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A Championship Welcome

Friday, February 28, 2014 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Twins 8, Red Sox 2

On Friday the Red Sox took on their cross-town rivals, the Minnesota Twins, at JetBlue Park in the opening game of the Grapefruit League schedule.  We got to the park at 11:00, but instead of going right in, we went around back to the practice fields.  The first few fields we passed had players from the low minors who are here for minor league camp.  As we headed around to Field 1 to see if anyone from big league camp was out, we saw Red Sox legend and minor league instructor Dwight Evans signing autographs for a couple of fans.  I asked him to sign the photo I had brought, and as I did I told him, “You were my favorite player as a kid.”  My father jumped in with, “I can vouch for that. The first time we took her to Fenway, we were sitting in right field…” and I finished, “Yeah, and they were telling me the seats were bad because they face the wrong way, but I just said, ‘These seats are great; I’m looking right at Dewey.’”  When we finished with him, we saw the players on Field 1 heading in.  In talking to a security guard, we learned that the big league guys do come out to the practice fields to warm up, but that’s usually around 10:00 or 10:30 for a 1:05 game, so next time we know to come earlier.

A lone red seat sits beyond the right field fence, 502 feet from home plate.

A lone red seat sits beyond the right field fence, 502 feet from home plate.

We walked around a little bit when we first entered the park, and I noticed for the first time that there’s a red seat out beyond the right field standing room area.  It was placed 502 feet from home plate, to commemorate the longest home run hit at Fenway Park.  Ted Williams hit a 502-foot home run into the right field stands in 1946, and a lone red seat in a sea of bleacher green marks that location at Fenway.  Now Fenway South has its own marker in the equivalent spot.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your 2014 Boston Red Sox.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your 2014 Boston Red Sox.

As we ate our lunch in our seats, we noticed the Red Sox’ three World Series trophies under blue wrappings placed on a table on the field.  We soon found out there was a special ceremony planned to honor the 2013 World Champions on their Spring Training Opening Day.  Don Orsillo and Joe Castiglione led the way.  (Our seats behind home plate were nice, but when I saw they were letting people stand behind the Red Sox dugout, I went down there because the angle was better for pictures.)  First they unveiled the “Chairman’s Cup” which will be awarded to the Lee County team (Red Sox vs. Twins) who wins the most head-to-head games.  (It was formerly called the Mayor’s Cup when both teams’ stadiums were within Ft. Myers city limits, but now that the Sox are a bit farther away in an unincorporated section of Lee County, the name has been changed.)  Then they introduced both teams, starting with all the Twins in attendance.  For the Red Sox players, they started with the coaching staff, then the minor leaguers who had been with the team for a few years.  Then they introduced all the players new to the organization this year.  (There are 58 players in camp this year, so they had to keep shifting further down the baseline to make room).  Next they introduced, in descending numerical order, all the returning players who had been a part of the 2013 Championship year.  They made sure to mention a specific big hit or contribution that each player made during the season or the postseason, which got me all excited for the ring ceremony that’s coming up at Fenway Park in April.  I noticed they skipped a few prominent players, but that was because the next group included Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Dustin Pedroia – players who were on the team for the 2007 Championship too.  The final player to enter the field was of course Big Papi, David Ortiz, who was with the team for all three World Series wins in the past ten years.

Big Papi carries the trophy onto the field.

Big Papi carries the trophy onto the field.

Then Big Papi, Jon Lester, and John Lackey each carried a trophy onto the field, and they were joined by Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy to catch ceremonial first pitches thrown by various Lee County officials.  With that, the 2014 Grapefruit League season was underway.  Young righty Anthony Ranaudo, a first-round draft pick in 2010 who moved up to Triple A at the end of last season, started the game, and he was impressive.  In two perfect innings of work, he threw a total of 23 pitches, and he racked up four strikeouts and two groundouts back to the mound.

Anthony Ranaudo was impressive in his first outing of 2014.

Anthony Ranaudo was impressive in his first outing of 2014.

The pitchers who followed him to the mound were, shall we say, less impressive.  Dalier Hinojosa, who was signed out of Cuba this past off-season, was fine in his first inning of work, but gave up three runs in the next inning.  Andrew Miller was shaky and gave up three walks and a two-run single, but since this was his first game action since injuring his foot last June, I’m not going to read too much into that.  Francisco Cordero, the former closer for the Rangers, Brewers, and Reds who’s in camp on a minor league deal, got through a scoreless inning, but he put two runners on base.

A perfectly blue, cloudless sky was the backdrop for today's game. Even with a less-than-favorable outcome, it was great to be watching baseball again.

A perfectly blue, cloudless sky was the backdrop for today's game. Even with a less-than-favorable outcome, it was great to be watching baseball again.

Most of the Red Sox regulars started the game, but Mike Napoli’s two singles accounted for the only hits in the first five innings.  By the time Bryce Brentz got the Sox on the board with a long solo shot over the high wall in straightaway center in the sixth, it was too little too late.  The subs did put together a little rally and score a run on a bases-loaded groundout in the ninth, but the damage was already done.  Remember that the final score of a Spring Training game is completely meaningless (unless, of course, the Red Sox win)… or if someone points out that they also dropped their Spring Training opener last year – which naturally means that they’re going all the way this year too!

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