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PawSox Hot Stove Party

Saturday, January 22, 2011 – McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

In the Boston area, we’ve had more snow this January than we normally get in a whole winter.  So when the opportunity came to think baseball for a day, I jumped at the chance, even though I was supposed to be home preparing to host a dinner party that night.  The PawSox Hot Stove Party is an annual event that’s been going on for over 30 years, but I just found out about it last year.  Some of the top prospects in the organization are on hand, holding Q & A sessions and signing autographs for fans.  The best part is that the whole event – including parking and food – is free.

Jason Rice, Stephen Fife, and Robert Coello sign autographs for fans.

Jason Rice, Stephen Fife, and Robert Coello sign autographs for fans.

While waiting in the line outside before the start of the event, I bumped into a friend and two of his kids.  His brother joined them later too.  Our first stop was the batting tunnel, where three pitchers – Robert Coello, Stephen Fife, and Jason Rice – were assembled.  Originally drafted by the Reds as a catcher, Coello converted to a pitcher and was playing in the independent leagues a couple of years ago when he signed with the Red Sox.  He got into a handful of games with the Red Sox last September, but is likely headed back to Pawtucket for the 2011 season.  Fife, a starter, and Rice, a closer, both pitched for the Sea Dogs last year and hope to earn promotions to Pawtucket.

Robert Coello answers a question.

Robert Coello answers a question.

First there was a Q & A session with the three pitchers.  One kid asked what it’s like to be called up to the majors.  Coello is the only one of the three who’s had that chance, so he answered that it was a very special feeling and he called all his family and friends.  Fife added that getting a promotion to any new level is exciting.  Rice quipped, “I don’t know what it’s like yet, but I’ll probably faint.”  Then they were asked which major leaguer they’d most like to strike out.  Rice and Coello both said A-Rod; Fife picked Mark Teixeira.  All three got applause from the partisan crowd for their responses.  After the interrogation, we got to get autographs from the players.  I brought a print-out of a panoramic photo of McCoy Stadium that I had taken at a game last year, and both Coello and Fife admired the picture before signing it.

Jason Rice and Stephen Fife.

Jason Rice and Stephen Fife.

From there we moved into the visitors’ clubhouse, where we found new PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler and catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway.  Beyeler has managed the Sea Dogs for the past four years, and was promoted to Pawtucket when Torey Lovullo left to join John Farrell’s coaching staff with the Blue Jays.  Lavarnway split the 2010 season between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland.  They also took questions from fans before signing autographs.

Arnie Beyeler and Ryan Lavarnway.

Arnie Beyeler and Ryan Lavarnway.

After seeing all the players, we stopped for some free hot dogs, chips, and soda.  I enjoyed looking at the extensive memorabilia collection that lines the walls of the hallway on the way out.  Before leaving, we got a chance to step into one of the luxury boxes and take a look at the field, blanketed under a layer of snow.

With Opening Day almost three months away, McCoy Stadium's field is covered in snow.

With Opening Day over two months away, McCoy Stadium's field is covered in snow.

I was glad that the lines seemed to be better organized than last year, so it didn’t take all day to get through both rooms.  I was able to get my baseball fix in the morning, and still had time to finish cleaning the house and make guacamole before my dinner guests arrived.

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