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Baseball Happened Today

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Game 1: Red Sox 2, Northeastern University 1, 8 innings

On Tuesday, it was finally time for “real” baseball!  OK, so it was a doubleheader against two college teams that doesn’t even count in the exhibition standings which themselves don’t officially count, but it was baseball nonetheless.  We got to the park early, before the gates even opened, and went around to the practice fields behind the stadium.  The players who were in the first game would be taking batting practice on the field inside the park, so we couldn’t see them, but we did find some familiar faces out on practice field 1, where the pitchers were practicing bunting.

Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly share a laugh while waiting for their turns  in a bunting drill.

Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly share a laugh while waiting for their turns in a bunting drill.

Brian Johnson drops down a bunt. He's often overshadowed in the media by fellow prospect Henry Owens, but Johnson is a lefty starter to keep your eyes on. He had a great season in Double A for the Sea Dogs last year.

Brian Johnson drops down a bunt. He's often overshadowed in the media by fellow prospect Henry Owens, but Johnson is another lefty starter to keep your eyes on. He had a great season with the Double A Sea Dogs last year.

A panorama from the bleachers while the Northeastern players were taking batting practice.

A panorama from the bleachers after the gates to the ballpark first opened.

By the time the pitchers finished up, it was 11:00 and the gates to the stadium were now open, so we went in.  The lineup for the first game had most of the regulars in it, with Clay Buchholz starting and Rick Porcello right behind him.  One new thing this year is the warmup clock in center field.  As soon as each inning ended, the clock started counting down from 2:25.  They weren’t enforcing it in this “official unofficial” game, and some innings started early and some started late.  During the season there’ll be rules about the batter being in the box when the countdown reaches 5 seconds and other such mandates.  Naturally all the pitchers looked good, since they were facing a college lineup.  Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino walked, and Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Napoli all had hits.  The starters were done after 4 innings, and then the guys from Double and Triple A took over.

Deja vu all over again: I'm watching a left fielder named Ramirez whose dreadlocks flap in the breeze after a swing. Hanley didn't disappear into the Green Monster between plays, though.

Deja vu all over again: We got to watch a left fielder named Ramirez whose dreadlocks flap in the breeze after a swing. Hanley didn't disappear into the Green Monster between plays, though.

Hanley Ramirez is outstanding in his field.  (Nothing came his way in the four innings he played in his new position.)

Hanley Ramirez is outstanding in his field. (Nothing came his way in the four innings he played in his new position.)

I think I'm going to like this year's line-up.

I think I'm going to like the way this team is lining up.

These are seven inning games, and it wasn't until the fifth that the Sox finally scored a run. With two runners on base after walking, oufielder Henry Ramos, who just moved up to Double A last year and isn't even in big league camp, hit an RBI single that brought in the first run of the game.

These are seven inning games, and it wasn't until the fifth that the Sox finally scored a run. With two runners on base after walking, oufielder Henry Ramos, who just moved up to Double A last year and isn't even in big league camp, hit an RBI single that brought in the first run of the game.

With Dana Eveland, the 31-year old reliever who’s pitched for 7 major league clubs, on to close out the win in the top of the seventh, an error by Jeff Bianchi, the 27-year-old infielder formerly of the Brewers, allowed Northeastern to score the tying run.  It’s not often that the Red Sox need to bat in the bottom of the seventh in these games, but this time we did get a seventh inning stretch.  When the Sox still didn’t score, the game went to extra innings.  It’s more appropriate to say “extra inning”, because in the spring, they will play only one extra inning and then end in a tie if necessary.  That wasn’t necessary this time, because minor league catcher Luke Montz led off with a walk, and then came all the way around to score the winning run when the N.U. shortstop made a throwing error on Henry Ramos’s grounder.  I’ve seen games end on walk-off errors before, but never in the eighth inning!

Game 2: Red Sox 1, Boston College 0

The second game started 30 minutes after the first ended, which was just enough time to visit the ladies’ room and find the sign board where the lineups were posted.  During the game against Boston College, the Red Sox were honoring former B.C. star Pete Frates, who developed ALS and is now an advocate for awareness and fundraising to fight the disease.  While he was not able to travel to be here, his family was, and everyone on  both teams – even the grounds crew – was wearing uniforms that said FRATES and bore his number 3.  It was a very nice tribute, but as someone who keeps score at games, it was a smudgy mess of a scorecard waiting to happen.  Substitutions aren’t always announced in the spring, so I’m always checking between innings to see if anyone new came out.  It felt a little like cheating when I had to look up the box score after the game to fill in all the blanks and find out who I was watching, but it did make it easy to yell out, “Nice play, number 3!” throughout the game.  (I saw a post on Twitter that the team had people with walkie-talkies in the dugout and in the pressbox to communicate who all the subs were, but I just wish they would announce them all.  People do care!)

Everyone wore number 3 to honor ALS advocate and B.C. alum Pete Frates.

Everyone wore number 3 to honor ALS advocate and B.C. alum Pete Frates.

At least it made it easy for the scoreboard operator to show who was picthing and who was at-bat.

At least it made it easy for the scoreboard operator to show who was pitching and who was at-bat.

Wade Miley started the nightcap, with Ryan Hanigan catching. We also got to see Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Craig Breslow, and Daniel Nava (who batted left-handed against a lefty reliever as he stops switch-hitting and works on batting exclusively from the left).

Wade Miley started the nightcap, with Ryan Hanigan catching. We also got to see Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Craig Breslow, and Daniel Nava (who batted left-handed against a lefty reliever as he stops switch-hitting and works on batting exclusively from the left).

Second baseman Jemile Weeks hit a double and a triple, and he scored the only run of the game when catching prospect Blake Swihart drove him in.

Second baseman Jemile Weeks hit a double and a triple, and he scored the only run of the game when catching prospect Blake Swihart drove him in.

The 1-0 score made for another tight game, but this time there was no need for the bottom of the seventh as they quickly dispatched B.C.  When the day was over, I had gotten to see 15 total innings, plus 13 pitchers and 35 position players from all levels of the organization.  And that counts as baseball in my book!

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