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Premiere Night

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wang Theatre, Boston

I was having a busy week following the World Series trophies and players around, and I wasn’t done yet.  On Tuesday MLB Films would be releasing the official World Series DVD to stores, and Monday night they held the premiere showing at the Wang Theatre.  I knew from having attended the 2007 premiere that there would be players in attendance and that we could see them on the red carpet before the show.  I also knew from last time that I likely wouldn’t be able to see anything, since the cameramen stood in front of the fans and had their huge cameras up on their shoulders.

The Wang Theatre was decked out in its most elegant leg lamps. "A Christmas Story" is also playing in the theater, and besides, it's a major award.

The Wang Theatre was decked out with its most elegant leg lamp. Apparently "A Christmas Story" is also playing in the theater.

I was right; when I got there, John W. Henry and Tom Werner were being interviewed, but I couldn’t see or hear anything and it was too crowded to get any decent pitcures, so I went up to my seat in the balcony.  A table on stage held the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies, glowing under a red spotlight.  Don Orsillo and Joe Castiglione entered to introduce the night’s guests.  Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino, bullpen coach Dana Levangie, and Hall of Famer Jim Rice were all in the house but didn’t appear on stage.

David Ross, Will Middlebrooks, and John McDonald shared their memories with Joe Castiglione.

David Ross, Will Middlebrooks, and John McDonald shared their memories with Joe Castiglione.

Tom Werner came on stage to introduce the players – Will Middlebrooks, John McDonald, and David Ross, who was carrying the 2013 trophy.  They all spoke briefly.  Ross said his concussions felt so long ago, as if October had been a whole season of its own, and was impressed by the number of fans who kept thanking him for helping the team win.  McDonald said that when he was growing up in Connecticut, he never thought he’d see a World Series trophy, let alone being one of the players rushing onto the field at Fenway Park after winning one.  Middlebrooks talked about how fun it was to be a part of the team, and how the minor league staff did a good job at preparing the homegrown players for reaching the highest stage.

World Series trophies from 2004, 2007, and the 2013 one in the middle.

World Series trophies from 2004, 2007, and the 2013 one in the middle.

Then it was time for the movie.  It was fun having a theater full of people all cheering along (not to mention yelling, “He was out of the basepath!” as the obstruction play that ended Game 3 was shown) as the film captured the season highlights and then detailed the postseason.  I really enjoyed this year’s film.  I personally think this is the best (read: most Red Sox-centric) World Series film of the 3 Red Sox wins. The other years I liked the NESN one better than the MLB one because it seemed like the MLB version had to focus equally on both teams.  This time it started with the reaction to the Marathon bombings, and focused on the characters on the team, with the Cardinals being just another team they beat on the way.  It was quite funny with Ross, Mike Napoli, and Jonny Gomes giving a lot of one liners, and there’s a funny bit as the credits roll and they debate whose beard is best.  (Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending.  But go out and get a copy – I think you’re going to like it!)

November 25, 2013 • Posted in: Events, Trophy • No Comments

Nap Time

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Johnny Cupcakes, Boston

Every time the Red Sox win the World Series (and let me just say how fun it is to know that I can start a sentence that way!) I print off a photo of me with the trophy and bring it to Spring Training the following year to try to get autographs from anyone who was on the team.  So I had jumped at the chance to go to Rhode Island earlier in the week and see the latest trophy.  Now my mission became getting as many of the ‘13 players as possible to sign it, and I had an opportunity right away.

Red Sox fans descended upon Johnny Cupcakes to meet Mike Napoli.

Red Sox fans descended upon Johnny Cupcakes to meet Mike Napoli.

I heard through Facebook about an event at the Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt shop on Newbury St. in Boston.  The store was teaming up with Mike Napoli for a new t-shirt design, with a portion of the proceeds going to Boston Children’s Hospital.  As part of the promotion, he was doing an in-store signing on Saturday.  While the t-shirts were only available online, they were selling posters in the store, and I asked and was told it was OK to bring my photo to have him sign.

I got a chance to meet Mike Napoli.

An important member of the 2013 World Championship team, and Mike Napoli too!

With the event beginning at 2:00, my friend and I arrived around 12:30.  We bought our posters inside and then got in the line outside that stretched down the street.  (At one point a guy with a shaggy beard and a hat walked by us and went into the store, and people started to whisper, “Is that him?”  But when he came out and walked past us a couple of minutes later, we realized it was just some guy with a beard.  “We thought you were him,” said the guy behind me sheepishly. “I’ll be the one to say it.  We were all thinking it.”)

The real Mike Napoli showed up just before 2:00, and they let people in from the line in groups of five or six, since the store was so small.  I was excited that not only did he sign my trophy picture, but he posed for photos with everyone too.  The line moved quickly, and I was busy trying to get the photo out and the camera focused (and retrieving my earring that had fallen out when I took the camera strap off from around my neck) and taking a picture of my friend and then untangling the camera bag strap from around my arm to hand it to her, that I didn’t get to say much to Napoli besides “Could you sign this please?” and “Thank you so much.”  I would have liked to tell him that I hoped to see him re-sign with the team for next year and many more, but I’m hoping that the fact that he’s still hanging out in Boston several weeks after everything ended means that he’s thinking along those lines too.

November 23, 2013 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

The Trophy Tour Begins

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rhode Island Convention Center

It’s only three weeks since the final game of the World Series, but the hectic pace of the so-called “off”-season has already begun.  My first stop was Providence for the Rhode Island World Series rally.  In past championship years, the Red Sox have held rallies in all New England states to celebrate, and this was the current year’s first stop.

The 2013 Commissioner's Trophy makes its way to Rhode Island.

The 2013 Commissioner's Trophy made its way to Rhode Island.

The appeal for me was the chance to get a picture with the latest trophy.  My tradition after winning the World Series (and it really still amazes me that I can speak about that in the plural) has been to print off a picture of me with the trophy, bring it to Spring Training the next year, and try to get as many players from the Championship year as possible to autograph it.  I intend to do the same thing this year, so the sooner I could get a photo op, the better.

Jenny Dell and Rico Petrocelli addressed the crowd.

Jenny Dell and Rico Petrocelli addressed the crowd.

The half-hour rally was hosted by NESN’s Jenny Dell, and featured Providence’s mayor and other dignitaries.  Dr. Charles Steinberg of the Red Sox gave one of his usual glib speeches.  Rico Petrocelli, a hero from the 1967 Impossible Dream team, was on hand to compare that historic season with the current one.  And TV personality and Fenway Park P.A. announcer Dick Flavin recited a new poem:

Bring on the magic, trot out the reward,
The prize for all of those runs that we scored.
It’s the Oscar, the Emmy, all rolled into one.
It’s Big Papi’s earrings, the moon, stars, and sun.

It’s the end of the rainbow, our own pot of gold.
It’s three in ten years, but it never gets old.
It’s the highest of honors, above all it towers.
It’s the World Series trophy, and by God, it’s ours!

Charles Steinberg showed off his 2004 and 2007 World Series rings.

Charles Steinberg showed off his 2004 and 2007 World Series rings.

Then everyone in line was able to get a picture with the World Series trophy.  Now that I’ve got mine, I get to embark on my favorite winter/spring mission to get players from the ‘13 team to sign it.

The newest trophy finally gets its picture taken with me, just like its two older brothers.

The newest trophy finally gets its picture taken with me, just like its two older brothers.

November 20, 2013 • Posted in: Events, Trophy • No Comments

Fall Training

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 – Fenway Park

Red Sox 1, Red Sox 0

Fenway Park hosts an intra-squad game as the team waits for the playoffs to start. I'm pretty sure the Red Sox are going to win today!

Fenway Park hosts an intra-squad game as the team waits for the playoffs to start. I'm pretty sure the Red Sox are going to win today!

With the Red Sox capturing the #1 American League seed for the postseason, they had four days between the end of the regular season and the start of the Division Series.  While we watched the wild card playoff games to see who their opponent would be, the team held a series of workouts over the week to keep the players fresh.  It was a pleasant surprise when they announced on Tuesday that Wednesday’s workout and intra-squad game would be open to the public.  A quick check of my calendar at work found no meetings and no major implementations on the docket, so I put in for a half-day off and planned to go check it out.  It was even cooler when I got an email from the season ticket office saying that any Season Ticket Holder, including those with my Tenth Man Plan, could sit in the EMC Club and enjoy complimentary ballpark fare and non-alcoholic beverages.

This picture isn't photo-shopped - the gray blob in the corner is the baseball.  But it shows how the shadows are going to be when the Sox take the field for their first game at 3:07 pm on Friday.  The pitcher's mound is still in bright sun, but the ball is already in the shadows.

This picture of Clay Buchholz isn't photo-shopped - that gray blob in the corner is the baseball. But it shows how the shadows are going to be when the Sox take the field for their first game at 3:07 pm on Friday. The pitcher's mound is still in bright sun, but the ball is already in the shadows.

I arrived just after the gates opened at 2:00 and went straight to the EMC Club.  The Sox were taking batting practice on the field.  I jumped in the food line first, and enjoyed a footlong hot dog, pretzel, cracker jacks, and bottled water, all free, as I watched B.P.  (They also had popcorn, and a cash bar for beer.)

The game itself was scheduled to start at 3:07 pm, to simulate the conditions that are going to be in effect when they play their first game at that time on Friday.  The shadows falling between the plate and the mound can make it tricky for hitters to see the ball coming out of the pitchers’ hands, and the glare of the sun sinking toward the horizon over third base can make it hard for the outfielders to pick up fly balls.

The day started with several rounds of B.P.

The day started with several rounds of B.P.

For the game, they were split up into two teams, one wearing their red alternate jerseys and the other wearing their blue road alternate jerseys.  Since Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy are scheduled to pitch Games 3 and 4 of the series next Monday and Tuesday, they needed to get some work in now, so they were the scheduled starters.  I normally keep score when I go to games, even when they play the college teams or an unofficial “B” game in Spring Training, but even I had my limits.  However, I couldn’t help myself from “writing down” some notes on my phone and sending emails to my parents as I watched.  I’ll let those emails tell the story.

3:08 - Peavy is warming up in the visitors’ bullpen.  They have Dick Flavin announcing (”Welcome to Fenway Park for today’s game between the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox”) and 2 umpires.  For some reason Slugger (mascot of the Double-A affiliate Sea Dogs) is here.

Blue team: Peavy, Ross, McDonald, Britton, Morales, Bradley, Berry, Salty, Carp, Bogaerts, Snyder.

Red team: Buchholz, Napoli, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Drew, Workman, Breslow, Papi, Lackey, Doubront, Ellsbury, Victorino, Nava, Lavarnway.

Once the game started, the teams all sat in the home dugout together and used just the home bullpen.  The unseasonably warm weather (almost 80° in Boston) and loose interpretation of the rules gave it an informal feel of Spring Training.

David Ross had a busy day. He started off as DH, then played first base in the top of the seventh, and even made a coaching visit to the mound.

David Ross had a busy day. He started off as DH, then played first base in the top of the seventh, and even made a coaching visit to the mound.

3:19 – Glad I’m not scoring! Berry is wearing blue but played CF for the red team.  Now he’s moving to RF as Bradley plays CF for blue.  Also the blue team was announced with 2 DHs – Salty and Ross.  Lavarnway caught for the red team.  Mani Martinez, the bullpen catcher, is catching for blue.  This is even better than the “B” Game!

3:22 – Blue team scored a run in the 1st.  Bradley singled, was bunted over by Ells, and scored on a 2B by Salty.  A guy was yelling, “Go for 3!”  Yeah, right!

Our reaction as fans was pretty much to cheer every play.  Batter got a hit?  Yay!  Pitcher struck a guy out?  Yay to that too!

3:25 – Peavy struck out Pedey and Papi.

At the end of the second, I left the EMC Club and went down to the stands.  I wanted to get closer so I could take better pictures.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in the only run of the game.  He also played third base for half an inning.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in the only run of the game. He also played third base for half an inning.

3:42 – And now Berry, who has been playing in the field for both teams, is on deck.  Some red guy is in RF.

The red guy was probably Victorino, who had been playing right field during the half-innings when Berry was in center.  But after a while, most of the starters came out and it was down to just the same batters (Nava, Lavarnway, and McDonald seemed to always be up) over and over in the final couple of innings.

4:01 – Lackey, wearing red, just pitched for blue.  Now Dempster is wearing blue and pitching for red.  The fashion police would not be pleased.

Berry, back in RF, made a diving catch to rob Pedey.  Careful!  Don’t get hurt!

Felix Doubront got to pitch an inning. Does that mean he'll get the nod over Matt Thornton as the final reliever on the roster?

Felix Doubront got to pitch an inning. Does that mean he'll get the nod over Matt Thornton as the final reliever on the roster?

4:19 – 5th inning (Breslow pitching) ended with only 2 outs after a walk because he had thrown enough pitches.  The clue was that after a while there was no on-deck batter.  I’m in the 2nd row now, 3B side of the plate.

It was also interesting that instead of the pitching coach or manager visiting the mound during the inning, David Ross went out to talk to Breslow.

4:25 – Also Papi gets to wear his earrings.  Bradley just got a hit off Koji.

Big Papi normally can't wear bling in a game. But he could today!

Big Papi normally can't wear bling in a game. But he could today!

4:47 – Top 7.  Salty playing 3B.  Ross at 1B.

Well, I hadn’t seen this one coming.  Let’s see what our DHing catchers can do at other positions.  As they first took the field, when the infielders normally toss the ball around between innings, they were rolling it to those two instead of throwing.  (They each missed one of the practice grounders.)  During the inning, nothing came out to either one of them, so we didn’t get to see them in action.

4:51 – Game over in mid 7.  They’re playing Dirty Water.  “Red Sox win” on scoreboard, LOL.  Blue team won 1-0.

I knew they weren’t planning on playing a full nine innings, and that the public part ended at 5:00, so I wasn’t surprised when it ended abruptly.  The players looked around for a second as if asking, “Are we supposed to high-five each other?  (And if so, who?)” and then headed for the dugout as we sent them off with a cheer.

We Own the East

I know I’m a little behind in writing up all the games I’ve been to this year.  It certainly doesn’t help that I went to 5 more games in the past 8 days (not to mention the fact that I have a day job that often spills over into night).  So while I work on getting caught up on entries from the past month, I want to share some pictures from the night the Red Sox clinched the A.L. East.  The game was a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Red Sox’ 94th victory of the year.  And what happened after the game?  Well, check out my album on flickr.

September 22, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • 1 Comment

See Dogs

Saturday, July 27, 2013 – Fenway Park, EMC Club

Sea Dogs 5, Senators 2

It was a beautiful day for baseball , and the view from the EMC Club was perfect.

It was a beautiful day for baseball , and the view from the EMC Club was fantastic.

I was watching the Red Sox game on Friday night after a busy week which had included three games at Fenway, when I saw a commercial for Futures at Fenway for approximately the thousandth time.  Futures at Fenway is the annual chance to see the Red Sox’ minor league teams play at Fenway Park for discounted “family friendly” prices.  I had gone the past two years with my friends who have three baseball-fan kids.  But instead of being a doubleheader like in past years, this year featured only one game (the Double A Portland Sea Dogs) and then a concert by the Kidz Bop Kids.  Like me, my friends’ kids would have preferred a second baseball game to some concert, and with a busy week of Boy Scout camp ahead, they decided to skip this year.  I figured I didn’t need to go, since I get to Fenway a lot and I already had a trip to Portland planned for later in the summer to see the Sea Dogs.  But on Friday night it occurred to me that their discounted seats included club areas that I’d otherwise never be able to afford to sit in.  I had meant to see if they had any this year, but forgot to look until the night before.  I logged on and found that they had seats available in the EMC Club (front row!) for only $30, and it was settled; I was going.

Gold Gloves won by the Red Sox are on display in the EMC Club, inside the counters in front of the kitchen.

Gold Gloves won by the Red Sox are on display in the EMC Club, inside the counters in front of the kitchen.

The only hard part was getting in to Boston so early on a Saturday.  The game started at noon, which may have been considered family friendly but was certainly not my preferred timeframe.  And since I had a seat in a cool section where I didn’t normally get to go, I wanted to get there early enough to explore beforehand.  Back in 2012 when the Red Sox celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, they had a series of 100 plaques, displays, and historical markers throughout the park, and I had spent the season tracking down most of them.  But now I was able to find a couple more that I didn’t have pictures of to add to my collection, like the displays of Silver Slugger awards and Red Sox jerseys through the years.  (See my album on flickr for the almost complete set.)

Fans and their pups stroll the warning track before the game.

Fans and their pups stroll the warning track before the game.

It was also Dog Day, and fans were encouraged to bring their canine best friends to the game.  There was a pre-game Dog Parade going on when I got outside to my seat.  I was in the front row, and the seat itself was padded and had a cup holder.  (Everything in the club area was nice.  The ladies’ room even had a TV that was showing the MLB Network.)  Because I went right upstairs to the Club level and stayed there the whole time, I never walked around and saw where the designated dog area was during the game.

A look at the camera guy perched above home plate.

A look at the camera guy perched above home plate.

Keith Couch got the start for the Sea Dogs.  I remember seeing him a couple of years ago when he was in Single A with the Lowell Spinners.  Today he gave up a run in the first (a triple followed by a sac fly) and another in the second (two walks and a single), but after that he settled down and pitched really well.  His teammmates got those runs back and more in the bottom of the second.  After two hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out, Shannon Wilkerson’s groundout drove in the first run, and then a double by Heiker Meneses plated two more.  Wilkerson added to his nice game with a diving catch in center field.

Shortstop Heiker Meneses makes a play in the field.  He also had a good day at the plate with a two-run double.

Shortstop Heiker Meneses makes a play in the field. He also had a good day at the plate with a two-run double.

Once the Sea Dogs took the lead, Couch went on cruise control.  Other than a two-out double in the fourth, he didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the time, finishing with a strikeout to end the seventh.  The Sea Dogs continued to pad their lead.  Travis Shaw homered into the Red Sox bullpen* leading off the fourth.  And Garin Cecchini manufactured a run in the seventh.  He started with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and came home on another wild pitch.  Sea Dogs relievers Miguel Celestino and Matt Maloney took it from there, shutting down the Harrisburg Senators in the eighth and ninth.

Third baseman Garin Cecchini is one of the Red Sox' top prospects. He walked twice, stole a base, and scored a run.

Third baseman Garin Cecchini is one of the Red Sox' top prospects. He walked twice, stole a base, and scored a run.

* During the game I noticed that the Sea Dogs, who were the home team, were using Fenway Park’s visitors’ dugout and bullpen, while the Senators used the home dugout and bullpen.  That struck me as strange, and I recalled that at the games in the past two years, the Red Sox affiliates had all used the Red Sox home dugout.  I tweeted Sea Dogs radio announcer Mike Antonellis to ask why.  He replied that the Red Sox clubhouse was off-limits during the season, and only the visiting team’s clubhouse was available for use during today’s game.  So the Sea Dogs took the visitors’ clubhouse (which has a tunnel that leads to the visitors’ dugout, which has phones that connect to the visitors’ bullpen).  The Senators were allowed to use the Red Sox dugout, but they had to dress elsewhere.

Miguel Celestino pitched a scoreless eighth.

Miguel Celestino pitched a scoreless eighth.

July 27, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games, Minors • No Comments

The Price Is Right

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 – Fenway Park, Loge Box 161

Rays 5, Red Sox 1

I came into work on Wednesday still riding the high after Tuesday night’s exciting win, and the news got even better when I found out that people in my group were invited to go to that night’s game.  I rounded up a co-worker and used my lunch break to go home and get my camera and scorecard.  We left work at 5:00, but traffic was so bad that we didn’t get to Fenway until 6:30.  Luckily that was plenty of time to meet up with our host and grab something to eat before heading to our seats down the left field line.

I joked that since I only found out that I was going to this game in the morning, it wasn't enough time to conjure up some rain. It was actually a very nice night for a game.

I joked that since I only found out that I was going to this game in the morning, it wasn't enough time to conjure up some rain. Instead we enjoyed some very nice baseball weather.

Thanks to a win last night, the division lead was back up to a game and a half, but there were still two games to go in this pivotal series.  Tonight the Red Sox were going up against David Price, who was notorious for shutting them down in the past.  But I like to think I’m not afraid of any team’s pitchers.  The Sox had already beaten Price once this year (before he went on the disabled list), and Felix Doubront had pitched a really good game against the Rays in June.  The game started with good pitching and defense on both sides.  Doubront struck out two in the first (though a walk and a hit caused him to throw 28 pitches).  In the second, he needed only five total pitches to get three grounders to second base – one of which became the now nightly Pedroia Play of the Day™ when he made a diving stop.  But Price was even better.  In the first three innings, David Ortiz’s single was the only ball to leave the infield.  During that time, the Rays’ pitcher picked up three K’s and induced three comebackers to the mound.

As usual, Dustin Pedroia played a flawless second base, including assists on all three outs of the second inning.

As usual, Dustin Pedroia played a flawless second base, including assists on all three outs of the second inning.

Doubront was the first to give.  With one out in the third, the next two batters reached on singles (one of which was almost caught by Jonny Gomes in right) with an errant pickoff throw in between that left runners at the corners.  The next batter bunted and Doubront fielded it and threw home.  The runner on third wasn’t going, so the batter was safe at first.  (That’s a sacrifice plus a fielder’s choice, for those scoring at home – or, in my case, at the ballpark.  Even though he reached safely, it’s not a hit, because he was trying to give up an out.  He gets credit for the sacrifice, and the fielder’s choice comes in because they could have gotten an out at first if they wanted to, but chose instead to prevent a run.  It makes sense now, but I had to look it up on my phone, because they didn’t put it on the scoreboard at the ballpark and it confused me when they didn’t add any hits or errors either.)  Meanwhile, now that the bases were loaded with one out, three runs ended up crossing the plate that inning.

Felix Doubront had a quality start (6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) but he was no match for David Price.

Felix Doubront had a quality start (6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) but he was no match for David Price.

The 3-0 deficit felt like a huge hole to climb out of.  The only way to do that, and the Red Sox’ approach at the plate for the past decade, is to get the opposing pitcher’s pitch count up and get him out of the game.  But Price wasn’t going anywhere.  When Big Papi flied out to right for the final out of the fourth, it was only the second ball of the game hit out of the infield (his single in his first at-bat was the other) and Price had only thrown 35 pitches.  That followed a slick double play after Victorino’s infield hit, in which shortstop Yunel Escobar ranged up the middle, gloved it, and flipped from the glove behind his back.  Second baseman Ben Zobrist barehanded it and threw on to first in time to get Pedroia.

Mike Napoli hit a ground rule double in the fifth, and Victorino reached on a bunt hit in the sixth, but both were stranded.  At the end of the sixth, Price had only thrown 60 pitches.  At that rate, he could go 12 innings!  They’d never get him out of there!

Big Papi lined out to short to end the game.

Big Papi lined out to short to end the game.

Napoli finally gave us something to cheer about when he hit a towering home run off the Sports Authority sign over the Green Monster in the seventh.  But that was the only blemish to Price’s dominating night.  The Red Sox never got another baserunner the rest of the way, and he finished the complete game with only 97 pitches.

T-shirt of the day:  A guy in the next section over from us was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Go ahead, chant: 2004.”  Very cool!

July 24, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • No Comments

Love The Drake

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 6, Rays 2

When the Yankees left town, the schedule got tougher for the Red Sox.  They had a 1½ game lead in the division as they started a 4-game series against the second place Tampa Bay Rays, who were on a tear that had seen them move up from fourth place in a couple of weeks.  Matt Moore shut them out in the first game, making Tuesday’s game crucial, especially with Red Sox killer David Price looming for Wednesday’s game.  When I found out that this was another one of the games where we could get a picture taken with a player before the game, I made sure to leave work early.  It had rained off and on all day, and it was really pouring as I dashed from the office to my car, soaking my jacket.  I draped the jacket over the passenger seat to try to dry it a little, and it was down to just a light rain as I got to the T station.  When I got off the train, there was a giant puddle the whole length of the walkway, with no way to go around.  I had no choice but to run through it in as few steps as possible, but that was enough to soak through my canvas shoes.  Just my luck – even though my seat was in the grandstand under cover and the rain let up in time for the game, I was still wet the whole time.

I got to meet Drake Britton before the game.

I got to meet Drake Britton before the game.

When the gates opened, I went right in to the souvenir store to see who the player for the photo session was.  It was Drake Britton, the young lefty who had made his debut over the weekend, and who had impressed me with two scoreless outings against the Yankees.  Unlike when I met Jonny Gomes last month and they printed the photo on the spot, this time they only gave us vouchers to order a “free” print.  (The voucher never covers the full amount of the order, so I had to pay $3.71 in tax and shipping, and then wait for it to come in the mail.  I did go ask at the photo booth if they could print it like they had done before, but they told me they only did it that way one time because they “ran out of vouchers.”)

There was a noticeable buzz around the ballpark with first place on the line.  Jon Lester was facing Roberto Hernandez (who was formerly known as Fausto Carmona when he played for the Indians).  The mood got a little more intense in the second inning when Wil Myers drilled a laser into the light tower for a 1-0 Rays lead, but the Red Sox battled right back.  Three straight hits in the bottom of the inning brought home the tying run.

The rain stopped before the game, and it turned into a beautiful night foe baseball.

The rain stopped before the game, and it turned into a beautiful night for baseball.

In the third, Shane Victorino led off with a double, and after he moved to third on a fly out, Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch.  With Big Papi at the plate, the Rays went into a shift, leaving third base unmanned.  Pedey took off for second, and once the throw went through, Victorino broke for home.  The throw looked like it was dropped by the shortstop at second base (actually it hit off Pedroia as he slid) allowing both runners to be safe.  A steal of home!  Right?  Except an error went up on the board, meaning that the delay when the ball got away at sencond is what allowed Victorino to be safe, and therefore he doesn’t get credit for a stolen base.  So it’s just a steal of second for Pedroia with the run coming home on an E2*.  Not as cool, but it was still the go-ahead run, so even though I wanted Victorino to get credit for it, it was fine with me.

* A couple of innings later, I got an email from my parents telling me that the official scoring had been changed – the error was gone (sure enough it wasn’t on the scoreboard anymore) and Victorino was finally credited with the steal of home.  That’s got to be a record for the slowest stolen base!

The Sox extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth, when Pedroia’s sac fly drove in Daniel Nava after a double and a wild pitch.  That was an important run, because Evan Longoria homered into the bullpen in the sixth to make it 3-2.  John Farrell was managing the game like the important make-or-break moment that it was.  When Lester gave up a double after getting the first out of the seventh, Farrell went to the ‘pen.  Matt Thornton was called in to face the lefty-hitting Sean Rodriguez, and did his part by inducing a grounder to third on just his second pitch.  Then it was back to the ‘pen to fetch righty Junichi Tazawa, who struck out Desmond Jennings on three pitches to get out of the inning and earn a standing ovation that carried through to the seventh-inning stretch.

Stephen Drew slides in safely (according to Jonny Gomes and, eventually, the umpire) with a huge insurance run.

Stephen Drew slides in safely (according to Jonny Gomes and, eventually, the umpire) with a huge insurance run.

Tazawa stayed on for the eighth and picked up two more strikeouts before getting the final out of the inning on a grounder to second.  The Red Sox went into the bottom of the eighth clinging to a 3-2 lead.  After Papi opened the inning by grounding into the shift, Mike Napoli doubled.  Jonny Gomes, pinch-hitting for Mike Carp, singled.  After Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out, Stephen Drew came up with a huge two-out single past the diving first baseman to score Napoli with a crucial insurance run.  As Jose Iglesias stepped to the plate, we all clapped along to his walk-up song, “Seven Nation Army” (”I’m going to Wichita…”).  His average had dropped a little in the past couple of weeks, but he was still over .350, way above and beyond what we had expected of him going into the year.  He chopped an infield hit (his specialty) off the third baseman’s glove.  Gomes scored easily from third, and the shortstop fielded it and threw to the plate as Drew raced homeward.  The plate was blocked and his original slide missed the mark, but the ball got away from the catcher and he was able to go back and tag, at which point the ump finally signalled: Safe!  Our enthusiasm carried over to the next at-bat when we sang along with Shane Victorino’s song, “Three Little Birds” (”Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright”).  He grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was already done.

Enthusiastic high fives await after Koji Uehara nails down a save.

Enthusiastic high fives await after Koji Uehara nails down a save.

All that was left was for Koji Uehara to close it out, and he did just that in his usual fashion – a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts including the final out of the game.  With the lead back up to 1½ games, the Sox were guaranteed of at least one more day in first place.

July 23, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • No Comments

To Those Who Wait

Sunday, July 21, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 8, Yankees 7, 11 innings

While the Red Sox finished up a west coast road trip and took off for the All-Star break, I spent a week on the Cape for my birthday.  The weather was beautiful all week, and I got to spend time at the beach every day.  I was back home Saturday, and as I drove in to Boston on Sunday afternoon I joked that my vacation was over and now it was “back to the daily grind” of heading in to Fenway for my next game.  The beach rental had cable, and I was back home before Saturday’s game, so I had been able to watch as the Red Sox and Yankees split the first two games after the break.  The Sox were clinging to a one-game lead over the Rays in the division, and we knew that Tampa had already won their day game.

Drake Britton acknowledges the fans during batting practice, a day after making his major league debut.

Drake Britton acknowledges the fans during batting practice, a day after making his major league debut.

I found a parking space on a side street off Comm. Ave. (although metered spaces are free on Sundays, watch out for the stretch of Comm. Ave. itself where street cleaning starts at 12:00 am on Mondays, because there’s no guarantee that a Red Sox/Yankees night game will be done by midnight) and went in early with my Red Sox Nation card.  The Red Sox were taking batting practice, and I was focusing on the pitchers shagging flies in the outfield, because I wanted to get pictures of a pair of 24-year-olds who were the newest additions to the team – righty Brandon Workman, who made his major league debut and his first start on the road trip, and Drake Britton, the lefty who had just made his debut on Saturday.

I was in my Tenth Man Plan seats in the bleachers, and it was mostly the usual crowd, which was good because that meant I wasn’t adjacent to any Yankees fans.  However, there were a bunch two rows behind me, and they were the sort whose voices carried and who wouldn’t shut up the whole time.  It didn’t help that the Yankees scored two runs off Ryan Dempster in the first inning on two hits, a walk, and two throwing errors.  They tacked on another in the third on a single after a walk and a hit-by-pitch.  The Red Sox got a couple of runners on in the bottom of the second but couldn’t score.  When the second inning ended, it was 9:04, 59 minutes into the game.  Dempster had already thrown 50 pitches, and C.C. Sabathia had thrown 40.  This game was turning into slow torture.  “I really hate the bleeping Yankees,” I posted on facebook.

Mike Napoli's huge home run in the third made me feel a little better.

Mike Napoli gears up for a big swing.

It got a little more tolerable when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to lead off the third.  Shane Victorino sacrificed him over, and Dustin Pedroia singled him home.  Then after Big Papi singled, Mike Napoli launched a huge 3-run homer, giving the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.  I sure felt a lot better, but I couldn’t exactly relax and enjoy myself because, even though we were almost an hour and a half into the game, it was still only the third, and there was a lot of baseball yet to be played.  Things got better in the fourth, when the Sox scored two more on Victorino’s bases-loaded single.  And then in the fifth they extended the lead to 7-3 when Jonny Gomes blasted a moonshot over The Wall, even higher than Napoli’s had been.  (The tradition this year when a Red Sox player hits a home run is for the long batter/pitcher scoreboard in left-center to say “HOME RUN”, then show an extreme close-up of the player’s eyes, and then the player’s nickname.  When Napoli homered it said “NAP”.  When Gomes hit his it said… “IRONSIDES”?  I didn’t know that was his nickname, but it certainly does fit.)

The problem was that it was only the fifth.  Dempster gave up a run in the sixth, and was lifted with one out (after 103 pitches) for Craig Breslow, who gave up another, with only a double play getting them out of the inning.  Sabathia didn’t even make it that deep.  He was done (with 102 pitches) after walking Ellsbury to lead off the sixth.  Now it was down to a battle of the bullpens, and this already long night reached the part of the game where the pace typically slows down further.

The blimp flew overhead during Sunday night baseball.

The blimp flew overhead during Sunday night baseball.

With two on in the sixth, Junichi Tazawa come on in relief of Breslow, and Jose Iglesias’s wild throw on a bunt (the Sox’ third error of the night) allowed the Yankees to climb within a run.  A groundout later in the inning brought home one more, and the game was tied.  The Yankees fans behind us, who had quieted during the past two innings, were loud and annoying again.  The torture level went right back up.

With the game now tied, the bullpens went to work.  Preston Claiborne struck out the side for the Yankees in the seventh.  Matt Thornton pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the Red Sox.  The Sox had a chance to score in the bottom of the eighth, with one out and the bases loaded, but Napoli grounded into an inning-ending double play.  (That’s when the clock struck midnight, and as the ninth inning started the game passed the four-hour mark.)  Koji Uehara worked the ninth, and when the Sox failed to score in the home half, we headed to extras.  So much for my relaxing vacation!

At the end of the ninth, enough people started to bail that I figured we could find better seats somewhere else.  We walked around the back row of the grandstand until we came to Section 15, where there was a whole row that was empty.  We walked well down into the row so that when we sat down there were no poles in our way, plus we wouldn’t be directly blocking anyone right behind us.  As soon as we settled down and the inning started (with Drake Britton making just his second career appearance) I realized there was a girl in the row behind us cheering for the Yankees.  I instantly started scouting for more pleasant seats in the next section over.  Britton pitched a scoreless inning, and Shawn Kelley struck out the side in the bottom of the tenth.  That’s when another girl wearing an “NY” shirt came to sit at the end of our row.  “Oh, careful,” said the Yankees fan girl behind us, “Someone puked there earlier.  I wouldn’t want you to step in it.”  We had just walked down that row.  “Why, because I’m a Yankee fan too?” asked the new girl.  “Of course!”  As soon as the inning was over, my friend and I slid out the other end of the row and found a much nicer spot in Section 16.  I couldn’t resist turning to the girl behind me and saying, “Stay classy!” as we left.

Pedroia and Ortiz made two quick outs in the eleventh as the game approached the 5-hour mark.  That left it up to Mike Napoli, who had hit the big home run earlier which had given the Sox the lead at the time, but who had also struck out three times and grounded into a double play.  He worked a full count, and then, finally, launched a long home run to center field, sending his teammates out to greet him at the plate, and sending us in the stands home happy. “I love beating the bleeping Yankees,” I posted on facebook.

Mike Napoli heads for home plate after hitting a walkoff home run.

Mike Napoli heads for home plate after hitting a walkoff home run.

Napoli's teammates converge at home plate to congratulate him.  That's Jose Iglesias hitting him with a towel.  The rest are busy trying to rip his shirt off.

Napoli's teammates converge at the plate to congratulate him. That's Jose Iglesias hitting him with a towel. The rest are busy trying (unsuccessfully) to pull his shirt off.

The game ended just before 1:00 am, 4 hours and 46 minutes after it started (4 hours and 45 minutes of which were pretty much torture to watch).  Because I had parked on the street, it was easy to get home, and I was actually in by 2:00.  I didn’t go straight to bed, though, because I wanted to watch the highlights of the homer and look through my pictures to see what I had captured of the moment.  But thanks to the happy ending, I wasn’t even tired at work the next day.

July 21, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • No Comments

Cape Cod League

Monday, July 15, 2013 – Whitehouse Field, Harwich

Mariners 6, Kettleers 0

As the Red Sox continued a west coast road trip, I spent a week on Cape Cod to celebrate my birthday.  The timing was perfect because with the Sox on the road I didn’t have any games at Fenway, and the All-Star break was that week, so that meant four of the days had no games at all.  But I wasn’t going to let the whole week pass without baseball (is that even possible?) so I wanted to get to a Cape Cod League game while I was there.  We decided to take in a contest between the Harwich Mariners and the Cotuit Kettleers.  And who knows, maybe if some of the players we saw get drafted in a couple of years, we can sound like Peter Gammons: “I saw him play on the Cape in ‘13.”

Fans and their dogs spread out down the right field line to watch the game at Harwich's Whitehouse Field.

Fans and their dogs spread out down the right field line to watch the game at Harwich's Whitehouse Field.

The Cape Cod Baseball League is one of – if not the – top summer collegiate leagues.  It attracts the best college players in the country, and for many of them it’s their last stop before the pros.  It’s also the first time many of them play with wooden bats, as colleges use aluminum bats, and it’s a great showcase for major league scouts.  As many as 15% of major leaguers played on the Cape, including 2013 Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Miller, David Ross, Alex Wilson, Brandon Workman, Steven Wright, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Bard, and even John Farrell.  While playing for one of the ten Cape League teams, players live with host families and work part-time jobs in town.

Harwich's Dillon Peters, a 5'10" lefty from the University of Texas, went 7 innings and limited Cotuit to 2 hits.

Harwich's Dillon Peters, a 5'10" lefty from the University of Texas, went 7 innings and limited Cotuit to 2 hits.

Games are free for fans, and the atmosphere felt like the perfect blend of small-town charm and big-time production.  The Mariners play at Whitehouse Field, behind Harwich High School.  There are metal bleacher stands, and the overflow crowd sets up folding chairs or blankets down the first and third base lines.  Some people brought their dogs.  Kids chased foul balls into the woods.  Players who had come out of the game walked through the stands selling raffle tickets and programs.  Any kids in attendance who wanted to join the players on the field for the National Anthem were invited to do so.  There were concessions, a P.A. system, and stadium lights; there was also a scoreboard, but it had so many missing bulbs that it was hard to tell the count.  Two men sat at a folding table with laptops and headsets to do the radio broadcast of the game.

Cotuit manager Mike Roberts talks to first baseman Yale Rosen in front of the dugout.

Cotuit manager Mike Roberts talks to first baseman Yale Rosen in front of the dugout.

We sat in the stands on the first base side, right next to the visitors’ dugout.  From there we could hear the Cotuit manager muttering about some of the umpires’ calls: “That was a strike? How are we supposed to hit that?”  (In looking up his name for this post, I discovered that Mike Roberts, who manages the Kettleers, is the father of Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles.)  It ended up being a cheering section of sorts for the Cotuit fans, and even though my natural inclination would be to root for the home team, the people sitting next to us were probably the relatives, friends, or host families of the visitors, so I ended up clapping for good plays by both teams.

Aaron Barbosa breaks for third while shortstop Drew Jackson watches on.

Aaron Barbosa of Northeastern breaks for third while shortstop Drew Jackson of Stanford looks on. (There's an ad on the outfield fence for the Hot Stove Saloon in Harwich Port, where we watched that Sunday's Red Sox game and enjoyed a good meal.)

The home team Mariners* got off to a good start.  Aaron Barbosa walked, stole second, stole third, and then scored on a groundout.  As each player batted they announced his name and school.  I heard that Barbosa was from Northeastern, and I wondered if I had seen him at any of the spring training games where the Red Sox had played NU.  Sure enough, when I got home and checked my prior years’ scorecards, I had seen him face the Red Sox in Ft. Myers in both 2011 and ‘12.  Harwich added two more runs in the second, on Mitch Morales’s bases-loaded single.

Mitch Morales of Florida Atlantic University heads to first after hitting a two-run single.

Mitch Morales of Florida Atlantic University heads to first after hitting a two-run single.

* Interesting note: In researching the game, I was surprised to see that the Chatham A’s were now called the Anglers instead of the Athletics.  I found out that five years ago, MLB started to enforce trademarks of its teams’ names.  Teams that wanted to keep the names would have to purchase uniforms and merchandise from officially-licensed vendors.  The Chatham team changed its name from Athletics to Anglers.  The Orleans Cardinals became the Firebirds, and the Hyannis Mets became the Harbor Hawks.  The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and Bourne Braves chose to use licensed vendors and keep their names.  But the Harwich Mariners were exempt from the ruling because they had been in existence prior to the Seattle Mariners’ entrance into MLB in 1977.

As fans watch from the outfield, the official photographer uses a stepladder to station himself behind the dugout. Then when he took a break for a couple of innings, he let me stand there.

As fans watch the game from the outfield, the official photographer uses a stepladder to station himself behind the dugout. Then when he took a break for a couple of innings, he let me stand there.

In the fourth inning, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I was on the end of the row, and I looked down to see the team’s official photographer, who had been shooting from a stepladder behind the dugout.  He said he was taking a break and I could use the ladder if I wanted.  Of course I did!  It was a great vantage point, and fun to get to take some pictures from such a prime spot.  As the sun went down an inning later, I wanted to walk around to the outfield to get some pictures of the sunset over the field, and then returned to my seat in the stands.

A beautiful sunset was the backdrop for the game at Whitehouse Field in Harwich.

A beautiful sunset was the backdrop for the game at Whitehouse Field in Harwich.

Mariners pitcher Dillon Peters pitched a good game.  He went seven innings with one walk and two hits.  After both hits, the baserunners were immediately erased on double plays.  He also had five strikeouts and three ground ball comebackers to the mound.  Harwich tacked on another run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly.  They plated two more in the seventh on a hit batter, a double, a sac fly, and a wild pitch, and then held on for the 6-0 win.

July 15, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • 1 Comment
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