Glimpsing the Future
Saturday, January 23, 2010 – McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket
PawSox Hot Stove Party
It’s still over a month before I head to Spring Training, so when I heard about the PawSox Hot Stove Party this weekend I jumped at the chance to go. Although it was my first time in attendance, it was the 33rd year that the Red Sox’ Triple-A team has put on the event. Some of the top prospects in the organization were on hand for autographs and Q & A sessions, and it was all – including parking, food, and drink – free.
There was no traffic, so I made it to Pawtucket in record time and waited in a line outside for the gates to open. The morning was cold, so it was nice that the events took place indoors, in the home clubhouse, the visiting clubhouse, and the batting tunnel.
First I went into the batting tunnel, where the batting cages and workout equipment were stowed out of the way in the back of the room. Pitchers Casey Kelly, Felix Doubront, and Randor Bierd, along with infielder Jeff Natale, fielded questions from the fans. Most of the questions were directed to Kelly, the much-hyped 20-year-old who projects to open the season in Double-A Portland, and centered on his decision to focus on pitching full-time after splitting time between shortstop and the mound last year, and how having a father who played Major League baseball (Pat Kelly) has helped him prepare. After the Q & A, we got in line for autographs. I had them sign a photo I had taken at a PawSox game last summer.
In the next room were pitchers Kyle Weiland and Junichi Tazawa, outfielder Ryan Kalish, and new PawSox manager Torey Lovullo. Tazawa used a translator for long answers, but he answered short questions himself – like his favorite Major League player (Daisuke Matsuzaka, to no one’s great surprise) and what other sports he played growing up (swimming).
In between autograph rooms, I grabbed a free hotdog and water bottle. The only problem with the event was that there were so many people that the lines for each room stretched out into the narrow hallways, where it was impossible to tell where one line stopped and another one started. That led to a lot of confusion and (mostly unintentional) cutting in line that made it take longer than it should have to get into each room. It seemed smoother toward the end when they had people to delineate and enforce the lines, and it’s probably because there were so many people, but I was still surprised that it took me 2½ hours to finish with both lines.
On my way out, I took the time to look at a couple of the displays that covered the hallway walls. They had a lot of pictures and memorabilia to commemorate the important players and events since Ben Mondor bought the team in 1977, like no-hitters and perfect games, an International League championship, the longest game ever played, and alumni who have gone on the the Hall of Fame. One display I found interesting commemorated Mondor’s inclusion in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, which involved a pre-game ceremony at Fenway in 2004. I went to that game – it ended with a 12th-inning walk-off home run by Dave McCarty – so I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the framed “I was there – Ben Mondor Day – Fenway Park – May 30, 2004″ t-shirt.
For additional pictures of the players and memorabilia, see my photos on Flickr.