A Monster Day
Saturday, February 26, 2011 – City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers
Game 1 – Red Sox 6, Boston College Eagles 0
On Saturday, it was time for the first games of the new season. Of course, it was two seven-inning games against college teams, but it was baseball (or at least something closely resembling baseball) and, considering it’s still February, that was good enough for me!
But even something like a warm, sunny afternoon of pressure-free baseball (actually, is that an oxymoron?) wasn’t easy. Every year I register for the drawings to be able to buy tickets to Yankee games, Green Monster seats, and Right Field Roof seats, and most of the time I lose. I’ve won the Yankee game drawing a couple of times, but I haven’t been picked for Monster seats since 2004, and I always have terrible luck on the phone with the other non-winners. So this year I was excited to finally win the Monster seat drawing… until I saw that the sale started at noon this Saturday, a day that I had tickets to both the 1:00 and 6:00 games. We decided to bring the laptop along, hoping there’d be a wireless network at the ballpark like there is at Fenway. Our seats were behind first base, all the way in the back row, with a wall to our left and our seats all the way in. It actually made for a nice private spot to boot up the laptop. I did find their wireless network and sat in the virtual waiting room for about 20 minutes. When I got through, my first choice for tickets – the Cubs series in May – was already sold out, but I did find a Sunday afternoon in September that I didn’t already have tickets for, and got Green Monster standing room for that game. I’ve been on the Monster plenty of times during batting practice, but I’m excited to be able to see another game from there! The timing was perfect, too. I finished up and was able to shut down the computer at 12:30, just in time to be ready to keep score when the game started at 1:00.
Stolmy Pimentel, one of the top Red Sox prospects who spent last season in high A Salem, started the game, and he threw two perfect innings, striking out two and throwing (by my count) only 17 pitches. the best part of the game was when the Red Sox came to bat and the guys who were injured last year – Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis – got back in the lineup. Scutaro and Pedey both walked, and then, after they moved up on a groundout by David Ortiz, Youk drove one into right field and off the base of the light tower just over the fence for a three-run homer. Order has been restored to the universe!
When Pimentel was done, he was followed by one inning apiece from Michael Bowden, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, Matt Fox, and Randy Williams. Together, they didn’t allow a baserunner until a one-out walk in the fifth, and the only hit of the game for B.C. was a single in the top of the seventh. The Sox tacked on two more runs in the third on a single by Ryan Kalish and a sac fly by Lars Anderson. Alex Hassan, up from minor league camp for one game, also had a sac fly to drive in the sixth run of the game.
The other highlight of the first game was batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero’s annual at-bat. The 49 (or so)-year-old coach, whose official title is “Major League Staff”, came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with no outs and runners on second and third. He walked on four pitches, and stayed in the game to run the bases, although nothing else happened in the inning where he would have had to show off his speed.
The worst part of these college games always ends up being the scorekeeping. I enjoy keeping score when I go to a game, and I’d feel lost if I had to just sit and watch a game without my scorecard, but the college games are next to impossible. The teams substitute liberally, and we have to keep checking every inning to see who’s on the field. The substitutions are not always announced, and if they are it may be an inning or two late, and it’s almost never spelled out on the board when they do announce it. I’m pretty familiar with the Red Sox organization, even the minor leaguers who aren’t in major league camp, but I don’t have any idea who the college players are. But this year, the B.C. game really threw me. I had written down the lineup as it was posted and announced before the game, but when the guys came to the plate their names didn’t match up. I figured there had been a last-minute change to the lineup before the game, but when they went through the order the second time, they all seemed to be batting in different spots. At least one player started the game as a catcher and ended as a pitcher, but I think he disappeared for a few innings in between, because I had someone else written in as having pinch-hit in his spot. Looking at the box score on my smartphone didn’t help either – except it did confirm that a couple of position players came in to pitch, and that the batting order was changed around. (Like, how could Dowdell have “grounded out for Prohovich in the 4th” if Prohovich really “struck out for Laufer, D. in the 5th”? Meanwhile, Prohovich was in the published lineup batting third, but he came up as the first batter of the second inning after a 1-2-3 first. I have Dowdell listed as batting in the top spot during the 4th.) I can see guys switching to different positions – even coming in to pitch – but they shouldn’t be able to come back into the game after being taken out, or switch where in the batting order they are. I joked that Tito should call them on batting out of order and play the rest of the game under protest… until my mother pointed out that if a protest is upheld they’d have to replay the game. I know I can’t sit through that again!
Game 2 – Red Sox 13, Northeastern Huskies 2
I spent the time between games trying to sort out my scorecard from the first game, and then we re-entered the park for the nightcap. This time our seats were in the last row back behind home plate. And this time keeping score was a lot easier. Northeastern made the standard substitutions, and even had one pitcher who got the final two outs of the fourth inning bat in the DH spot starting in the fifth, but nothing my scorecard couldn’t handle.
At first it looked like Northeastern was going to give the Red Sox a run for their money. Third baseman Ryan Maguire homered to left off Kyle Weiland on the first pitch of the game. They extended the lead to 2-0 in the fourth off a shaky Rich Hill, who is experimenting with a side-arm delivery this spring and was very wild in this outing. But in the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies gave the game away. Four walks, two errors, a wild pitch, and just two singles gave the Red Sox a 5-2 lead, and they never looked back, piling on two runs in the sixth and six more in the seventh. The big blows for the Sox were Jose Iglesias’s 2-run single to give them the lead, David Mailman’s double, and Peter Hissey’s triple. Northeastern finished the game with an incredible seven errors: a dropped fly ball by the right fielder in the second, a grounder through the legs of the first baseman in the third, a double error by the first baseman in the fourth (a bobble followed by a bad throw), a grounder that clanged off the glove of the third baseman in the fifth, a bad throw by the catcher in the fifth, and a bad throw by the third baseman in the sixth. Add in 12 walks, and it only took seven hits for the Sox to score their 13 runs. But by the end of the night, I had seen 48 players from all levels of the Red Sox organization. And some of them are the same guys I’ll be watching from atop the Green Monster at Fenway in September.