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Saturday, March 3, 2012 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Game 1 – Red Sox 25, Northeastern University 0

Saturday was my last day in Ft. Myers, but it was my first chance to see a game in brand new JetBlue Park.  We got there early and went in when the gates opened two hours before the game.  (Even arriving 2½ hours before the game, we were pretty far back in the parking lot.  One tip for next year is that with the practice fields now adjacent to the stadium, it would be fun to come early in the day and spend time watching the practices out back before heading into the ballpark.  Some of the big leaguers are out doing drills or throwing bullpen sessions, and there are minor league games going on.)  When we did go in, I was really impressed with how well they did with the new park.  I always thought the old City of Palms Park looked nice, and other than the appeal of having all the practice facilities in one place I didn’t really see the need for a new park.  But once I saw the final product I was a convert.  It has the same dimensions as Fenway (with the exception that the Green Monster wall is 6 feet higher than the original – a fact which does bug me) but still has a small, intimate, spring training feel to it.  The seats are spacious with plenty of legroom, and they all have cup holders.  The concourse isn’t crowded because there are tents outside the park with concessions, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

Looking down the left field line really does feel like Fenway - except for the extra-high wall with seats - covered by a creen - in the middle).

Looking down the left field line really does feel like Fenway. This Green Monster has seats - covered by a screen - in the middle of the wall, and is 6 feet higher than its Boston counterpart.

Jon Lester delivered the first pitch thrown in a game at JetBlue, and we were underway.  He breezed through the first two innings, needing only 22 pitches.  One Northeastern batter did get a hit in the second inning, but he was quickly erased on a line drive double play that was fielded nicely by Jose Iglesias at short.  The Red Sox lineup wasted no time getting on the board.  Darnell McDonald singled in two runs in the first, and Cody Ross and Adrian Gonzalez both homered to highlight a 7-run second.

Unlike Fenway Park’s Green Monster, this left field wall doesn’t have enough room behind the scoreboard for the operators to sit inside.  (The Red Sox clubhouse is what’s behind that part of the wall.  There’s a small room for the scorekeepers further to the left.)  That means that every time there’s a hit or a run, they have to run out on the warning track between batters and update it from the front.  At least, that’s what they did in the first inning.  After the steady onslaught of offense in the second, they started waiting until the end of each inning to come out and update it.  Luckily for those of us trying to keep score in the stands, there’s a video board in right field that was kept up-to-date.

The scoreboard operators have to run out to update every hit, error, and run from the outside.  And if it's the visiting team getting the hit, they need to bring a ladder with them to reach.

The scoreboard operators have to run out to update every hit, error, and run from the outside. And if it's the visiting team getting the hit, they need to bring a ladder with them to reach.

Keeping score was actually a lot easier for me than it was at the old ballpark.  Between the video board in right and the fact that there’s a new announcer who actually tells us about all the substitutions, my scorecard was much neater than in previous years.  I was even able to keep up with the all the names of the college kids.

The Red Sox “only” scored one run in the third inning, as the starters began coming out of the game.  But in the fourth they batted around again, producing another 7-spot.  This time it was Cody Ross’s grand slam (his second homer of the day) and Che-Hsuan Lin’s 2-run shot that did most of the damage.  By the time we stood for the fifth-inning stretch (the college games are only seven innings after all) it was 17-0 Red Sox.

The first ever game at JetBlue Park was a contest between the Red Sox and the Northeastern University Huskies.

The first ever game at JetBlue Park was a contest between the Red Sox and the Northeastern University Huskies.

After plating 2 more runs in the fifth, it was time to bat around again and score 6 more in the sixth, capped by Ryan Sweeney’s homer.  That made for a tidy 25-0 score, a new record for the most runs scored in a game that I’ve attended.  It’s good these college games are only 7 innings, or they might have run out of big numbers to post on the scoreboard.

Game 2 – Red Sox 6, Boston College 3

JetBlue Park

JetBlue Park before Game 2.

Between games, we walked around the outside of the park.  A statue of Ted Williams, just like the one outside Gate B at Fenway, was moved over from City of Palms Park.  It’s surrounded by 9 palm trees, representing The Splendid Splinter’s uniform number 9.  There’s also a sculpture garden where all the Red Sox’ retired numbers are honored.

Posing with Ted Williams' number 9.

Posing with Ted Williams' number 9.

Felix Doubront pitched the night game, and he had a very quick two innings of work.  He gave up a hit in the first, but the runner was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.  Big Papi, making a surprise start at first base, fielded his position capably.  I captured the top of the first on video:

Aided by two walks and a wild pitch, the Red Sox took advantage of Mike Aviles’s double to score 4 runs in the second inning.  Unlike their afternoon counterparts, the B.C. Eagles actually had a little success at the plate.  They scored 2 runs on 3 hits off Junichi Tazawa in the third, and added another run in the fifth on a hit batsman, an error, and a groundout.  For the Red Sox, Alex Hassan and Juan Carlos Linares drove in insurance runs, and Doug Mathis and Chorye Spoone finished off pitching duties.

My final tally at the end of the day: I got to see 27 position players and 8 pitchers from all levels of the organization.  With that, it was time to fly back to New England and await my next game… Opening Day at Fenway Park.  For all the best photos of my week in Ft. Myers, including 6 days of workouts and a detailed look at JetBlue Park, see my Red Sox Spring Training 2012 album on Flickr.

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