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Sunday Night Baseball

Sunday, April 10, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 4, Yankees 0

Sunday was a gorgeous, sunny, 60-degree afternoon, perfect weather for baseball.  But thanks to ESPN, the Red Sox didn’t play until 8:00 at night.  The forecast had rain starting around 7 and getting heavier as the night went on, with temps in the low 40’s.  I can handle bad weather if I have to (this is April in Boston, after all) but when the afternoon is so nice it just seems so unnecessary.  Add the threat of rain delays to the fact that Red Sox/Yankees games always seem to last four hours, and I was prepared for a long, cold night.  I drove in early and looked for a spot at a meter in the vicinity of Fenway Park, but with the nice afternoon and the area schools still in session, I didn’t find anything.  So I drove to the T station and took the train, but now I wondered if the game would be over by 12:35 when the last train leaves Kenmore, or if I’d have to battle it out for a cab.

Even with the team off to a 1-7 start, it's impossible not to smile when Big Papi arrives!

Even with the team off to a 1-7 start, it's impossible not to smile when Big Papi's in the house!

I used my Red Sox Nation card to get in 2½ hours before game time.  The Red Sox were taking batting practice, and we’re allowed to watch from atop the Green Monster or in the Section 36 bleachers, although the rest of the park is off-limits.  Big Papi’s 6-year-old son D’Angelo was there in full uniform, and father and son joined Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie in centerfield.  When Papi had to go bat, D’Angelo stayed, fielding popups thrown by one of the coaches and throwing balls back in after the other players fielded them.

D'Angelo Ortiz hung out in centerfield during batting practice.

D'Angelo Ortiz hung out in centerfield during batting practice.

This is the third year that Red Sox Nation members have been able to go in early while the home team is taking batting practice.  In previous years, the gates to the rest of the park opened 2 hours before the game.  (This in itself was something that began in 2002 when John Henry’s ownership group took over, so that fans could see a little bit of B.P.)  At the 2-hour mark when the gates opened, we had to come down from the Green Monster, but there was still enough time to head around behind home plate to watch the last 15 minutes or so of batting practice up close.  It’s always nice to be able to see the park from the Green Monster, especially for those who haven’t had that experience yet, but I’m not interested in trying to catch any home run balls.  I’d rather be down by the dugout where I can get some nice close-up photos of the final batters, especially since the majority of my games have me seated far away in the bleachers.  On days when the Red Sox didn’t take batting practice, the pitchers would often come out to right field for long-toss, and I could go over there and take pictures.  (I’m not sure if this is something they will continue to do this year, since pitching coach John Farrell left to manage the Blue Jays, but I enjoyed watching it.)  So this year I once again purchased the $15 Red Sox Nation membership so that I could go in early and watch the players up close.

The problem is that this year they’ve changed the schedule.  I had read seemingly conflicting articles that said that gates wouldn’t open until 1½ hours before, but that Gates A and D would still open 2 hours early. Today I figured out what the new plan is, and I have to say I hate it.  Red Sox Nation members can still go in 2½ hours before the game, and they’re restricted to either the Green Monster or the Section 36 bleachers in centerfield.  At the 2-hour mark, anyone can enter through Gate A or D (the Yawkey Way entrances) but they are herded straight out to the field, where they can only go in the infield seating area from dugout to dugout, and nowhere else in the park.  There’s still time for them to see 15 minutes of B.P. up close, but those of us on the Monster couldn’t go down there.  And what’s going to happen on days when the pitchers throw in right field?  No one could access that area.  Then when the Red Sox finished batting and the Yankees came out, we still couldn’t come down from the Monster yet.  Technically we could come downstairs, but we’d have to wait in that one section of bleachers or stand in the concourse underneath for the next 20 minutes until Gate C opens.

The Red Sox may say that they changed the schedule to save money by not having to staff the entire park for that extra half-hour, but it sounds to me like they’re trying to push sales of Red Sox Nation cards.  But since the whole appeal for me is up-close access, I’d almost rather wait the extra 30 minutes to go in Gate A and not pay for the card.  They may lose my $15 next year with this new fan-unfriendly plan.

In the concourse under the first base stands, is a display of Red Sox logos through the years.  But can you spot the error with the familiar 1976-2008 one?

In the concourse under the first base stands is a display of Red Sox logos through the years. But can you spot the error with the familiar 1976-2008 one?

This was my first game of the year in my Tenth Man Plan seats, and all the regulars were back in that section.  The gametime temperature was announced at 55°, and while it was windy, there was no rain yet.  Josh Beckett was going against the Yankees’ left-handed ace C.C. Sabathia.  While I wasn’t sure what to expect from Beckett this year, given the injuries and struggles he’s had in the past couple of years, I was hoping he’d recapture the dominance that had endeared him to all of us when he outdueled Sabathia and the Indians twice in the 2007 ALCS.  He got off to a good start, with two strikeouts and a groundout moving him quickly through a 1-2-3 first.  Red Sox righties Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis both got hits off Sabathia in the bottom of the inning, but they were stranded and Beckett was back on the mound.  He cruised through the second, and it wasn’t until the third that he allowed his first baserunners of the night.  There were two on with one out when Pedroia turned a great double play, ranging over behind second base, touching the bag himself and twirling and throwing in time to double up the speedy Brett Gardner.  Pedey continued to shine all night, and there was at least one 4-3 play in every inning from there on out.

Adrian Gonzalez bats with Dustin Pedroia on first.  Pedey reached base four times, and Gonzo reached base three times.

Adrian Gonzalez bats with Dustin Pedroia on first. Pedey was on base four times that night, and Gonzo reached base three times.

The Red Sox had been having trouble scoring runs all season, but they loaded the bases with no outs in the third.  Papi hit a double-play grounder to second, and Pedey came in the back door to score… or so we thought.  When Tito came out to argue at second base, I was guessing that it was some kind of “phantom tag” play where Derek Jeter hadn’t really touched the base, but I didn’t notice that they had called the runners back to their bases.  The scoreboard still had the run up there, but also 2 outs.  I finally got a smartphone before this season started, so I was able to look online and see what had happened:  Youk was called out for interference for running outside the basepaths, so the double play stood, but both runners had to return to their bases and the run didn’t count.  Luckily Mike Cameron singled home the run (for real this time) before the inning was over.

I had a much better look at the new outfield video boards tonight than I did from my seat on Opening Day.

I had a much better look at the new outfield video boards tonight than I did from my seat on Opening Day.

Beckett dominated and made that one run hold up.  He only allowed two hits, but he had thrown 96 pitches at the end of the seventh inning, so I was surprised to see him come back out for the eighth.  But he mowed through the bottom of the order on only 8 pitches, including his tenth strikeout of the game.  The eighth inning was when it started raining lightly, much better than the forecast I had seen that said it would rain all night.  Big doubles by Marco Scutaro in the seventh and David Ortiz in the eighth gave the Sox a nice 4-0 cushion, and Jonathan Papelbon looked good as he closed it out in the ninth.  The final pitch was called strike three to Mark Teixeira that sealed the victory for the Red Sox.  It was only their second win of the young season, but I had been present for both of them.  Now I just need to figure out how to get to 98 more games!

One of the strangest things about this game was the fact that it only went 3 hours, a nice early end to the night.  A friend who works in the area was able to give me a ride back to my car so I didn’t even have to wait for the T, and I was already back home by 12:35 when the T would have stopped running.

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