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Time for Change?

March 2023

There are a host of rule changes coming to MLB in 2023: a pitcher/batter clock, defensive positioning restrictions, disengagement limits, and larger bases. I’m not generally in favor of dramatic changes to the way the game is played (I still hate the Manfred Man/zombie runner in extra innings, the 7-inning doubleheaders that were in effect for a couple of years, and the three-batter minimum for relievers, just to name a few) but I’ve been looking forward to the advent of the pitch clock. I’ve certainly sat through my share of games where slow workers like Clay Buchholz and Drew Pomeranz labored through their outings, and the thought of making those feel more like a crisply-paced Tim Wakefield or Chris Sale start is definitely appealing.

Another late night at Fenway.

When Spring Training games started this year, with the new time limits being strictly enforced, the first few games almost felt too fast. (Of course, Spring Training games are always faster-paced than regular season games, as there’s minimal strategic maneuvering. Plus I was just watching on TV, rather than being there in person where I’d be more engaged.) That got me wondering about the times of the games I’d been to over the years. Has it really been increasing at the rate that it feels like, or was that just my perception because I remember all the games that were too cold or too hot or raining or late into the night more than the so-called normal ones?

A few years ago when I realized I was approaching my 500th game at Fenway, I compiled every Red Sox game I had attended into a spreadsheet. That’s now been updated to include time of game, and the results are in. Starting with my first game at Fenway in 1987, I’ve been to 602 Red Sox games. That counts 28 road games in 10 different ballparks, and 574 at home. My list includes 8 games that were less than 9 innings, due to rain or doubleheader rules, and 36 extra-inning games; I counted them all, rather than filtering on 9-inning games only, because I figure you never know what you’re going to get when you head out to a game or even turn on the TV. The end result was an average game time of 3:08, but here’s how that breaks down by year:

Just about 60% of the games I’ve been to in my life have gone over 3 hours, with 18.5% over 3:30. It’s interesting that some of the seasons in recent years with the shortest games are really bad years like 2012 and 2022, as well as a really really good year like 2018. But it’s certainly not my imagination that games have felt longer in recent years.

In the early years, I only went to a game or two a year, so 1987-2000 are consolidated into one line above, but here’s the breakdown of those years for completeness. 1994 certainly featured a variety of experiences, ranging from a 2-0 Roger Clemens victory in April (2:29) to a 12-inning 15-10 slugfest over Cleveland right before the strike in August (5:05).

Ticket stub from a past-paced game in 1994.

The shortest game I’ve ever attended was a mere 1:37. That was 10/1/2006, when Devern Hansack pitched 5 no-hit innings before the game was called due to rain. It didn’t feel short, though – there was a 3.5 hour rain delay before the game started, and then another 45 minutes after the tarp came back out before they made the official announcement. I had gone in when the gates opened and spent 8 soggy hours at the ballpark that day!

The longest game I’ve been to lasted 5:54. That was 9/17/2019, a 15-inning 7-6 loss to the Giants. With rosters expanded for September, the teams tied an ML record by combining to use an astounding 24 pitchers in the game.

A game that lasts almost 6 hours makes for a crowded scorecard!

My quickest 9-inning game time was 2:06, which actually happened twice – 9/17/2002, a 4-2 win over Cleveland (with Tim Wakefield starting), and 6/16/2003, a 4-2 loss to the White Sox on the road in Chicago (Pedro Martinez vs. Mark Buehrle, another famous quick worker). It’s OK that that game was so short – I had taken advantage of a half-price ticket promotion, so I only paid for half a game anyway.

My longest 9-inning game is the longest one in MLB history – a brutal 14-11 loss to the Yankees on 8/18/2006 that went a mind-boggling 4:45.

An exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown commemorates the longest 9-inning game in history, noting that it was longer than the average time to drive from Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park.

Here are some other personal “bests”:

I was also curious how the games I happened to go to stacked up against the team’s total for the year. Here’s the breakdown for the past 22 seasons:

And, though my average times are pretty irrelevant when I only went to a couple per year, I wanted to see what the overall team average was for those years too:

For most of my life, the average has been within a few minutes one way or the other of 3 hours, but 15 years ago that started to expand to 3:10, and then to 3:20, and beyond. When the new clock rules were introduced in the minors last year, they were found to shorten games by about 25 minutes. If that carries over to the majors this year, we’ll be back to a 3-hour average. I’m not looking for less baseball by any means – I’ve always liked to go in when the gates first open, and I stay till the end no matter what happens. I joke about long games giving me my money’s worth, and I believe a bad day at Fenway is better than a good day anywhere else. But if game times end up back around 3 hours again, then that will feel just right.

One last fun fact: If I total up all the times from every game I’ve been to (through the end of the 2022 season), it comes to 113,581 minutes… that’s 78 days, 21 hours, and 1 minute of baseball!

Posted on March 11, 2023 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: Personal

The Casas Era Begins

Sunday, September 4, 2022 – Fenway Park, Section 32
Red Sox 5, Rangers 2

I was excited when I heard that the Red Sox were calling up #2 prospect Triston Casas in time for my next game at Fenway. I had seen him in Spring Training and in Triple A, and now I’d get to see his big league debut. Even better, the Sox had won the first three games against the Texas Rangers, and were going for the sweep in the Sunday matinee. My favorite photos from the game are below.

Triston Casas started at first base in his Major League debut, and picked up his first hit on a single in the fifth.
Raffy had a hug for old friend Martin Perez, back with the Rangers after two years in Boston.
Josh Winckowski made the spot start after Kutter Crawford was placed on the IL.
Casas played a good first base.
Trevor Story had a great game all around. He had three hits, including a 3-run homer to give the Sox the lead in the first, a base hit that he stretched into a double in the fifth, an amazing leaping catch of a line drive, and and expert tag to nab a would-be base-stealer.
Story is greeted at the plate after his 3-run homer in the first.
Xander’s shoes read “X gonna give it to ya.”
Matt Strahm pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning. The Sox also got scoreless appearances from Kaleb Ort, Jeurys Familia, and the save from John Schreiber.
Infielder convention. Looks like Raffy and Trevor found a box of old Fourth of July gear in the back of the clubhouse.
The Red Sox swept the four-game series and won their fifth in a row.
Posted on September 4, 2022 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2022 Games

Baseball on the Rox

Saturday, June 18, 2022 – Campanelli Stadium, Brockton
Sea Unicorns 10, Rox 5

Remember when you could see Ortiz, Ramirez, Martinez, and Foulke in action every night? Eighteen years after the Red Sox’ curse-breaking 2004 season, those names are in the lineup together once again. But this time it’s D’Angelo Ortiz, Manny Ramirez Jr., Pedro Martinez Jr., and Kade Foulke, the younger generation now heading into college and playing in the Futures Collegiate League as teammates on the Brockton Rox.

Outfielder Pedro Martinez Jr. played with an enthusiasm that reminded me of his father’s passion for the game.

I took in a game on an unseasonably cool and windy June night. Pedro Jr. played right field and D’Angelo manned third base. The opposing Sea Unicorns scored six runs in the first inning and cruised to a 10-5 win. At the end of the night, there were a total of 8 errors between the two teams. But in between, we got to see the sons of our favorites, even though we did miss their famous fathers by a day. (Papi, Manny Sr., and Keith showed up to throw out the first pitch on Father’s Day the next afternoon.) My photos from the game are below.

Third baseman D’Angelo Ortiz.
Outfielder Manny Ramirez Jr. didn’t make it into the game that night, but we saw him in the dugout.
I remember watching D’Angelo follow his Papi around in Spring Training when he was 6, even signing autographs as “D34” in Ft. Myers that spring. Now kids crowd around the dugout before the game in search of his autograph.
Pedro Jr. fields a single in right field, while the baserunner takes off for second.
Manny Jr. and D’Angelo in the dugout.
D’Angelo takes a lead off first base.
Posted on June 18, 2022 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2022 Games


October 23, 2021

It’s always sad when baseball season ends, but overall this season well exceeded my expectations. When the season started, and ballparks were at limited capacity, I wondered if they’d even be able to play a full season before having to shut down again. It was so exciting to be able to get to an early April game, after not being at Fenway for a year and a half. Even though they lost that first game, it felt so good to be back “home.”

And then we were treated to a season full of entertaining wins, dramatic comebacks, home run cart rides, and raucous Fenway crowds. As we welcomed back our returning stars, new fan favorites were born. We got to know newcomers Kiké Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe, and Kyle Schwarber. We watched rookies Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, and Bobby Dalbec make meaningful contributions. We were reunited with old friends Travis Shaw, José Iglesias, and Chris Sale.

The chase for the playoffs came down to the wire, but the Red Sox made the cut – then knocked out the hated Yankees and the 100-win Rays, and came within two games of the World Series. But most importantly, baseball became fun again. And with their run lasting late into October, that means it’s only a little over three months until Truck Day.

At home in our socially-distant “pod” for the second game of the year.

Kiké Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber celebrate after a home run in ALDS Game 3.

A nearly-full house on July 10 against the Phillies.
In the shade of the grandstand on a hot July afternoon.
Bobby Dalbec got a curtain call after his two homer night on August 26.
I ended up making it to 19 games, including two during their improbable but electric postseason run.
Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers continued to lead the team.
We got to see three walkoff wins in person, including Christian Vazquez’s 13th inning home run to end a thrilling ALDS Game 3.
Posted on October 23, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games, Personal

Come From Behind

Monday, June 28, 2021 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 6, Royals 5

After a fun weekend sweep of the Yankees, the Royals came to town. Garrett Richards gave up two singles and a home run to the first three batters of the game, then allowed two more homers in the second (and almost a third, if Kiké Hernandez hadn’t reached over the bullpen fence to rob one), and the Sox found themselves down 5-1 in the second. But they were becoming known for their ability to come back, and Hunter Renfroe’s two homers drove in the tying and go-ahead runs, while Richards settled in and the bullpen helped hold Kansas City scoreless the rest of the way.

My pics from another come from behind win – and my yet-to-be-accomplished obsession with getting a picture of someone riding in the home run cart – are below.

Garrett Richards made a big deal of going to the rosin bag multiple times in the first inning. He had been struggling since the crackdown on sticky substances.
Kiké Hernandez led off with a home run for the second night in a row.
I wasn’t able to get a pic of Kiké in the home run cart, but here he is getting congratulated by Hunter Renfroe right after getting out.
When Bobby Dalbec rode the cart after his home run, I did at least get a glimpse of his batting-gloved hands reaching up for high-fives from his teammates.
Garrett Richards settled down after the second, and ended up pitching into the sixth.
Panorama from behind the plate.
From this angle, I still couldn’t see the home run cart, so here’s Hunter Renfroe getting greeted in the dugout after his game-tying homer. I love that Tek and Chris Sale are among those rushing over to get everything ready.
Here’s Hunter Renfroe launching his second homer of the game to give the Sox the lead. If it hadn’t hit off the National Car Rental sign, it might have gone all the way to the Citgo (wink, wink).
Notice what’s wrong with this pic of Rafael Devers’ at-bat in the eighth? The Citgo sign has been turned off. It used to stay lit until midnight, but tonight it was out just before 10:00.
Red Sox win!
Posted on June 28, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games

Start Spreading the Brooms

Sunday, June 27, 2021 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 9, Yankees 2

The Red Sox had already swept the Yankees in New York earlier this month, and they had dramatic wins in the first two games of this series. It was a little strange to have the first Fenway meeting of these two teams be in late June, and it was also unusual to play a Sunday game against them in the afternoon. But it felt right to have a packed house for the first time all year, with Friday and Saturday being the first two sellouts of the year.

After Eduardo Rodriguez got quickly through a 1-2-3 first, Kiké Hernandez homered on the first pitch of the home half, and the Red Sox kept it rolling from there. Raffy Devers blasted a three-run homer later in the first, J.D. Martinez launched one in the third, and Christian Vazquez padded the lead with his own round-tripper in the eighth. Hunter Renfroe made a diving catch with a somersault to end the sixth, right after the Yankees had gotten on the board. When Darwinzon Hernandez got into a little trouble in the seventh, Garrett Whitlock got him out of the mess, and stayed in to face the minimum in the eighth. Newcomer Yacksel Rios closed it out in the ninth, as we chanted, “Sweep, sweep, sweep,” gleefully in the stands.

My favorite pictures from the day are below.

Ed-Ro looked like himself today, and turned in a quality start.
Raffy Devers is greeted by his teammates after launching a monstrous 3-run homer in the first inning.
Xander went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Christian Vazquez is greeted at the plate by Marwin Gonzalez after his home run.
Newcomer Yacksel Rios shut the door in the ninth.
As Eck would say, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
The final strike. We were chanting “Sweep, sweep sweep” throughout the ninth.
Red Sox win!
Posted on June 27, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games

Walk It Off

Monday, June 14, 2021 – Fenway Park, Section 33

Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1

Monday afternoon brought heavy rain as we were driving in to Boston, but it stopped long enough for us to walk in from the car, and then our seats were under cover in left field. Unlike the rainy afternoon game we went to in May, this time the stadium lights were on, and the grounds crew came out right on time, 40 minutes before the start of the game, to remove the tarp and get everything ready. After a wild win at my last game on Thursday, the Red Sox had opened their series against the Blue Jays with a walkoff win on Friday night, then were dealt blowout losses on Saturday and Sunday. (I usually like to go to Sunday games because parking is free at meters, but I was on-call for work and opted for the Monday instead. That ended up being a great choice, even though it meant we had to pay for parking.)

A rainy Flag Day celebration.
Marwin Gonzalez checks the note card in his hat. The super-utility man who has played six positions this year – including pitching an inning in Sunday’s game – was in left field tonight.
With the Red Sox rotation battered around in their last few starts, and the team nearing the end of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, Nathan Eovaldi came up huge with 6.2 innings of shutout ball. “Nasty Nate” didn’t allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, and left with a 1-0 lead.
Matt Barnes gets a dramatic intro when he enters a game at Fenway. He’s been great as closer all year, but tonight he had the tough task of facing a Blue Jays lineup that had blasted eight home runs the day before, with only a 1-0 lead. As rain started up again, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was leading the league in homers, took him deep over the Monster to tie the game.

The Red Sox have become known for their late-game rallies and come-from-behind wins, and they had the right batters due up in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez each singled to start the inning. Xander Bogaerts flied out to left, but then Rafael Devers launched a hit high off the Green Monster to drive in the winning run. The walkoff celebration ended up being in right field, as Raffy ran from his joyous teammates until they finally chased him down.

The chase.
The celebration.
Raffy and his teamates return to the dugout after an exciting walkoff win.
Posted on June 14, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games

Wild Night

Thursday, June 10, 2021 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 12, Astros 8

This was my first game of the year in my Tenth Man Plan season ticket seats in the right field bleachers. It was worth the wait – it ended up one of the most crazy and entertaining games in a few years, and the enthusiastic, near-capacity crowd was into every pitch. Several lead changes saw the Red Sox go from down 1-0, to up 2-1, to down 3-2, to up 4-3, to down 7-4, then tied 7-7 followed by immediately going down 8-7, to finally taking a 12-8 lead for good. But that’s only half the story.

View from the bleachers in the early innings when it was merely a crazy roller-coaster of a game, before things got truly bizarre.

In a wild sixth inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Rafael Devers hit a fly to shallow center. The crowd roared as it clanked off the shortstop’s glove, then booed as the ump made the out sign. Confusion reigned as it was unclear who had been called out (Xander Bogaerts had gotten to the the second base bag just as the throw came in from the outfield) but finally the scoreboard showed IF6. We finally realized the infield fly rule had been called, so it was Devers who was out. Two batters later, with the game tied and the bases reloaded, a shirtless fan ran on the field and was tackled by security in front of home plate. Then Christian Vazquez was hit by a pitch to force in the go-ahead run, and Christian Arroyo walked to force in another. Bobby Dalbec followed with a double off the Monster to cap off the scoring with two more runs.

Hunter Renfroe and Kiké Hernandez on their way out to their outfield positions. Kiké made a nice diving catch late in the game.

But the craziness didn’t stop there. In the top of the seventh, the Astros had a runner on first and one out. The batter hit a dribbler that rolled just in front of the plate. He stepped out of the batters box like it had hit him, and I assumed it was a foul that had hit off his foot and rolled. The batter must have too, because he sauntered slowly back toward first. Vazquez was apparently the only one paying attention, because he realized the ump had signalled that the ball didn’t hit the batter and that it was, in fact, fair. So Vaz threw to first to retire the batter, then Dalbec chased the runner back toward second base, where he was tagged out by Arroyo for your classic 2-3-4 inning-ending double play. (Because it was the seventh inning stretch, the scoreboard never said what had happened; I had to look at the postgame comments and tweets to sort it all out later.) Astros manager Dusty Baker was ejected after expressing his displeasure over the play.

Matt Barnes came in to nail down the victory, and we celebrated a very wild and entertaining win. My favorite pictures from the night are below.

Christian Arroyo had a clutch three-run homer to tie the game in the fifth.
I spy in the dugout… Chris Sale!
A half-dressed trespasser is led off the field during a wild sixth inning that saw the Sox score five runs.
Fenway Park was rocking with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Posted on June 10, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games

Heat Wave

Monday, June 7, 2021 – Fenway Park, Loge Box 137

Red Sox 5, Marlins 3

It was fun to be back to a mostly-full Fenway Park! Today’s makeup game was 47 degrees warmer than last Sunday’s rainout (46° then and 93° today) and I got to see my first win in person since September of 2019. While Fenway was now allowed to be full capacity, we knew it wouldn’t be completely full. So instead of baking in our original bleacher seats, we found some nice ones that were not only shaded but spaced out enough from other fans that there was no one else in our row. My favorite pictures from the day are below.

Impressive how many people were able to make it, given the rescheduled date and 5:10 start time. It’s great to see Fenway back to almost full capacity again.
Alex Verdugo went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
I love this fact about Christian Arroyo: “As a kid, his mother used to read him ‘The Science of Hitting’ by Ted Williams.” I guess he was listening, as he reached base three times from the leadoff spot, drove in two, and scored twice.
Garrett Whitlock got the final out of the fifth.
Jason Varitek was on the top step to greet each player as they returned to the dugout. I was hoping someone would hit a homer so I could see them ride the laundry cart, but I guess I’ll have to wait till next time.
Xander Bogaerts had two hits and scored a run.
Hirokazu Sawamura ended both the sixth and seventh innings with a K as a nearly full house cheered him on.
Fenway Park stands as one in the ninth.
It’s been way too long since I’ve seen a Fenway victory. It was good to be back!
Posted on June 7, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games

Back to Normal

Sunday, May 30, 2021 – Fenway Park

When we bought tickets to this game in March, it was limited to 12% capacity, so our seats were in a socially distant “pod” halfway back in the bleachers. Since then, the Red Sox had raised capacity to 25% in mid-May, and then as of Saturday allowed full capacity. A few days earlier, I was officially fully vaccinated, and excited to start being able to do the things I enjoy again. It had been almost two months since my last game, and the Red Sox were playing really well, only half a game out of first place, so I was really looking forward to this game.

The tarp was on the field when we arrived.

Despite being Memorial Day weekend, which should herald the unofficial start of summer, it was cold and rainy all weekend long. They had played Friday night’s game through a steady rain, and managed to get a break from the rain on Saturday, when it was merely cold and windy. Sunday’s forecast was for rain starting around 2:00 and getting heavier as the day went on. If they wanted to get the game in, they’d have to start on time at 1:00 and hope to get five innings in before it became unplayable. So when we got to the park and the stadium lights were off and there was no sign of the grounds crew, that was a bad sign.

When they send the guy out to bring the stuff back in from the bullpen, that’s a very bad sign.

It was only 46°, and we were bundled up in our early season gear. We found a place under cover and had some hot chocolate (because, as everyone knows, New England summers run on Dunkin’ hot chocolate). Finally at about 1:30, the announcement was made that the game was rained out. After getting back to the car, we heard it would be made up on a common off-day the following week. Only 8 days later, the forecast for the day of the makeup game was 95°. I think I’ll pass on the hot chocolate!

To no one’s surprise, the game was postponed.

With all the rainouts I’ve had tickets for over the years, today’s just felt like one more way that life was finally getting back to normal.

Posted on May 30, 2021 · Permalink · Leave a comment · Share on Facebook
Posted in: 2021 Games


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