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The Final Workout

Tuesday, February 24 – Spring Training Workouts, Ft. Myers

Today was the final day of workouts for the Red Sox, before they start their Grapefruit League contests tomorrow. We knew they’d be ending practice a little earlier than usual so they could begin moving all their stuff up the street to City of Palms Park. We still arrived plenty early, and I managed to get John Smoltz to sign the photo I brought. (I also got Marcus McBeth, a non-roster invitee who was wearing #59, but who signed it as #57… which is really bullpen coach Gary Tuck’s number. It’s one thing when we don’t know the players’ numbers – although I’ve memorized almost all of them by now – but it’s another thing when they don’t even know their own!)

One autograph I was really hoping to get was Mike Lowell’s. I’d love to have it on the picture I brought of me with the World Series trophies, since he was the series MVP and he’s one of my favorite players, and since both my parents were able to get him earlier in the week. On my flight down, I was reading Deep Drive: A Long Journey to Finding the Champion Within, his autobiography, and it mentioned that his birthday is February 24. I realized that that would be while I was down here, and hoped to use that knowledge to get him to come over and sign. What I forgot was that because of his rehab, he’s on a slightly different Spring Training schedule. He doesn’t do the stretching with the rest of the team, and joins them on the fields when it’s time for fielding practice and BP. So I didn’t get to shout it to him in the morning, but still hoped I could catch him between fields at some point.

Tito and Smoltz chat as the rest of the team appears to prepare for the ballet.

Tito and Smoltz chat as the rest of the team appears to prepare for the ballet.

With the abbreviated workout, there was no PFP, so after the stretching, we headed to Field 3 for rundown/cutoff drills. All the infielders, pitchers, catchers, and outfielders were there, as well as a bunch of kids from minor league camp who served as baserunners. When the pitcher got to the mound, he’d pretend to throw the ball. A coach would hit one into the outfield, and everyone would have to get into the right positions to field it, serve as cutoff man, relay it to the right base, or back up the play.

Papelbon and Delcarmen walk between fields.

Papelbon and Delcarmen walk between fields.

After that, they split up to take batting practice. We headed to Field 5, along with quite a large crowd, to watch the group that included Big Papi, Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, and Julio Lugo. While Bay took his swings, a woman in the crowd beat me to it by yelling out a happy birthday wish to Lowell. He acknowledged it, and then she coordinated the singing of an impromptu “Happy Birthday to You,” and everyone joined in. Big Papi (on the far side of the batting cage from me) waved his arms in the air like a conductor as we sang. At the end of the song, someone shouted out, “How old are you, 29 again?” and the 35-year-old Lowell answered, “In the Dominican, I’m 28!”

The video below shows our birthday serenade of the Red Sox third baseman:

Big Papi put on a show himself during BP, knocking several over the fence and into an area where a couple of cars were parked near the building which houses the batting cages. It was hard to tell from where my mother and I were standing, but it looked like a couple of the shots actually hit the cars parked there. I joked that that’s where they parked the rookies’ cars. But my father was standing at the outfield end of the field at the time, and filled us in on the rest of the story. Luis Tiant and a couple of coaches were shagging the fly balls hit out to right field during the practice. As homer after homer cleared the fence and landed near the cars, the coaches started to tease Tiant, “That one almost got your car!” He was the one who was parked there! And sure enough, one did bounce right off his car. There was another that hit the van next to his, too. When Papi passed his way after practice, Louie called over to him, “Hey, you’re gonna pay for my car!”

Ino Guerrero pitches BP.

Ino Guerrero pitches BP. The blue building beyond the fence houses the batting cages. One of Big Papi's blasts hit the white van. Another hit Luis Tiant's black car, parked next to the white van, directly behind Ino.

When practice was over, we headed out for lunch, and then drove to Ft. Myers Beach. It’s a long, beautiful beach with Gulf water that’s warmer than we get all summer long in New England. But we did see the following sand sculpture, which made us feel at home:

Sandmen on Ft. Myers beach

"Hi from Florida" reads the inscription on this Ft. Myers Beach sand sculpture.

Tomorrow, let the games begin! I’ll be at the 1:05 home game against Boston College. The 7:05 game at Minnesota will be on NESN.

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