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On-Field Photo Day

Sunday, April 14, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 5, Rays 0

After winning the home opener, the Red Sox dropped the next two to the Orioles.  There was a rainout on Friday, then they beat the Rays Saturday, and on Sunday I headed in for my second game of the year.  Normally on a Sunday, I like to park on the street somewhere nearby because metered spaces are free.  But with the area schools still in session and lots of visitors in town for the marathon the next day, parking spaces were scarcer than usual, and I wound up going a few miles down Comm. Ave. and then hopping on the T to get back.  Luckily I had allowed plenty of time for parking, so I still made it to Fenway before the gates opened.  Today was On-Field Photo Day, when fans can walk around the warning track and get pictures taken with the players, so I wanted to go in right away.

I met David Ross at Onf-Field Photo Day.

I met David Ross at On-Field Photo Day.

Rant of the day: The times for opening the gates have changed a couple of times over the past few years.  Since 2003, all gates opened two hours before the game, so we could see the end of Red Sox batting practice.  Beginning in 2009 (and still in effect), people with a Red Sox Nation membership can go in 2½ hours early, but are restricted to the Green Monster and the center field bleachers until the 2-hour mark.  In 2011, Gates A and D on Yawkey Way opened 2 hours before the game, but the other gates opened 1½ hours before and RSN people had to wait for that before being able to access the rest of the park.  In 2012, it changed again, with all gates opening at the same time – 2 hours before the game on weekends, and 1½ hours before on weeknights.  I assumed that was still in effect for this year, and rather than go in early with the RSN line and risk getting stuck in the outfield while the other gates got people closer to the field, we chose to go in Gate A, which is the main gate and has easy access to the field.  As we waited, 11:35 (two hours before the 1:35 game) came and went with no sign of the gates opening.  The ticket-takers told us they didn’t open until 12:05 – even though as we stood there my friend checked the Red Sox website on her phone and saw the published time was 2 hours on weekends.  But when they did finally open and we went straight down to the field, we saw it already ringed by hundreds of people – with the players half-way around – meaning that some if not all of the other gates had opened at 11:35.  It really irks me that the people in charge of opening the gates either aren’t told what’s going on or don’t want to pass on important info like that, not to mention that the team’s website never seems to be in synch with reality.

Jackie Bradley Jr. walked by us on his way in.

Jackie Bradley Jr. walked by us on his way in.

By the time we got in, many of the players had already finished up, but I did get to have my picture taken with David Ross, Clayton Mortensen, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey.  I just wish they had let us in at the right time so we didn’t just catch the tail end.  It’s always fun to be up close and get photos of the players, even if they’re not posing with me.

This was the first game of the year in our Tenth Man Plan seats behind the visitors’ bullpen.  The day was cool, but I figured it would be pleasant out in the sun.  Unfortunately the sun never poked through (except for one brief moment in the sixth inning which prompted a cheer) and I stayed bundled up for the whole game.  I don’t mind the cold when it’s a game like this one, though.  Clay Buchholz dominated.  Even from out in the bleachers I could tell that his offspeed pitches were keeping the hitters completely off-balance.  He struck out two batters in each of the first four innings, and there was a palpable buzz as he completed the fifth with the only two baserunners coming on walks.

It was a cold afternoon at Fenway, but with a special pitching performance going on there was no way I was leaving my seat.

It was a cold afternoon at Fenway, but with a special pitching performance going on there was no way I was leaving my seat.

My other favorite thing besides great pitching is early offense, and I was treated to that too.  The first three batters singled to load the bases in the top of the third, and Mike Napoli hit a ball into the triangle in the deepest part of center field.  It was a few feet from being a grand slam, but instead hit off the wall and drove in two runs.  The other two runs ended up scoring later in the inning, on a fielder’s choice and an error.  With the Sox now comfortably holding a 4-0 lead, we could sit back and enjoy Buchholz’s performance.

That sure is a lot of zeroes for Tampa Bay!

That sure is a lot of zeroes for Tampa Bay!

Clay issued two more walks in the sixth inning, but there still wasn’t a lot going on in the “H” column of the scoreboard, and we gave him a standing ovation as he finished up the inning by covering first on a groundout.  In the seventh, he pitched a 1-2-3 inning, finishing with a whiff of Jose Molina for his 11th K of the day.  That prompted another standing ovation that led nicely into the seventh inning stretch.  As the Red Sox batted in the seventh, I was sure Buchholz was sitting by himself in the dugout, with his teammates avoiding talking to him like they tend to do during these kinds of games.  I couldn’t really see into the dugout from where I was sitting, but it would have been cool to get a picture of it if I had a better angle… but there was no way I was jinxing anything by getting up from my seat.

I stood on my tippy-toes while taking a picture with Andrew Miller. It didn't help.

I stood on my tippy-toes while taking a picture with Andrew Miller. It didn't help.

The first batter to face Buchholz in the eighth was Kelly Johnson, and with a 0-1 count, he hit a bloop down the right field line that fell in for the Rays’ first hit of the game.  We gave Clay a warm ovation for having taken the no-hitter so far.  It wasn’t going to be a historical afternoon, but it was still a really good game.  Johnson was quickly erased on a double play, and Clay gave up one more hit before leaving with eight stellar innings of work.  The Sox tacked on one more run in the bottom of the eighth, and Andrew Miller – who must have been inspired by having his picture taken with me before the game – quickly retired the Rays in the ninth.

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