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Thursday, February 23, 2017 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Red Sox 9, Huskies 6

Today it was finally time to watch some baseball!  The Red Sox kicked off the 2017 season with a 1:00 game against Northeastern University.  We arrived early, well before the gates opened, and walked around to the back fields of the complex to see if there were any players out practicing before the game.  This is a great way to combine the close access of the workouts with actual game action.

Minor league camp has started up, attended by all the minor league players in the organization who aren’t among the 57 invited to major league camp.  The first player I spotted was Jason Groome, the Red Sox’ first round draft pick from last year.  He’s fresh out of high school and only got into a couple of games at the very end of last season, but he’s a tall power pitcher who’s one of the top prospects in the organization.  (He was watching one of the fielding drills, so we didn’t get to see him throw.)  Also watching the drill was Luis Tiant, who was kind enough to sign autographs for us.

18-year-old lefty Jason Groome is currently the number 3 prospect in the organization, according to SoxProspects.

18-year-old lefty Jason Groome is currently the number 3 prospect in the organization, according to SoxProspects.

We moved on to two fields at the far end of the complex which were being used by the players from big league camp.  The pitchers were just winding up Pitchers’ Fielding Practice on Field 2, and the infielders who were scheduled to play in this afternoon’s game were taking infield practice on Field 1.  That was followed by batting practice for the guys who are likely to end up on the Triple A roster.  As they left the field, we got autographs from third base prospect Rafael Devers and Pawtucket hitting coach Rich Gedman (I got to tell him that he played in the first game I ever went to at Fenway, back in 1987).

Bryce Brentz snacks on a banana as he chats with special instructor Dwight Evans.

Bryce Brentz snacks on a banana as he chats with special instructor Dwight Evans.

Infielder Deven Marrero pauses between rounds of batting practice.

Infielder Deven Marrero pauses between rounds of batting practice.

One of the instructors who threw batting practice was old friend Jason Varitek.

One of the instructors who threw batting practice was old friend Jason Varitek.

After B.P., the last players out on the field were the catchers, who did a really cool drill trying to catch pop-ups after doing a somersault.

The catchers practiced their floor execrises under the watchful eyes of bullpen catcher Mike Brenley and Jason Varitek.

The catchers practiced their floor exercise routines under the watchful eyes of bullpen catcher Mike Brenly and Jason Varitek.

Here’s a video of the drill:


When they finished up, it was finally time to head into the park to watch the actual game.  This is the twelfth year I’ve attended the games against college teams, and while all the other ones in that time have been seven inning games, even one that was not part of a doubleheader, this one went the full nine for our half-price ticket.

Before the game, we saw Christian Vazquez chatting with Tek in the bullpen.

Before the game, we saw Christian Vazquez chatting with Tek in the bullpen.

We did get to see about half the major league starting lineup, and most of the rest of the players were familiar to us from following the minor leagues.  Left-hander Brian Johnson started and went two scoreless innings.  Highlights of the game were three-run homers from Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis, and RBI doubles from Steve Selsky and Deven Marrero.  Brian Bogusevic, who replaced Chris Young in left field, made a nice diving catch to end the eighth inning.

Brian Johnson pitched the first two innings.

Brian Johnson pitched the first two innings.

Xander Bogaerts walked and was hit by a pitch.

Xander Bogaerts walked and was hit by a pitch.

Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts greet Mitch Moreland at the plate after his three-run homer.

Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts greet Mitch Moreland at the plate after his three-run homer.

JetBlue Park has a manually-operated scoreboard on its Green Monster, but unlike Fenway there's no room to go inside, so the scores are posted from the outside. That means whenever a team scores, they have to run on the field between batters and update it, and when it's the visiting team that scores, a ladder is needed. We were amused that a couple of times play resumed before the scorekeepers had gotten everything off the field.

JetBlue Park has a manually-operated scoreboard on its Green Monster, but unlike Fenway there's no room to go inside, so the scores are posted from the outside. That means whenever a team scores, they have to run on the field between batters and update it, and when it's the visiting team that scores, a ladder is needed. We were amused that a couple of times play resumed before the scorekeepers had gotten everything off the field.

The sky started out as overcast, but by the end the sun had come out, making for a beautiful first day of baseball.

The sky started out as overcast, but by the end the sun came out, making for a beautiful first day of baseball. But then again, any day with baseball is beautiful!

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