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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).

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK".

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK." (Three years ago the Red Sox also opened on the late date of April 13, but that year this tree was already full of leaves.)

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.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster. This is his first year as an outfielder after starting out as a shortstop.

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.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

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).

New center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

New look of the center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

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.

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

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.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

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).

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

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.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me was ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me is ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching base 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and he also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

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.

Baseball Happened Today

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.

Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly share a laugh while waiting for their turns  in a bunting drill.

Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly share a laugh while waiting for their turns in a bunting drill.

Brian Johnson drops down a bunt. He's often overshadowed in the media by fellow prospect Henry Owens, but Johnson is a lefty starter to keep your eyes on. He had a great season in Double A for the Sea Dogs last year.

Brian Johnson drops down a bunt. He's often overshadowed in the media by fellow prospect Henry Owens, but Johnson is another lefty starter to keep your eyes on. He had a great season with the Double A Sea Dogs last year.

A panorama from the bleachers while the Northeastern players were taking batting practice.

A panorama from the bleachers after the gates to the ballpark first opened.

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.

Deja vu all over again: I'm watching a left fielder named Ramirez whose dreadlocks flap in the breeze after a swing. Hanley didn't disappear into the Green Monster between plays, though.

Deja vu all over again: We got to watch a left fielder named Ramirez whose dreadlocks flap in the breeze after a swing. Hanley didn't disappear into the Green Monster between plays, though.

Hanley Ramirez is outstanding in his field.  (Nothing came his way in the four innings he played in his new position.)

Hanley Ramirez is outstanding in his field. (Nothing came his way in the four innings he played in his new position.)

I think I'm going to like this year's line-up.

I think I'm going to like the way this team is lining up.

These are seven inning games, and it wasn't until the fifth that the Sox finally scored a run. With two runners on base after walking, oufielder Henry Ramos, who just moved up to Double A last year and isn't even in big league camp, hit an RBI single that brought in the first run of the game.

These are seven inning games, and it wasn't until the fifth that the Sox finally scored a run. With two runners on base after walking, oufielder Henry Ramos, who just moved up to Double A last year and isn't even in big league camp, hit an RBI single that brought in the first run of the game.

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!)

Everyone wore number 3 to honor ALS advocate and B.C. alum Pete Frates.

Everyone wore number 3 to honor ALS advocate and B.C. alum Pete Frates.

At least it made it easy for the scoreboard operator to show who was picthing and who was at-bat.

At least it made it easy for the scoreboard operator to show who was pitching and who was at-bat.

Wade Miley started the nightcap, with Ryan Hanigan catching. We also got to see Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Craig Breslow, and Daniel Nava (who batted left-handed against a lefty reliever as he stops switch-hitting and works on batting exclusively from the left).

Wade Miley started the nightcap, with Ryan Hanigan catching. We also got to see Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Craig Breslow, and Daniel Nava (who batted left-handed against a lefty reliever as he stops switch-hitting and works on batting exclusively from the left).

Second baseman Jemile Weeks hit a double and a triple, and he scored the only run of the game when catching prospect Blake Swihart drove him in.

Second baseman Jemile Weeks hit a double and a triple, and he scored the only run of the game when catching prospect Blake Swihart drove him in.

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!

Closing Time

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.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts walk in at the end of a drill where they worked on fielding cut-offs, relays, and bunts.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts walk in at the end of a drill where they worked on fielding cut-offs, relays, and bunts.

Justin Masterson threw live B.P. to batters from minor league camp.

Justin Masterson threw live B.P. to batters from minor league camp.

Hanley Ramirez is all smiles after hitting a bunch of long drives in batting practice.

Hanley Ramirez was all smiles after hitting a bunch of long drives in batting practice.

Shane Victorino has been batting from both sides of the plate all week, even running the bases between rounds of B.P., and he's not showing any signs of the injuries that plagued him last year.

Shane Victorino has been batting from both sides of the plate all week, even running the bases between rounds of B.P., and he's not showing any signs of the injuries that plagued him last year.

I don't know what Brian Butterfield is saying, but it's cracking Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Brock Holt up.

I don't know what Brian Butterfield is saying, but it's cracking Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Brock Holt up.

Garin Cecchini, the third base prospect who made his major league debut last year, signed autographs after practice.

Garin Cecchini, the third base prospect who made his major league debut last year, signed autographs after practice.

Since today's workout was the last of the year before games start, I can't think of a better way to close it out than with a picture of Koji Uehara, who faced live batters today.

Since today's workout was the last of the year before games start, I can't think of a better way to close it out than with a picture of Koji Uehara, who faced live batters today.

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:

You can't expect to spend a week in Florida without seeng a gator. We found this one at the beach.

You can't expect to spend a week in Florida without seeing a gator. We found this one sunning himself at the beach.

Ready, Set, March

Sunday, March 1, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

Sunday was photo day for the players, when they pose for the pictures that will be used throughout the year by the team, media, and advertisers.  They wear their home whites for the photos, but this year they changed back into red practice jerseys before coming out to the workout.  Today we watched Pitchers’ Fielding Practice, rundown drills, and batting practice, and we got autographs from Jemile Weeks and Rich Gedman, the former catcher who’s now the hitting coach for the PawSox.

The players all posed for their official photos in the morning. So the current state of Mike Napoli's beard is the one you'll be seeing all year. You've been warned.

The players all posed for their official photos in the morning, so the current incarnation of Mike Napoli's beard is the one you'll be seeing all year. You've been warned.

Koji Uehara starts off a play during the rundown drills. We also watched him and his fellow pitchers practice fielding ground balls and picking off runners in PFP.

Koji Uehara starts off a play during the rundown drills. We also watched him and his fellow pitchers practice fielding ground balls and picking off runners in PFP.

Dustin Pedroia chases after a minor leaguer in the rundown drill. Pedey goes all-out in every drill he takes part in. (The baserunners are guys who are not among the 57 players in big league camp. They always call in a few guys from the low minors to act as baserunners for this drill.)

Dustin Pedroia chases after a minor leaguer in the rundown drill. Pedey goes all-out in every drill he takes part in! (The baserunners are guys who are not among the 57 players in big league camp. They always call in a few players from the low minors to act as baserunners for this drill.)

Mookie Betts walks between fields to get to batting practice.

Mookie Betts walks between fields to get to batting practice.

Rich Gedman, Red Sox cather of the 1980's is now the hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket, and he threw batting practice for Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, and others. Then, after practice, I was able to get an autograph from him.

Rich Gedman, Red Sox catcher of the 1980's, is now the hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket, and he threw batting practice for Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, and others. Then, after practice, I was able to get an autograph from him.

Shane Victorino waits his turn in batting practice.

Shane Victorino waits his turn in batting practice.

The Tres Amigos as they call themselves - Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz - look like they're really enjoying themselves in everything we've seen them do this week. This team is going to be fun to watch!

The Tres Amigos as they've been dubbed - Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz - look like they're really enjoying themselves in everything we've seen them do this week. This year's team is going to be fun to watch!

David Ortiz's batting practice sessions have become must-see events. But let's face it - it's always fun when Big Papi is around.

David Ortiz's batting practice sessions have become must-see events. But let's face it - it's always fun when Big Papi is around.

Finally we got the southwest Florida weather that I had been looking forward to, and after a nice, sunny practice, we were able to spend a couple of hours shell-hunting on the beach.

Open House

Saturday, February 28, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout and Open House

Saturday was a much busier day at Red Sox camp.  Although the players got a late start due to internal meetings, a larger than normal crowd was on hand, many drawn in by an open house at JetBlue Park.  During the workout, we got to watch one of my favorite spring drills, in which the players practice sliding on long black mats (see video below).  We also got to see more live B.P. and some impressive batting practice clouts by the big stars.  As practice wound down, I got autographs from Joe Kelly, new reliever Alexi Ogando, top prospect Henry Owens, bench coach Torey Lovullo, and minor league players Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez, Felipe Paulino, Travis Shaw, and Humberto Quintero.  Then we went into the ballpark for the open house, where we got to go up on JetBlue’s version of the Green Monster, walk on the actual grass (not just the warning track), and sit in the dugout.

Big Papi's son D'Angelo and Koji Uehara's son Kaz joined the team as they stretched out before practice. D'Angelo stuck around and shagged flies with the other players while Papi took batting practice..

Big Papi's son D'Angelo and Koji Uehara's son Kaz joined the team as they stretched out before practice. D'Angelo stuck around and shagged flies with the other players while Papi took batting practice.

Craig Breslow and the other pitchers did some long-tossing at the start of practice.

Craig Breslow and the other pitchers did some long-tossing at the start of practice.

One of the silliest drills, and therefore my favorite, is when they practice sliding. Here, Garin Cecchini takes his turn on the mat. Players have to change out of their cleats and into sneakers, and then change back afterward.

One of the silliest drills, and therefore my favorite, is when they practice sliding. Here, Garin Cecchini takes his turn on the mat. Players have to change out of their cleats and into sneakers, and then change back afterward.

In the video below, Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, and Dustin Pedroia work to perfect the art of the slide:

Joe Kelly threw live B.P. to Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli. After practice he signed autographs for quite a while.

Joe Kelly threw live B.P. to Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli. After practice he signed autographs for quite a while.

Catchrs have the most grueling schedules. Not only do they have to catch batting practice on the field and side sessions in the bullpens, they have to take their own turns at batting practice too. Christian Vazquez has been one of the last players to come in at the end of practice every day, and has been making time to sign for fans too.

Catchers have the most grueling spring schedules. Not only do they have to catch batting practice on the field and side sessions in the bullpens, they have to take their own turns at batting practice too. Christian Vazquez has been one of the last players to come in at the end of practice every day, and has been making time to sign for fans too.

Today was my first chance to see new reliever Robbie Ross, Jr.  He threw live B.P. to Allen Craig and Christian Vazquez.

Today was my first chance to see new reliever Robbie Ross, Jr. He threw live B.P. to Allen Craig and Christian Vazquez.

I finally got a good picture of Jason Varitek, who's been watching practice all week and working with the catchers as a special instructor.

I finally got a decent picture of Jason Varitek, who's been watching practice all week and working with the catchers as a special instructor.

Once again, Big Papi knocked a bunch of towering blasts over the fences during batting practice. (The short ones merely cleared the outfield fence. The long ones bounced off the roof of the batting cages beyond the field.

Once again, Big Papi knocked a bunch of towering blasts over the fences during batting practice. (The short ones merely cleared the outfield fence. The long ones bounced off the roof of the batting cages beyond the field.)

Rusney Castillo is easy to recognize with his unique hairdo.

Rusney Castillo is easy to recognize with his unique hairdo.

After practice we went into the ballpark itself. This is the view from the Green Monster (which is technically six feet higher than Fenway's). Afterward, we got to walk on the outfield grass, not just the warning track like I have at other events. We also got to sit in the dugout and talk on the bullpen phone.

After practice we went into the ballpark itself. This is the view from the Green Monster (which is technically six feet higher than Fenway's). Afterward, we got to walk on the outfield grass, not just the warning track like I have at other events. We also got to sit in the dugout and talk on the bullpen phone.

A Spring In My Step

Friday, February 27, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

On Friday we arrived early before the players took the field.  We knew it was going to be a shortened practice when we heard the players were leaving early to go to their yearly charity golf tournament.  That meant no live B.P., but we got to see plenty of other drills, including pitchers’ fielding practice, infield practice, and baserunning drills.  Then in batting practice, we watched as Big Papi smoked ball after ball out of the park and over the roof of the batting cages behind the field.  I picked up three new autographs – Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ben Cherington on a photo of me with the 2013 World Series trophy, and Derek Lowe, who’s back in town to talk about becoming a special instructor, on a photo of Fenway.

Hanley Ramirez was all smiles.

Hanley Ramirez was all smiles.

Some of the players have overcome a lot of hurdles to be here. (Sorry, I can't resist a good pun.)

Some of the players have overcome a lot of hurdles to be here. (Sorry, I can't resist a good pun.)

Mike Napoli fields a ball at first base as Big Papi waits his turn.

Mike Napoli fields a ball at first base as Big Papi waits his turn.

A picture of Dustin Pedroia, because it's a day of the week ending in "Y".

A picture of Dustin Pedroia, because it's a day of the week ending in "y".

Pablo Sandoval takes batting practice.

Pablo Sandoval takes batting practice.

Xander Bogaerts watches an early round of batting practice.

Xander Bogaerts watches an early round of batting practice.

Shane Victorino batted from the left, which was a good sign. Last year his injuries prompted him to stop switch-hitting and bat exclusively from the right. If he can stay healthy this year, then every little thing is gonna be alright.

Shane Victorino batted from the left, which was a good sign. Last year his injuries prompted him to stop switch-hitting and bat exclusively from the right. If he can stay healthy this year, then every little thing is gonna be alright.

John Farrell took the mound during a baserunning drill.  He was actually just miming throwing the ball.  A coach was hitting fungoes from behind the plate, and then the players practiced running the bases according to the game situations that third base coach Brian Butterfield shouted out.

John Farrell took the mound during a baserunning drill. He was actually just miming throwing the ball. A coach was hitting fungoes from behind the plate, and then the players practiced running the bases according to the game situations that third base coach Brian Butterfield shouted out.

Brock Holt's sunglasses reflect baseballs and sharpies as he signed autographs after practice again.

Brock Holt's sunglasses reflected baseballs and sharpies as he signed autographs after practice again.

It was a pleasant surprise to see old friend Derek Lowe at the ballpark. He's looking to become a special instructor to work with young pitchers. He joked with us that he didn't believe it when we told him we had been at Fenway for his no-hitter in 2002, because everyone always tells him that. (But we really were!)

It was a pleasant surprise to see '04 World Champion Derek Lowe at the ballpark. He's looking to become a special instructor to work with young pitchers. He joked with us that he didn't believe it when we told him we had been at Fenway for his no-hitter in 2002, because everyone always tells him that. (But we really were!)

The sun never broke through, so the temps never got out of the low 60’s.  But at least it didn’t rain, which meant an afternoon trip to Ft. Myers Beach for this family of native New Englanders.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves, and it was nice to look at fine white sand as far as the eye can see, as opposed to that other white stuff that’s covering everything back home.

Reporting to the Fort

Thursday, February 26, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

I flew into Ft. Myers last night, happy to escape the brutal Boston winter.  While I was originally worried about snow delaying my departure, this morning it seemed that rain would spoil my chance to see the players.  In past years we’ve had days where outdoor practice was canceled due to bad weather and the players worked out indoors out of sight of the fans.  But we lucked out as the rain held off long enough to get in a full practice.  We watched a lot of live batting practice, where pitchers throw to their teammates, as well as regular B.P. where coaches lob them in and hitters can really start to work on their timing.  I also ended up with autographs from Clay Buchholz, Deven Marrero, Christian Vazquez, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava.  Here are my favorite photos from the day:

Laser Show gets ready, along with Mike Napoli, to bat against Clay Buchholz.

Laser Show gets ready, along with Mike Napoli, to bat against Clay Buchholz.

Panda sighting! We watched him bat against Rick Porcello.

Panda sighting! We watched him bat against Wade Miley.

It's always a good day when Big Papi's in the house.

It's always a fun day when Big Papi's in the house.

One thing's for sure - all these nice new helmets won't be this shiny in October.

One thing's for sure - all these nice new helmets won't be this shiny in October.

Rick Porcello threw live B.P. to Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz.

Rick Porcello threw live B.P. to Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz.

We found a familiar face watching live B.P. alongside John Farrell.  Tek's in camp as a special instructor.

We found a familiar face watching live B.P. alongside John Farrell. Tek's in camp as a special instructor.

As the players finished batting practiced, they joined first base coach Arnie Beyeler for some more instruction.

As the players finished batting practice, they joined first base coach Arnie Beyeler for some more instruction.

Mike Napoli's beard is coming in nicely after his off-season jaw surgery.

Mike Napoli's beard is coming in nicely after his off-season jaw surgery.

Chili Davis is the Sox' new hitting coach, but I still think of him as that guy who got the hit in Pedro's 17-K 1-hitter in New York in 1999.

Chili Davis is the Sox' new hitting coach, but I still think of him as that guy who got the hit in Pedro's 17-K 1-hitter in New York in 1999.

Brandon Workman and Christian Vazquez walk in after their session.

Brandon Workman and Christian Vazquez walk in after their session.

Just as we headed back to our car, the first drops of rain started falling.  It was steady enough to mean we couldn’t go to the beach or even the pool in the afternoon, but it didn’t stop us from getting orange soft serve ice cream at Sun Harvest Citrus a few miles down the road from the ballpark.  Considering it was -13° at my house in Massachusetts one morning earlier this week, I’ll certainly take it!

A League Of Our Own

Thursday, October 30, 2014 – Fenway Park

Halloween at Fenway

The day before Halloween, the Red Sox hosted an event that sounded fun.  There would be trick-or-treating around the warning track from 3-6 pm, and then after it got dark they would show Ghostbusters on the Jumbo-Tron.  It was free and costumes were encouraged.  I would have been content to dust off my fake beard from the 2013 playoffs, but my friend had a better idea for baseball-related costumes – the Rockford Peaches from the movie A League of Their Own – and we decided to make them ourselves.  Once we both got the day off from work approved, she found a pattern online, and we spent two late nights into the wee hours of the morning sewing everything.  She even made the manager’s uniform for her husband to wear.

Happy Halloween from the Red Sox.

Happy Halloween from the Red Sox.

We entered at Gate C and went out to the field.  Fenway Park ushers and staffers were there in costumes handing out candy.  We were able to walk around the warning track and into the dugouts.

I know the Red Sox didn't play as deep into the year as they would have liked, but I didn't realize the last game of the season was long enough ago for cobwebs to form. (Of course, if they really wanted to scare us, the would have left the standings up on the Wall.)

I know the Red Sox didn't play as deep into the year as they would have liked, but I didn't realize that Fenway's been dormant long enough for cobwebs to form. (Of course, if they really wanted to scare us, the would have kept the standings posted on the Wall.)

When we got behind home plate, the World Series trophies were on display, and we got to take a picture with them.  (A guy dressed as Market Basket CEO Artie T. Demoulas was taking the pictures for us.)

There's no crying in baseball when you've won three World Series in ten years.

There's no crying in baseball when you've won three World Series in ten years.

While we waited in the trophy line, we joked that the players or owners could have come out in costumes and we wouldn’t even recognize them.  After all, Theo Epstein was able to sneak out of Fenway in a gorilla suit to avoid the media when he resigned from his GM post on Halloween 2005.  In reality, I know that all the players have long since dispersed to their offseason homes in warmer climes.  But as we neared the dugout, I saw one costumed character who looked really familiar, and sure enough it was Sox pitcher Drake Britton.

Apparently Drake Britton decided to dress up as Brock Holt for Halloween.

Apparently Drake Britton decided to dress up as Brock Holt for Halloween.

We got a lot of compliments on our uniforms, and as we got back around to center field we even met another girl – one of the Fenway ambassadors who was handing out candy – with the same costume, so we had to pose for a team photo.

The Rockford Peaches at Fenway Park.

The Rockford Peaches at Fenway Park.

An usher told us these two were a couple of old-timers, but I thought it looked like the way I feel when baseball season is over and I'm waiting for Opening Day.

An usher told us these two were a couple of old-timers, but I thought it looked like me when baseball season is over and I'm waiting for Opening Day.

As we walked around the field, a staffer asked if we were planning on staying for the movie.  When we told her that we were, she gave us passes to sit in the EMC Club to watch, so we went up there when we were done on the field.  It was nice to be able to eat indoors, as it was starting to get chilly out.  We went outside when the movie started and found that the seating area is heated.  There are even power outlets in the front row so we could charge our phones while we watched.

Who ya gonna call? "Ghostbusters" plays on the big screen at Fenway.

Who ya gonna call? "Ghostbusters" plays on the big screen at Fenway.

October 30, 2014 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

X Gon’ Give It To Ya

Thursday, May 29, 2014 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 4, Braves 3

After my last game a week ago, the Red Sox lost three more games to run their losing streak to ten, with the tenth being the ugliest of all.  But then they moved on to Atlanta, where they won both games.  They returned to Fenway for two more against the Braves and again won the opener.  Suddenly they looked like the team we thought they’d be and were fun to watch again.

I met Alex Wilson before the game.

I met Alex Wilson before the game.

I left work a little early on Thursday to head in to the game, because this was another day where we could get our picture taken with a player in the souvenir store before the game.  The player they choose is never a starter, and is usually the most junior member of the team, so it was no surprise to me to see Alex Wilson, the reliever who had been called up when Clay Buchholz went on the D.L. and was sure to return to Triple A in a few days when they called up someone to take that spot in the rotation.  He was wearing the American flag shorts that everyone on the team had last year.  (Too bad they don’t show in the picture, as it was especially comical in front of the flag backdrop.)  When I got to the front of the line, I said, “Oh, I forgot to wear my matching shorts!”  He laughed but looked at me like he was a little unsure of whether I was joking or not.  This time they did have vouchers to give us with a promo code for a free print, but when I tried to order one later it didn’t work.  I refuse to pay $20 for something that’s supposed to be free, so I resorted to photoshopping the word “proof” out of a screen shot.  I’d rather have a digital copy than a print anyway.

The Red Sox had finally found their new leadoff hitter, the red-hot Borck Holt.

The Red Sox had finally found their new leadoff hitter, the red-hot Brock Holt.

After Jacoby Ellsbury had left as a free agent over the winter, the Red Sox had tried several players in the leadoff spot, but none were able to reach base consistently.  Lately Brock Holt had been hitting so well that he had been moved to the top of the order.  While he struck out in his first at-bat tonight, he reached the next four times up with three hits and a walk.  With Mike Napoli on the D.L., Ryan Lavarnway had been called up and was playing first base in the majors for the first time after working on it in the minors this year.  But I didn’t even get a chance to take any decent pictures of him at his new position, as he was lifted for Daniel Nava before his second at-bat.  Later in the game they posted on the video board that Lavarnway had left with wrist soreness.  (The next day it was revealed he had broken his hamate bone and would require surgery.)

Later in the game, I moved around to an empty seat in Section 24.

Later in the game, I moved around to an empty seat in Section 24.

Jake Peavy pitched well, but as with most of his starts this year, he didn’t get much run support.  He gave up a solo homer to Jason Heyward in the third, and another run in the fourth after a balk moved the runner into scoring position.  (I could tell from my seat that he was upset after being called for the balk – Dustin Pedroia had to walk him back toward the mound as he stood staring at the umpire – but I didn’t know until I got home that since he’s legally blind without corrective lenses, he was having a really hard time seeing David Ross’s signals, and the balk had been called by the second base ump when he leaned in to squint toward the plate.)  It was costly, as the runner came in to score, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead.

Xander Bogaerts is out by half a step after Braves first baseman Freddy Freeman stretched to reach an errant throw.

Xander Bogaerts was out by half a step after Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stretched to reach an errant throw in the fifth.

The Sox got within a run in the fifth when Brock Holt (who else?) doubled in Ross.  But when the Braves scored an insurance run to make it 3-1 in the eighth, it felt unsurmountable.  But not to worry – Holt was leading off the bottom of the eighth (and it also helped that Atlanta went to the ‘pen and took starter Mike Minor out of the game).  Holt opened with a single into left, and reached second when Justin Upton bobbled it.  Xander Bogaerts quickly singled him home.  Pedroia reached on an infield single, and then A.J. Pierzynski knocked in the tying run with another single, which was misplayed by another Upton brother, B.J., in center.  The Red Sox went on to load the bases and then squander their chances in typical fashion, but the game was now tied.

The rally had gotten Peavy off the hook, and he was done after eight innings.  Koji Uehara pitched the ninth.  With the score close and the game relatively fast-paced, not many people had left early, so I didn’t go looking for a closer seat until the middle of the ninth.  I made my move then, and found an empty row in a loge box section in front of Section 24 for the rest of the game.  The Braves brought their closer, Craig Kimbrel, who hadn’t worked in the past three days because the Red Sox had won all three, in to a tie game.  He was clearly rusty, because he walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to open the inning, and then walked Brock Holt.  Bogaerts, who already had two hits, hit a sharp grounder to third.  The third baseman tried to double Holt up at second, but his throw was low and was dropped by the second baseman.  That allowed enough time for Bradley to race around and score the winning run.  It goes down as an infield single for Bogaerts, with the run scoring on an error, but I’ll take an exciting walkoff any way I can!

Xander Bogaerts is congratulated by his teammates (he's in there somewhere) after sparking the game-winning play.

Xander Bogaerts is congratulated by his teammates (he's in there somewhere!) after sparking the game-winning play.

May 29, 2014 • Posted in: 2014 Games • No Comments

Unlucky 7

Thursday, May 22, 2014 – Fenway Park

Sections 4, 3, 16, and Field Box 35

Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 2

The next day I was on my way back in to Fenway again.  I always like going on back-to-back days (in fact this made three out of the last four games for me) because it makes me feel like a real season ticket holder, like no matter what happens, good or bad, I’m going to be there for all of it.  In this case, yesterday’s game was in my 10th Man Plan package, and today’s was part of a 4-game Sox Pax that had included Opening Day.  But I’d prefer to have a bunch of games at a time when the team’s doing well and playing good baseball.  Now the whole team was slumping, and they had just lost six games in a row.

Xander Bogaerts homered in the second inning.

Xander Bogaerts provided one of the lone bright spots with a homer in the second inning.

This game also had a rather inconvenient start time of 4:05, meaning I had to take the day off from work.  Since I had the whole day off, I planned to use my Red Sox Nation card for early entrance at 1:35 to watch batting practice.  Most of the times that I can get in there early enough for the RSN line are Sundays, when they traditionally don’t take B.P.  But with this being a weekday afternoon, I was looking forward to it.  It was yet another day that was colder than it should have been for May, and there was rain in the forecast.  A light, misty rain was falling as I walked up from the Kenmore T station, but as soon as I got inside the park it started pouring.  The tarp was on the field, and there was no batting practice.  There was also no way I was going to go all the way up to my seat, five rows from the back of the bleachers, where the wind whips in and it takes forever to get downstairs if it starts to rain.  The game wasn’t going to be a sellout; the only trick was finding an empty seat.

Junichi Tazawa pauses on the mound, while the scoreboard behind him tells the sad tale of the game.

Junichi Tazawa pauses on the mound, while the scoreboard behind him tells the sad tale of the game.

I started in the Section 4 grandstand, where there were several rows that were still unoccupied.  Jon Lester retired the first batter on a groundout, but then gave up a homer to the second batter, followed by another homer to the third batter.  Not an encouraging start, but at least there was plenty of time left.  Dustin Pedroia led off the first with a double, and later in the inning Jonny Gomes knocked him in.  The second inning is when it got painful.  Lester labored, and the Blue Jays batted around.  Even the outs did damage: the inning went single, single, sacrifice bunt, single, stolen base, walk, single, single, run-scoring fielder’s choice, and then finally an impressive diving catch by Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.  By the time the inning was over, the Jays had scored 5 runs and led 7-1.

Brock Holt had two hits and played a solid third base.

Brock Holt had two hits and played a solid third base.

Xander Bogaerts homered in the second, making it 7-2, and then strangely the scoring stopped.  Lester had 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth, and fifth.  He gave up a couple of hits in the sixth, but one of the baserunners was caught stealing in a play that was challenged by the Blue Jays but ultimately upheld after a lengthy review.  I had slid across the aisle to Section 4 when some people came for my original seat in the bottom of the second.  (The joke’s on them – they ended up missing all the scoring in the game.)  It did rain while I was there, so I was glad I didn’t go all the way back in the bleachers.  That would have made the whole thing even less bearable.  At the end of the sixth I figured people would be bailing early, so I walked along behind the back row of grandstand toward the infield.  The top of the seventh had two pitching changes (Lester leaving in favor of Burke Badenhop, and then Craig Breslow coming in to get out of it) so I actually had time to walk to the concession stand behind home plate and buy a hotdog without missing any action.  I waited in the standing room behind Section 16 for the bottom of the seventh, and then when people started leaving, I found a really nice seat in Field Box 35 for the rest of the game.

As Junichi Tazawa pitched to Melky Cabrera in the top of the ninth, a girl ran onto the field.  They must have tightened security in recent years, because I used to see it happen a lot, but it had been several years since I last saw a trespasser, and I got my camera to the video setting just in time.  Security tackled her and led her away as the organist played “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor.”  I know they never show these on TV, so the video is provided here as a public service to anyone who missed it.

After that little burst of excitement, the rest of the game went out with a whimper.  The Sox went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the losing streak now stood at seven.

May 22, 2014 • Posted in: 2014 Games • No Comments
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