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At Least It Doesn’t Count

Friday, February 27 – Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Rays 12, Red Sox 4

It started off as another beautiful Florida day. The sun was out, with hardly a cloud in the sky, as we made the trip to the Rays’ new ballpark in Port Charlotte, just up the road from Ft. Myers. Several years ago the Rangers were here, but they have since departed for Arizona. The Rays used to train in St. Pete, and after completely renovating the Rangers’ old stadium, today they played just their second game in their new home.

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A beautiful day in Port Charlotte... until the game started, that is.

We went in when the gates opened. As we came out toward the field, we saw the Red Sox position players long-tossing in left field. We went down to the front row of seats in that area, which was really close to the field. The guys right in front of me all had numbers in the 70’s and 80’s, but after being here all week, I pretty much have them memorized. As they finished the tossing and prepared to head toward the dugout, I was very close to #74, and am probably the only one besides my mother who knew that he was Carlos Maldonado, the catcher we had seen in yesterday’s game. (Considering one of the Red Sox “fans” standing near us asked me later if the guy fielding grounders at shortstop – Argenis Diaz, #76 – was Coco Crisp, I’m fairly confident we were the only ones who knew who he was.) So I yelled out, “Carlos!” He turned to look, and I asked if he’d sign, so he came over and autographed for me and my mother and the few others who were in the area. I also successfully called Lars Anderson over. I had been close to getting his autograph a couple of times this week, but hadn’t managed to until today. Later, Terry Francona came over, and I was able to get his, too. (Though I was cringing when one guy kept calling him “coach.” I know how much he hates that, and rightfully so. It’s called a manager, people! This isn’t football!)

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Jed Lowrie blows a bubble during batting practice. He went 0-for-2 with an RBI in the game.

As we stood near the field to watch batting practice, we heard some people talking about trying to catch a raccoon. It turns out one had found its way into the park. My father was walking around the stadium and saw it strolling along in the front row behind home plate. Later, he watched as it made its way to the back row of stands, then climbed over a fence and into a luxury box, all the while being pursued by ballpark staff. Finally, an animal control guy captured it in the back row of the grandstand and escorted it out of the park.

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A raccoon tried to sneak into the park without a ticket, and was given an early exit.

Everything was going well. The weather was beautiful, and I had gotten some autographs…. and then the game started.

Michael Bowden wasn’t sharp. He gave up one run in the first and was charged with three more in the second. When he reached the 40-pitch mark, he got the hook. Enrique Gonzalez came in with two outs and a guy on second, and promptly gave up a home run to Evan Longoria. Gonzalez was back out for the third, and fared even worse. The Rays sent ten men to the plate, and six of them scored. According to soxprospects.com, Gonzalez is projected to be in the PawSox bullpen. He’s also going to play for Venezuela in the WBC, which I’m sure is why they’re trying to get him some game action now. (Same goes for Angel Chavez, who’s started at third in two games so far and will be representing Panama.)

Devern Hansack was a welcome relief with his two perfect innings of work. Unfortunately by then the Sox were already down 10-0. Charlie Zink, whose knuckleballs were handled well by Mark Wagner, pitched the next two innings, and surrendered a long two-run homer, plus a walk and a hit batter. Steve Green, #97, who also projects to be in the Pawtucket pen, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

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Devern Hansack earned his spot in the PawSox rotation this afternoon. The rest of the guys who pitched may want to start checking out the bus schedules to Portland.

The Sox did get a rally going in the fifth, and ended up scoring four runs. Dusty Brown hit a double, and the RBIs came from Nick Green’s single, Jed Lowrie’s sac fly, and Rocco Baldelli’s single. Rocco got a chance to play against his former team, but we didn’t get to see Sox-turned-Rays Carlos Pena or Gabe Kapler. (I was looking forward to seeing Kapler because he’s one of my former favorites, not to mention the former Single A manager of some of the Red Sox prospects who were in the game, but no such luck.)

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Rocco Baldelli bats against his former team. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI.

It’s pretty sad that the highlight of the whole day was the raccoon! But at least these games don’t count for anything, and they’ll try again tomorrow with the other half of the team.

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