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The Final Workout

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring Training Workouts

Friday marked the final workout session for the Red Sox, before they start up their exhibition game schedule on Saturday.  After doing their usual stretching on the agility field, they broke up into groups and dispersed to the various practice fields.  I followed David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and the other star players to Field 4, where they started with some long-tossing.  As they threw, they lamented the state of the televisions in the rentals they’re staying in during the spring.  Pedey turned toward the fans and shouted, “Seriously, I don’t even have cable in my bedroom,” which got a sympathetic “Aww” from the crowd.  Big Papi thought his situation was worse.  He acted it out as he described it: “My television, you have to sit this close” – he mimed sitting 6 inches away from a big, boxy TV – “and you have to do this” – he started hitting the side of his imaginary TV – “every time you want to change the channel.”  Moments like this, where we’re close enough to get glimpses into the players’ lives and see them as actual people, are what make the workouts my favorite part of the spring.

Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard share a high-five and a laugh after one of their drills.

Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard share a high-five and a laugh after one of their drills.

What followed was a special edition of Pitchers’ Fielding Practice, the culmination of two weeks of tedious PFP drills.  They were preparing to do a competition that I heard referred to on NESN later as the “PFP Olympics”.  The pitchers were broken up into two groups, and were told that the winning group would get a prize (”Win Papi a new TV,” cracked Youk).  Each pitcher took the mound and was given a game situation, like suicide squeeze or 1-6-3. They had 4 seconds to make each play, with the coaches hitting fungoes and their infielder teammates manning the bases, and if they messed up or took longer than 4 seconds they had to repeat it.  The coaches were recording the total time it took for each group to complete their given series of plays.  (I took the video below, but unfortunately too many photographers and trainers stood in my way while the second group went.)  The final tally: the second group – including Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Michael Bowden, Josh Beckett, and Daisuke Matsuzaka among others – ended up winning with a total time of 3:00.  (The first group had finished in 3:05.)  It’s fun to see the players enjoying themselves in drills like these that could otherwise become monotonous.

In between fields, I got an autograph from Red Sox legend Luis Tiant, and then I headed to Field 3 where the group of pitchers who had emerged victorious from their PFP competition went on to work on their pickoff moves.  I was finally able to get a look at new closer Andrew Bailey.  He wasn’t participating in the drills because of a mildly strained lat muscle, but he was out there supporting his teammates.

New closer Andrew Bailey watches one of the drills.

New closer Andrew Bailey watches one of the drills.

When that drill was over, the players headed out back for their nutrition break, and then the hitters went into the stadium to take batting practice.  Unfortunately that’s off-limits to fans, but we had figured this would be a shorter practice than usual since it was the final day, and the security guards had confirmed that in the morning.  Some of the pitchers were still out on one of the back fields and continued to do conditioning exercises.  I happened to be walking between Fields 3 and 6 just as Daniel Bard finished up and headed in, and he stopped for quite a while to sign autographs for everyone who was there at the time.  That’s when I noticed that the other pitchers were leaving the field through a different area – one that didn’t even have a barrier to keep the fans away – and a couple of them had also stopped to sign.  When I got closer, I saw that it was Chorye Spoone, Vicente Padilla, Rich Hill, and Mark Melancon.  Clay Buchholz and Doug Mathis were also signing, but I couldn’t get close enough to them.  I didn’t think any players would want to stop on the last day, especially these guys who were dripping with sweat after sprinting under the Florida sun, and in an area which must have made it more difficult for them, so I really appreciated that they took the time to interact with the fans.

New reliever Mark Melancon signs autographs after practice.

New reliever Mark Melancon signs autographs after practice.

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