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Let the Games Begin

Wednesday, February 25 – City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers

Red Sox 7, BC Eagles 1

Today marked the start of Spring Training games in Ft. Myers. The Red Sox played a matinee at home against Boston College, followed by a night game across town at the Minnesota Twins’ park. We went to the BC game. It was great thinking that it’s the middle of winter, and here I am at a baseball game… or at least something vaguely resembling a baseball game.

With the two games scheduled, the majority of the starters were going to be in the night game. That left Julio Lugo, Rocco Baldelli, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew for the afternoon game. Josh Beckett started, and he looked good. He blew through the college lineup in his two innings of work, racking up two strikeouts and leaping to snare a line drive back to the mound. I counted a total of 21 pitches over the two innings.

A beautiful afternoon at City of Palms Park... except for those trying to keep score.

A beautiful afternoon at City of Palms Park... except for those trying to keep score.

My mother and I keep score at games, but the Spring Training ones are so hard with all the substitutions, and the college games are next to impossible. Not all the substitutions are announced when they happen, and we’ve experienced in the past that they’ve put the wrong batter’s name up on the scoreboard, or mispronounced the names of Red Sox players, so we don’t even know how badly they might be butchering the names of the opponents we’ve never heard of. It takes a lot of concentration to keep track of what’s going on in Spring Training, and I joked that we needed a real nine-inning major league game first to get warmed up before scoring these confusing exhibition games.

The only player we did know of on BC was their left fielder, Sam Shaughnessy, son of the Globe columnist. He was announced as number 42, batting cleanup. But when the second inning started, the announcer read, “Now batting, the right fielder, number 16, Barry Butera.” Butera was the fifth batter. Did we miss something? No, it was clearly #42, Sam Shaughnessy, standing at the plate. We joked that Dan must have written a negative piece about the P.A. announcer once, which is why he was skipping his kid. Sam struck out, and then Barry Butera came up. Once again the announcer read, “Now batting, the right fielder, number 16, Barry Butera.” We shook our heads and laughed, “It’s Spring Training. Everyone’s still working out the kinks.”

Beckett was followed by Clay Buchholz, who also looked good in a quick six-pitch inning. Kris Johnson pitched the fourth and ran into a little trouble. He gave up a walk and two singles, and BC actually took a 1-0 lead. Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, when the major leaguers departed, the Red Sox hitters went to work. (The college games are only seven innings, so it was a good time to get started.) Jonathan Van Every and Nick Green singled to open the inning. Angel Chavez, who had started the game at third base, drilled a two-run double, giving the Sox the lead. Yamaico Navarro, who had come in for Lugo at short the inning before, doubled Chavez home with the third Sox run.

My father said, “It’s a good thing the Red Sox finally took the lead. Could you imagine the stories in the Globe tomorrow if Shaughnessy’s team had beaten them?”

“Yeah,” I quipped. “‘The Curse of Barry Butera.’”

Baldelli struck out for the first out of the inning (his second K of the day). I saw #80 on deck, and from my back row seat, I assumed it was Dusty Brown, who had been wearing #80 all week (and in Spring Training last year too). But the announcer said, “Now pinch-hitting, number 80, Ino Guerrero.” What? Ino is the batting practice pitcher! He’s the one Papi brought with him to the All-Star Game a couple of years ago when he was in the home run hitting contest. We were just watching him serve ‘em up to Big Papi in B.P. yesterday. He was not going to be in a game! Someone must have written it as a joke, and the confused announcer actually read it! That was my rant… until I actually looked at the batter. It sure wasn’t Dusty Brown. In fact, it kind of looked like… Ino Guerrero. (This whole time the scoreboard said Jeff Corsaletti, who wasn’t even in the game.) He took ball four (on a 3-1 count) and jogged to first base. I zoomed in with my camera. It was Ino Guerrero! Corsaletti did come in to pinch-run for the 48-year-old coach, and Ino was greeted by laughs and high-fives from the whole team when he got back to the dugout.

Batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero stands at first after his fifth inning walk.

Batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero stands at first after his fifth inning walk.

Its all smiles and high-fives for Ino Guerrero as he returns to the dugout.

It's all smiles and high-fives for Ino Guerrero as he returns to the dugout.

Later in the inning, Chris Carter’s bases-loaded double drove in three more runs, and Yamaico Navarro’s homer in the sixth made it 7-1. Junichi Tazawa, the young Japanese pitcher the Sox signed this off-season who projects to open the year in Double A, pitched a very nice four-pitch inning in the fifth (fly to right, grounder to short, strike one and then a bouncer back to the mound which he gloved and threw to first). We also got a look at lefty Felix Doubront in the sixth and flame-throwing Daniel Bard in the seventh. With that, the game was over, and mercifully so, for both the college team and the P.A. announcer… and for anyone scoring at home.

Flame-throwing pitching prospect Daniel Bard lets one loose.

Flame-throwing pitching prospect Daniel Bard lets one loose.

It’s great to have baseball back again, and I can’t wait to go back tomorrow for some real Grapefruit League action.

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