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Just Like Old Times

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 3, White Sox 2

The Red Sox bounced back from their awful Sunday night game with wins over the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I took the day off from work and went in to Fenway in the afternoon.  I used my Red Sox Nation card to enter early for batting practice, and this time – unlike all the rainy days and several of the Sundays – they were actually taking B.P.  When we go in early though Gate C, they scan our Red Sox Nation cards, and we’re eligible for a couple of prizes.  In the second inning, one winner is chosen to receive a seat upgrade.  Then in the fifth, they put a welcome message on the scoreboard with the names of 10 other RSN members, and one final person is chosen to win a prize pack.  There were a couple of games where my seats were so far back in the bleachers that I really could have used a seat upgrade – but of course from up there, I can’t even see the scoreboard to see if I’ve won.  I like to joke that I’ve probably won a couple of times, but only on the days when I can’t see the scoreboard, so I’ll never know.

Big Papi walks out to left field during batting practice.

Big Papi walks out to left field during batting practice.

From the Green Monster, I was able to get some good photos.  As the infielders batted, David Ortiz came out to left field.  He threw a ball up into the Monster seats (not near me) and then made the rounds, greeting his teammates.  When he got to Takashi Saito and Junichi Tazawa, he greeted them with a bow.  When B.P. was finished, I walked around behind home plate.  Inside Gate A, where “Autograph Alley” used to be last year, there was a line of people posing for pictures with Clay Buchholz, so I hopped in the line.  The line moved quickly, and there were FanFoto people there to take the pictures.  I usually ask the FanFoto people to take a picture with my camera, and they’ve always obliged.  This time they weren’t allowing personal photos (to keep the line moving faster) but they did give us coupons to order a free print.  So now I’ve got to wait for them to print it off (how quaint!) and mail it to me, at which point I’ll be able to scan it in and post it.  But it was cool to be able to meet a current player.  I think that’s a new development, because I haven’t noticed them doing that earlier in the year, or maybe I’ve just never been in the right place at the right time before. [Update: The picture arrived, and I scanned it in.]

Clay and me before the game.

Clay and me before the game.

Our seats were in Section 34, right next to the center field camera well again.  They were actually the exact same seats my friend and I had had at the game in May when Big Papi had hit his first home run of the year.  It’s a cool section, and apparently good luck for #34 when I sit in those seats.

Sunset panorama from Section 34.

Sunset panorama from Section 34.

Tim Wakefield was finally back off the D.L.  He hadn’t pitched since he picked up his 11th win right before the All-Star break.  (He made the All-Star team for the first time in his career but didn’t get into the game, in part because Victor Martinez, who would be catching the second half of the game, had never caught a knuckleballer before.  Ironically, Martinez had been traded to the Red Sox, and he was now Wake’s personal catcher.  It was going to be interesting to see how these two would work together tonight.)

Wake gave up a run in the first on an infield hit and a triple, but Papi made sure the Sox answered in the second when he launched a homer into the Monster seats.  After that, Wakefield was fantastic.  He allowed only a walk in the fourth, an infield hit in the fifth, a two-out double in the sixth, and two harmless singles in the seventh.  Victor didn’t seem to be having any problems catching him, either.  And in the bottom of the sixth, Alex Gonzalez smacked his second home run since joining the Sox, giving them the 2-1 lead.

At the end of the fifth, I kept my eye on the scoreboard, and I saw my name in lights as a member of Red Sox Nation.  Here I am, the third name down:

The Red Sox welcome me to the game!

The Red Sox welcome me to the game!

We gave Wake a standing ovation when he walked off the mound at the end of the seventh.  Everything was fine until Ramon Ramirez gave up a homer to the first batter he faced in the eighth.  That tied the game and meant Wake couldn’t get credited with the win.  The Sox had the top of the order due up in the eighth, but they went down 1-2-3, so the game went into the bottom of the ninth still tied, 2-2.

Kevin Youkilis led off.  I was present last year for two games which he ended in walkoff fashion, prompting me to nickname him the “Greek God of Walkoffs”, and he had already had one earlier this year.  But this time he struck out.  That brought up Big Papi, and in the golden days of yore that would have meant an automatic game-winner.  But he hadn’t actually hit one since the end of the ‘07 season, so it wasn’t necessarily a given anymore.  Still, if Wake could recapture some of the magic from his younger days, why not Papi?  “C’mon, Papi, just like old times,” I pleaded under my breath as I rose with the rest of the crowd.  We did our part, chanting “Papi, Papi” like we’ve done so many times before. And he obliged, launching a towering shot down the right field line… fair! Game over! Love that dirty water!

Here are my shots of the celebration at home plate.  Click each one to enlarge:

Big Papi's teammates assemble at home plate, ready to pounce.

Big Papi's teammates assemble at home plate, ready to pounce.

Papi leaps into the pile as his discarded helmet rolls away.  The ump seems to be making sure he actually touches the plate.

Papi leaps into the pile as his discarded helmet rolls away. Pedroia has some serious follow-through after what I'm sure was a friendly tap on the way by. The ump seems to be making sure Ortiz actually touches the plate.

The aftermath of the celebration.

The aftermath of the celebration.

As we walked down the street after the game, my friend pointed out that this was the first game we’d been to all year where the weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold, not raining.  Add to that the fact that I met a player and got my name on the scoreboard, along with the good pitching and of course the drama and excitement of a walkoff home run, and this will be a game I treasure for a long time.

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