, April 13, 2015 – Fenway Park, Section 32
Red Sox 9, Nationals 4
This year’s home opener was my fifteenth Fenway Park Opening Day. It’s always a welcome sight, but after a disappointing season last year and a record-setting snowfall all winter, plus the fact that we were already 13 days into April, I was definitely ready! Topping it off, this was my warmest opener ever, a gorgeous, sunny day with a game-time temp of 69°. I got to Fenway almost five hours before the game and waited outside the players’ parking lot for a while, where I saw Robbie Ross, Wade Miley, Koji Uehara, Ryan Hanigan, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz drive in (well technically Koji walked in).
After circling around the park, grabbing a slice of pizza from a vendor, and picking up a Media Guide in the souvenir store, I got in line at Gate C. Red Sox Nation members and season ticket-holders get to enter 2½ hours before the game. I went up on the Green Monster, but with this being a day game after a night game, the Red Sox weren’t taking batting practice on the field. The pitchers were out in right field long-tossing, and Hanley Ramirez was in left working with coach Arnie Beyeler fielding caroms off the Wall.
One of the changes to the park this year is the removal of the center field camera well, which makes room for some new seats in Section 34. To do this, the cameras were moved up to a new platform above that section, near where the K-Men post strikeouts on the walkway to the Green Monster seats.
Here’s what the area looks like from the stands, compared to the same view last year. According to the numbers in the Media Guide, there are a grand total of 24 extra seats now (which along with the other seats in Sections 34 and 35 are covered up during day games to provide a dark batter’s eye background).
There’s another new seating area too, over in left field. Section 33, the last section of left field grandstand before the Green Monster, never used to have a roof over it. This year the roof deck was extended so that it covers that last little bit up to the Fisk Pole, adding 150 new seats and another suite. That’s great for when I sit in that corner of the grandstand and it rains, but today it meant that our seats in Section 32 were shaded from the sun for the whole game. It would have been a perfect beach day in the bleachers, but we actually needed jackets in the late innings when the breeze picked up.
As usual, the opening ceremony was beautifully done. They hit all the right emotional highs. The National Anthem was sung by the children’s choir of Jane Richard, who lost her brother in the Marathon bombings two years ago. Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, along with Patriots owners Bob and Jonathan Kraft, brought the Lombardi trophies and Brady threw out the first pitch. Then the Red Sox honored former Boston College player Pete Frates, who has ALS and was credited with creating the ice bucket challenge last summer to raise money to fight the disease. Both the Red Sox and the B.C. Eagles had worn his number 3 during their annual Spring Training game, and today they presented him with the shirts. And lastly, out came Hall of Fame electee and fan favorite Pedro Martinez. He said the official “Play Ball” and then hugged everyone – Pete Frates, the whole Frates family, even Wally the Green Monster – on his way back in.
The game itself more than lived up to the hype, and it didn’t take long to get exciting. The second batter of the game singled off Rick Porcello, and then Bryce Harper launched what looked like a 2-run homer toward the Red Sox bullpen. But Mookie Betts had it all the way, and he timed an impossible-looking leap perfectly to reach over the wall and rob Harper of the home run. We were still cheering him for that as he walked to lead off the bottom of the first. I kept my camera on him as he broke for second during Big Papi’s at-bat and captured him sliding in with a stolen base, but when he saw that the shift was on and no one was covering third, he popped right up and kept on going. The shortstop and pitcher gave chase, but he was safe at third, prompting another ovation (and an unsuccessful review challenge).
We thought we couldn’t cheer any louder, but Mookie’s next at-bat came in the second with two runners aboard, and resulted in a three-run homer into the Monster seats. Oh, and apparently yelling “Mooooooo” for Mookie (like “Looooou” for Lou Merloni and “Yooooou” for Kevin Youkilis) is now a thing.
The game really couldn’t have unfolded any better. It ended up the perfect way to usher in a new season. I can already tell that this is going to be a fun (and wild) season to watch, and I’m so happy it’s finally underway.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Game 1: Red Sox 2, Northeastern University 1, 8 innings
On Tuesday, it was finally time for “real” baseball! OK, so it was a doubleheader against two college teams that doesn’t even count in the exhibition standings which themselves don’t officially count, but it was baseball nonetheless. We got to the park early, before the gates even opened, and went around to the practice fields behind the stadium. The players who were in the first game would be taking batting practice on the field inside the park, so we couldn’t see them, but we did find some familiar faces out on practice field 1, where the pitchers were practicing bunting.
By the time the pitchers finished up, it was 11:00 and the gates to the stadium were now open, so we went in. The lineup for the first game had most of the regulars in it, with Clay Buchholz starting and Rick Porcello right behind him. One new thing this year is the warmup clock in center field. As soon as each inning ended, the clock started counting down from 2:25. They weren’t enforcing it in this “official unofficial” game, and some innings started early and some started late. During the season there’ll be rules about the batter being in the box when the countdown reaches 5 seconds and other such mandates. Naturally all the pitchers looked good, since they were facing a college lineup. Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino walked, and Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Napoli all had hits. The starters were done after 4 innings, and then the guys from Double and Triple A took over.
With Dana Eveland, the 31-year old reliever who’s pitched for 7 major league clubs, on to close out the win in the top of the seventh, an error by Jeff Bianchi, the 27-year-old infielder formerly of the Brewers, allowed Northeastern to score the tying run. It’s not often that the Red Sox need to bat in the bottom of the seventh in these games, but this time we did get a seventh inning stretch. When the Sox still didn’t score, the game went to extra innings. It’s more appropriate to say “extra inning”, because in the spring, they will play only one extra inning and then end in a tie if necessary. That wasn’t necessary this time, because minor league catcher Luke Montz led off with a walk, and then came all the way around to score the winning run when the N.U. shortstop made a throwing error on Henry Ramos’s grounder. I’ve seen games end on walk-off errors before, but never in the eighth inning!
Game 2: Red Sox 1, Boston College 0
The second game started 30 minutes after the first ended, which was just enough time to visit the ladies’ room and find the sign board where the lineups were posted. During the game against Boston College, the Red Sox were honoring former B.C. star Pete Frates, who developed ALS and is now an advocate for awareness and fundraising to fight the disease. While he was not able to travel to be here, his family was, and everyone on both teams – even the grounds crew – was wearing uniforms that said FRATES and bore his number 3. It was a very nice tribute, but as someone who keeps score at games, it was a smudgy mess of a scorecard waiting to happen. Substitutions aren’t always announced in the spring, so I’m always checking between innings to see if anyone new came out. It felt a little like cheating when I had to look up the box score after the game to fill in all the blanks and find out who I was watching, but it did make it easy to yell out, “Nice play, number 3!” throughout the game. (I saw a post on Twitter that the team had people with walkie-talkies in the dugout and in the pressbox to communicate who all the subs were, but I just wish they would announce them all. People do care!)
The 1-0 score made for another tight game, but this time there was no need for the bottom of the seventh as they quickly dispatched B.C. When the day was over, I had gotten to see 15 total innings, plus 13 pitchers and 35 position players from all levels of the organization. And that counts as baseball in my book!
Monday, March 2, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers
Spring Training Workout
Monday was the last day of workouts before games kick off Tuesday against Boston College and Northeastern. In the meantime, it was another fun day of fielding drills, live B.P., and batting practice. We got to see Justin Masterson and Koji Uehara pitch, cutoff and relay drills, and more long batting practice bombs. We also got autographs from pitching coach Juan Nieves, Garin Cecchini, and Sean Coyle. Some of my favorite pictures from the day are below.
The weather was absolutely perfect today, so after eating lunch in our car and sampling the gelato at Norman Love’s Artisan Gelato right down the street from the ballpark, we made the drive to Sarasota and spent the afternoon at Siesta Key beach, where we saw a genuine (sort of) Florida gator: