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Running Down a Dream

Sunday, October 3, 2010 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 8, Yankees 4

The first weekend of October brought with it the final games of the season.  As painful as the last month of the season had been to watch, it was even worse to think that soon there wouldn’t be any games left at all.  But at least before I said good-bye to the season, the Red Sox had a couple of events planned to send us off on a good note, and I was most excited to hear we’d be able to run the bases after the game.

Unfortunately I missed the Saturday game which honored Mike Lowell, who was retiring at the end of the year.  When I first heard he was retiring, I was glad I had a ticket to the final game of the season, but he decided to make the second-to-last game his last, and after a nice pre-game ceremony and a base-hit Saturday, he wouldn’t be playing in Sunday’s game.  But I did get a chance to see him do an interview with Peter Gammons on the field before the game, and we cheered him when he ended the interview and went in.

Mike Lowell does an interview with Peter Gammons a day after retiring.

Mike Lowell does an interview with Peter Gammons a day after retiring.

Not surprisingly, there was no batting practice before the game, but the pitchers did come out for long-toss.  When they were done, both Hideki Okajima and Robert Manuel signed autographs for a long time, but both stopped just before they got to me.  I went back under the stands to grab a bite to eat, but on my way to the pizza stand near Gate E, I saw Dustin Richardson at the turnstiles greeting fans.  A couple of people asked him for autographs, so I got one too.  I decided to see if any other players were at the other gates, and found Felix Doubront inside Gate A and Rich Hill out on Yawkey Way.  By the time I got down to the Gate D end of the street the players had all gone in.

The Captain comes out to warm up before what I hope is not his final game with the Red Sox.

The Captain comes out to warm up before what could be his final game with the Red Sox.

As the start of the game approached, Jason Varitek came out to warm up with John Lackey.  The Captain was another one who could be reaching the end of his Red Sox tenure.  Both he and Victor Martinez were going to be free agents, and the Sox already had Jarrod Saltalamacchia under control for another year.  If they re-signed V-Mart, how would Tek fit into their plans?  I was prepared to show him some extra love today too, in case it was my last chance to thank him for everything he’s done for the team in the past 14 years.

J.D. Drew helped get the game off on the right note when he homered in the first.  The Yankees came back to tie it up in the third, but Jed Lowrie put the Sox back on top with a two-run homer in the fifth.  In the sixth inning, the game got entertaining.  David Ortiz led off with a bunt hit down the left field line that was vacated for the shift.  That was his third hit of the day, and Terry Francona lifted him for pinch-runner Josh Reddick so that we could cheer Big Papi as he came off the field.  (He had an option on his contract for next season, and while it wasn’t guaranteed that they’d pick it up, I figured one way or another he’d be back next year.  But he still got an extra-warm ovation as he left, just in case.)

As the inning continued, Bill Hall walked and Ryan Kalish drove home Reddick with a single.  Tek struck out for the first out, but then Hall and Kalish pulled off a double steal, sending them to second and third and prompting the Yankees to intentionally walk Daniel Nava.  Lars Anderson hit a sac fly, and Kalish went to third with Nava still at first.  Then with a 1-2 count to Eric Patterson, both runners took off.  It was another double steal, this time with Kalish stealing home, which really put the icing on the cake.

Tek is congratulated by his teammates and the fans as he leaves the game in the top of the ninth.

Tek is congratulated by his teammates and the fans as he leaves the game in the top of the ninth.

Lowrie completed the Red Sox scoring with his second home run of the day in the seventh.  He wrapped it around Pesky’s Pole, and Nick Swisher gave chase but then fell down in overly-dramatic fashion when he missed.  Despite an error in the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon was able to close it out, and though the season as a whole was disappointing, it at least ended on a good note.

We weren’t done yet, though.  Before heading off into the dark off-season there was the chance to run the bases.  I’ve seen them do that for kids before, but I’ve never had the chance to do it myself.  (Why would they not think adults would be interested?  I thought it was a really cool opportunity, and many of the people near us in the line were older than my friend and me, so I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.)  We were lucky that the line formed in the concourse under the bleachers, because that’s where we were sitting.  We were relatively near the front and only had to wait a half-hour before getting to go out onto the field.  We entered in center field, where ropes had us wind toward the Green Monster in left before doubling back and passing the bullpens on our way along the warning track in right.  (I finally had the right perspective to take a picture of the pirate flag and “poop deck” sign in the bullpen; I’ve never been able to get the right angle from the stands.)

I crossed home plate the same way Big Papi does!

I crossed home plate the same way Big Papi does!

When we reached first base, we stepped on the bag and entered the basepaths.  It was my first time ever stepping on the infield dirt, and while I had envisioned walking, we soon found ourselves running – or at least jogging – for second.  (I use the term “running” loosely here, but if Sean Casey could do it then so could I!)  The pace slowed as we rounded third and headed for home, and I had my friend sneak a picture of me as I crossed the plate – pointing to the sky like Big Papi after a home run, of course.  It was a really fun feel-good moment that helped take the sting out of the end of the season.

But before we headed home, it was time for Part 2 of my post-game fun.  Fellow blogger Allan at Joy of Sox had gotten an invitation from ESPN to be part of a media screening of the film “Four Days in October,” a day-by-day chronicle of the Red Sox’ historic comeback in the 2004 ALCS and part of their “30 for 30″ series.  The screening would be held in the EMC Club, starting one hour after the game.  Since Allan lives in Canada he wasn’t able to go, but he was kind enough to arrange it through ESPN that I could go in his place, as long as my review was published on both our blogs.  I was even allowed to bring a friend.

View from the EMC Club.  Workers are cleaning the field after fans ran the bases and preparing for the off-season.

View from the EMC Club. The grounds crew is cleaning the field after fans ran the bases and preparing for the off-season.

We went back in through the club entrance on Yawkey Way, but we had to wait awhile as the EMC Club was cleaned after the game.  While we waited, we were offered appetizers and drinks and seated at tables with tablecloths in a hallway that overlooked Yawkey Way.  I was doing my best to act cool and professional, as if I attend events like this all the time, as opposed to the wide-eyed gawking fangirl that I was inside.  (Even dressing for the game was a delicate balance – I didn’t want to look like a Yankee fan in disguise by wearing completely neutral clothing, so I went with a generic red jersey and non-Red Sox bag, but still wore my Red Sox jacket and hat.)  We read over the informational sheet we were provided that listed the directors and producer who would be attending.  It also listed “former Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling.”  My friend and I wondered if that meant he’d be there or if it was just listing him as one of the stars of the film, when we looked up and saw Curt’s wife Shonda and one of his sons standing right next to us.  (The son was helping himself to some sushi off an appetizer platter.)

When we entered the EMC Club, it was the first time I had been there since they remodeled a few years ago.  The walls were lined with display cases housing Gold Glove awards given to Red Sox players.  The room overlooked the field, where the fans had finished running the bases and the grounds crew was now preparing the field for the winter.  We also noticed some other people who had recently arrived.  They were dressed like fans and were wondering what this event was, so I felt a lot less out-of-place.  We watched the film, which was fantastic.  It really did a good job of capturing what those four breathless, sleepless days felt like.  My full review of the film is in the post following this one.

Mr. Bloody Sock himself was kind enough to pose for a picture with me after the show.

Mr. Bloody Sock himself was kind enough to pose for a picture with me after the show.

After the movie, the MLB Productions Executive Producer, the MLBP Director, the ESPN Films Director, and Curt Schilling took questions.  But they all started with, “This one’s for Mr. Schilling…”  Someone asked how he felt watching it now.  He said he was remembering being there, and mentioned specifically how he had had a 15-minute heart-to-heart with Derek Lowe after it was announced he wouldn’t be in the playoff rotation, telling D-Lowe that he’d make a big contribution before it was over.  He recalled how proud he was watching him pitch Game 7, almost like a father.  Schilling also said, in one of my favorite statements, that his motivation for pitching in Game 6 was that winning that game and the series was the only way to give an eternal middle finger to New York.  (And I am eternally grateful that he did!)

When the Q & A session was over, we prepared to leave.  I saw a few of the other people approach Schilling to shake his hand.  When I saw him sign a couple of autographs, I decided it was OK to drop the professionalism and let fangirl mode win out, so I asked him for a picture and he obliged.  I wish now that I had thought to thank him for giving that eternal middle finger to New York, but as usual all I could get out at the time was a generic, “Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.”  The opportunity to watch the film before it aired on TV, and to meet one of the men who made those four dramatic days possible (thanks again to Allan for hooking me up) completely softened the blow of the end of the baseball season.

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