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Pedro!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

Wednesday was the last day for workouts before Spring Training exhibition games begin.  We again arrived as the complex was opening and the players were heading out to the field.  According to the schedule, batting practice for the major league players would take place inside the ballpark where we couldn’t go, but unlike yesterday there would be some live B.P. with pitchers throwing to their teammates.  All the players stretched together on one field before breaking up by position to do other drills.  We were watching some strange drill that had A.J. Pierzynski throwing off a mound in full catcher’s gear (shin guards, chest protector, and helmet; only the face mask was missing) to David Ross, who then threw on to second base.  The infielders were milling about on the field, and the pitchers were long-tossing down the right field line, when suddenly I noticed someone out hugging Big Papi behind second base.  It took a few seconds to realize who it was, but then my mother and I turned to each other at the same time and whispered, “Is that Pedro?”

My two all-time favorite players were reunited when Pedro Martinez showed up at the workout.

My two all-time favorite players were reunited when Pedro Martinez showed up at the workout.

Sure enough, a second glance revealed that it was indeed the future Hall-of-Famer, the Best Pitcher on the Planet, and one of my all-time favorite players, Pedro Martinez.  He’s a special instructor for the Red Sox, and he was in camp to work with the younger pitchers.  After greeting Big Papi and the other infielders, he headed out to right field to meet up with the pitchers.  Once I noticed Pedro, I lost track of everything else that was going on on the field – I even stopped my week-long obsession with photographing Mike Napoli’s mesmerizing beard.

I couldn't stop smiling while Pedro was around.

It's impossible to stop smiling while Pedro is around.

After a while, he left to go to the bullpens (also off-limits to fans) so we moved on to another field to watch Clay Buchholz throw live B.P. to some minor leaguers.  While we were watching we heard a little cheer coming from an adjacent field, and when I looked up, there was Pedro coming to stand right in front of me to watch Clay.  Suddenly a bunch of reporters and photographers swarmed around him and it was hard for me to see, but I was still able to take a bunch of pictures.

Clay Buchholz threw live B.P. while Pedro watched.

Clay Buchholz threw live B.P. while Pedro watched.

There was a buzz in the crowd as Pedro made his every move.  When Buchholz finished, Pedro sat next to him on the grass for a few minutes and talked.  Koji Uehara was next to throw, and Pedro stuck around to watch that too.

Koji Uehara threw too, but I'll admit I didn't pay much attention to how he did because I was focusing on Pedro.

Koji Uehara threw too, but I'll admit I didn't pay much attention to how he did because I was focusing on Pedro.

The final pitcher on that field was Jose Mijares, a 29-year-old lefty who signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox last month after pitching for the Giants last year.  He spent a long time talking with Pedro after his session.

Pedro Martinez imparts some words of wisdom to young lefty Jose Mijares.

Pedro Martinez imparts some words of wisdom to young lefty Jose Mijares.

Pedro went inside, and the only activity left in the complex was some of the minor leaguers taking batting practice on one of the fields, so we went up to watch that.  When they finished up we were able to get autographs from catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.  As we turned to leave, we saw a big group of people crowded around a fence.  Pedro had come back out, and he was signing.  I thought there was no way I’d have a shot at getting an autograph, since there was big crowd and in past years I had heard he signed only for kids.  But it looked like he was doing it for everybody, young and old, so I got in the back of the group and waited.

Fans - and even a dog in a stroller - wait for Pedro's autograph.

Fans - and even a dog in a stroller - wait for Pedro's autograph.

As we waited, people kept murmuring, “This is so cool.”  At one point, a guy in the back hollered out, “Pedro, you were – and still are – the best pitcher!” and everyone cheered.  Women swooned and said, “We love you, Pedro.”  Pedro enjoyed the banter with fans.  Someone asked, “Could you sign some for these kids over here?”  There weren’t very many kids left, so a retiree near me said, “What about some for the seniors?” and added, “We’ve been waiting a long time.  We’ve even had birthdays while we were waiting here.  Now we’re even more senior.”  When Pedro was finished with the one he was signing he looked up and said, “I have to sign for the seniors now.  The seniors are waiting.”  He did eventually get to me (after the seniors – I’m younger than Pedro is!), and signed the photo of JetBlue Park I’ve been getting signatures on all week.  He stayed for a long time, and got everyone who was waiting.  My mother had him sign a photo too, and my father handed him his hat, asking, “Could you sign a hat for an old geezer?”  Pedro chuckled and said, “A geezer, huh?  They used to call me an old goat!”  Then after signing the hat, he looked up in amusement and said, “Any more geezers here?  Who else is a geezer?”  Getting to interact with one of the all-time greats was easily the highlight of our whole week.  It was a treat to see him stay out there so long and make so many people’s day.  That was the perfect way to end the workouts for the year.  Tomorrow, the games will begin, and the only disappointment will be that we won’t be seeing Pedro take the mound.

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