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Wrapping Up

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

After playing the college doubleheader on Monday, it was back to a workout on Tuesday for the final time this year.  It was technically an unofficial workout, so the concession and souvenir stands were closed, but fans were still able to enter the complex and see what was going on.  With minor league camp in progress, the major leaguers were confined to three fields, with everyone who’s slated to be on the Opening Day roster ending the day by taking batting practice inside the stadium, where we can’t go.  But we did get to see them all briefly, albeit in some of the stranger drills of the spring, and were able to add to our autographs.

When the catchers finished their initial stretching they all went to one of the practice fields.  I thought there was going to be some sort of fielding drill, but instead it was literally practicing walking out to the mound as if to talk to a struggling pitcher.  “You’re in control of the game,” directed one coach.  “Wait, who was that smiling?” chided another.  Then they all walked back off the field and on to the next activity.  It’s pretty much the silliest drill I’ve ever seen at spring training, topping even the sliding drill and parachute run.  (But it got me thinking – shouldn’t they have a drill where the pitchers practice standing on the mound hanging their heads in shame after giving up a home run?  Or, for even more entertainment, have the manager practice taking the ball from a pitcher who doesn’t want to leave the game – imagine watching that during the Schilling era!  But I digress…)

The Catcher Walk.

Perfecting the Catcher Walk.

The next activity for the catchers was Story Hour, apparently.  They all sat cross-legged on the ground and listened to bullpen coach Dana LeVangie, while Torey Lovullo and Jason Varitek looked on.

The next activity for the catchers was Story Hour, apparently. They all sat cross-legged on the ground and listened to bullpen coach Dana LeVangie, while Torey Lovullo and Jason Varitek looked on.

That's right, I said Jason Varitek. The former Captain was there working with the catchers.  And he had his glove with him wherever he went, ready to go if needed.  Here, he talks with Pawtuket hitting coach and fellow former catcher, Rich Gedman.

That's right, I said Jason Varitek. The former Captain was in camp working with the catchers. And he had his glove with him wherever he went, ready to go if needed. Here, he talks with Pawtucket hitting coach and fellow former catcher, Rich Gedman.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield waves in Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in a baserunning drill.  Butterfield would call out the number of outs and players had to practice tagging up and scoring.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield waves in Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in a baserunning drill. Butterfield would call out the number of outs and players had to practice tagging up, scoring, and not bumping into each other.

Travis Shaw rounds third in the baserunning drill.

Travis Shaw rounds third in the baserunning drill.

A picture of Big Papi, because this is my last chance to see him in Spring Training action.

A picture of Big Papi, because this is my last chance to see him in Spring Training action.

Next it was time for my former favorite drill, sliding on sheets of black pastic that look like a Slip'n Slide. Here's David Murphy sliding in under the watchful eye of Dwight Evans. Murphy had been drafted by the Red Sox in 2003, made his debut in Boston in 2006, and then was traded to the Texas Rangers as part of the deal for Eric Gagne at the trade deadline in '07.  Since then he's played with the Rangers, Indians, and Angels, and he just signed back on with the Red Sox yesterday.

Next it was time for my other favorite drill, sliding into bases attached to sheets of black plastic that look like a Slip'N Slide. Here's David Murphy sliding in under the watchful eye of Dwight Evans. Murphy had been drafted by the Red Sox in 2003, made his M.L. debut with Boston in 2006, and then was traded to Texas as part of the deal for Eric Gagne at the trade deadline in '07. Since then he's played with the Rangers, Indians, and Angels, and he just signed back on with the Red Sox yesterday.

After the sliding was complete, the players who will start the year in the majors headed in to the stadium for batting practice, which unfortunately meant we couldn’t watch. But the guys who will likely start in Triple A stayed on the practice field to take B.P. out there.

New General Manager Mike Hazen watched batting practice and chatted with bench coach Torey Lovullo.

New General Manager Mike Hazen watched batting practice and chatted with bench coach Torey Lovullo.

Second base prospect Sean Coyle waits for his turn in batting practice.  After they were doen, he took the time to sign autographs, as did Lovullo, Gedman, and non-roster invitees Brennan Boesch and Ryan LaMarre.

Second base prospect Sean Coyle waits for his turn in batting practice. After they were done, he took the time to sign autographs, as did Lovullo, Gedman, and non-roster invitees Brennan Boesch and Ryan LaMarre.

With the workouts all wrapped up and the weather finally hot, we went back to Englewood Beach in the afternoon.  This time it was warm enough to go in the water, and scour the beach in search of the perfect shells.

Englewood Beach is great for shelling.

It was a great day for shell-hunting at Englewood Beach.

Play Ball

Monday, February 29, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Game 1 – Red Sox 6, Boston College Eagles 0

On Monday the Red Sox started off the 2016 season with their first two officially unofficial games against Boston College and Northeastern University.  We went early and walked around to the practice fields out back.  Minor league camp has just started, so three of the fields had kids from the low minors taking batting practice.  At the other end of the complex, the major league pitchers were out running.  We spotted 21-year-old outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who was the Sox’ first round pick in last year’s draft, and the 7th pick overall.  He made it as high as Single A Greenville last year and is projected to move up to High A this year.  He was nice enough to sign autographs and pose for pictures after finishing up practice.

Outfield prospect Andrew Benintendi.

Hopefully I'll get to see Andrew Benintendi at Fenway in a couple of years.

Then it was time for some real live baseball, even if it was a pair of 7-inning contests against college teams.  The real starting position players were all in the lineup, and it was absolutely beautiful baseball weather.

You can tell the baseball season has officially started when Pedey gets his uniform dirty.

Two innings in and Dustin Pedroia's uniform was already filthy. That's how we knew the season was officially underway.

Play ball!

Play ball!

Knuckleballer Steven Wright started the game and threw 2 innings, with 2 hits and 4 strikeouts.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright started the game and threw 2 innings, giving up no runs on 2 hits and 4 strikeouts.

Hanley Ramirez started at first base and played three innings in the field. He didn't have too many chances, but he caught the final out of a 6-4-3 double play (pictured here) and retired one batter unassisted on a groundout.

Hanley Ramirez started at first base and played three innings in the field. He didn't have too many chances, but he caught the final out of a 6-4-3 double play (pictured here) and retired one batter unassisted on a groundout.

The big blow in the first game was Mookie Betts’s towering homer over the Green Monster in the fourth.  Hanley Ramirez had two hits, and Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Blake Swihart each had one.  Jackie Bradley Jr. walked twice.  The subs tacked on three more runs on two sac flies and a bases-loaded walk, and the Sox won the first game 6-0.

Game 2 – Red Sox 8, Northeastern Huskies 3

The second game started 40 minutes after the first game ended.  Brock Holt and Travis Shaw were the only two in the lineup who will open the season in the majors, and they figured into several of the early runs.  Brockstar walked and scored in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the third.  Shaw had a single and a double, both of which drove in a run.

The second game featured a home run by Bryce Brentz and a triple by Brian LaMarre. Non-roster invitee Sean O'Sullivan made the start and had 2 hits and 4 strikeouts in his 2 shutout innings.

The second game featured a home run by Bryce Brentz and a triple by Brian LaMarre. Non-roster invitee Sean O'Sullivan made the start and had 2 hits and 4 strikeouts in his 2 shutout innings.

Ruben Amaro, former GM of the Phillies, is the new first base coach this year.

Ruben Amaro, former GM of the Phillies, is the new first base coach this year.

We got to see Cuban 20-year-old Yoan Moncada, currently the top-ranked prospect in the organization, when he came in as a sub in the second game. He had a single and a double, moved up on a wild picth, and scored a run.

We got to see 20-year-old second baseman Yoan Moncada, currently the top-ranked prospect in the organization, when he came in as a sub in the second game. He had a single and a double, moved up on a wild pitch, and scored a run.

The Red Sox survived a sixth-inning rally by Northeastern off Danny Rosenbaum and hung on to win 8-3.  Final tally for the day: I got to witness 12 pitchers, 30 position players, 2 wins, and the end of the long off-season.  Not bad for one day!

Warming Up

Sunday, February 28, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

Sunday brought warmer temperatures, and it finally felt like Florida.  The Red Sox had done their photo shoots for baseball cards and promos inside in the morning, so they were a little later than normal getting out to the field.  We saw some interesting drills, got a few more autographs, and ended by watching a Big Papi power display.  My favorite photos from the day are below.

Jackie Bradley Jr. waved to fans as the players took the field to stretch.  He also took the time to sign autographs on his way in at the end of the day.

Jackie Bradley Jr. waved to fans as the players took the field to stretch. He also took the time to sign autographs on his way in at the end of the day.

Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz shared a laugh during the morning stretch.

Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz shared a laugh during the morning stretch.

General manager Mike Hazen, Senior VP of Baseball Operations Frank Wren, and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski walked among the fields to observe the practice.

General Manager Mike Hazen, Senior VP of Baseball Operations Frank Wren, and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski walked among the fields to observe the practice.

Ryan Hanigan and the other catchers did a drill where they practiced throwing out runners at second and third.

Ryan Hanigan and the other catchers did a drill where they practiced throwing out runners at second and third.

Christian Vazquez is recovering from the Tommy John surgery had had less than a year ago. He's been catching, but he wasn't allowed to practice throwing out baserunners. During the drill he took the role of flipping the ball to the other catchers.

Christian Vazquez is recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had less than a year ago. He's been catching, but he wasn't allowed to practice throwing out baserunners. During that drill he took the role of flipping the ball to the other catchers.

The infielders and pitchers took part in a drill catching popups.  Non-roster invitee Sean O'Sullivan, who has 66 games of major league experience for the Angels, Royals, Padres, and Phillies over the past 6 seasons, will be the starting pitcher against Northeastern in the second game of Monday's college double header.

The infielders and pitchers took part in a drill catching popups. Non-roster invitee Sean O'Sullivan, who has 66 games of major league experience for the Angels, Royals, Padres, and Phillies over the past 6 seasons, will be the starting pitcher against Northeastern in the second game of Monday's college double header.

Everyone's favorite dirt dog Dustin Pedroia smiled during batting practice.

Everyone's favorite dirt dog Dustin Pedroia smiled during batting practice.

Big Papi put on a show in batting practice, at one point mashing five straight homers off the roof of the batting cages beyond the field.

Big Papi put on a show in batting practice, at one point mashing five straight homers off the roof of the batting cages beyond the field.

When fans applauded after one of his impressive rounds, Papi announced, "I was born for this."

When fans applauded after one of his impressive B. P. rounds, Papi announced, "I was born for this."

Dwight Evans was my favorite player in the 1980's, and is now a special instructor working with the young players. He took the time to sign autographs after practice, as did Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, infield prospects Deven Marrero and Sam Travis, and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Dwight Evans was my favorite player in the 1980's, and is now a special instructor working with the young players. He took the time to sign autographs after practice, as did Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, infield prospects Deven Marrero and Sam Travis, and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Full Squad

Saturday, February 27, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout and Open House

My third day in Ft. Myers brought me back to JetBlue Park for another full squad workout.  Big Papi was back in action after being given a day off to work in the batting cages,  and Rusney Castillo was on the field after being out several days with the flu.  We had fun watching some different drills (although one gave us a scare) and picking up autographs.  After the workout, we attended JetBlue Park’s free open house.  My favorite pictures from the day are below.

Left-handed prospect Henry Owens. We found out as a coach called to him during a drill that his nickname is "Bigfoot."

Left-handed prospect Henry Owens. We found out, as a coach called to him during a drill, that his nickname is "Bigfoot."

It's Eduardo Rodriguez's turn on the hill during a drill that included the whole team practicing rundowns and cutoffs.

It's Eduardo Rodriguez's turn on the hill during a drill that included the whole team practicing rundowns and cutoffs.

New closer Craig Kimbrel flashes a big smile.

New closer Craig Kimbrel flashes a big smile.

Henry Owens makes the catch as the picthers participate in a popup drill.

Henry Owens makes the catch as the pitchers participate in a popup drill.

One of the drills we watched was the pitchers practicing catching popups.  They were doing so with varied success, and the players and fans alike were all getting into it, oohing and ahhing over nice catches and groaning and needling each other over the misses.  The video below shows some of the fun as Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ross, Noe Ramirez, David Price, and Heath Hembree attempt plays that, during the season, may best be left to the infielders.



Everyone was enjoying the drill until Eduardo Rodriguez caught his cleat while backpedaling and dropped to the ground.  The whole season flashed in front of my eyes as the promising lefty who’s slotted in as the number three starter lay on the ground and the coach signaled for a trainer.  After a few minutes, Ed-Ro got up (to applause from the fans) and walked off the field and into the clubhouse.  We heard on the way home that he was doing much better and nothing was broken or torn.  I sure hope that’s the case, as his ability to build on his success from last year is a big key to how far this year’s team can go.

David Price walked by at the end of practice.

David Price walked by at the end of practice.

A large crowd watches as Dustin Pedroia takes some swings during batting practice.

A large crowd watches as Dustin Pedroia takes some swings during batting practice.

As the workout wrapped up, we were excited to see Tim Wakefield signing autographs. He was one of my favorites in his playing days, and is now in camp to mentor young knuckleballer Steven Wright. I also got autographs from Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw, and minor league third baseman Chris Dominguez.

As the workout wrapped up, we were excited to see Tim Wakefield signing autographs. He was one of my favorites in his playing days, and is now in camp to mentor young knuckleballer Steven Wright. I also got autographs from Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw, and minor league third baseman Chris Dominguez.

After the workout ended, we went into the stadium for the free open house.  We got a chance to go into the dugout, up on the green Monster, and onto the outfield grass.

All the retired numbers are on display outside the stadium, so we had to track down the #45 for my alltime favorite player, Pedro Martinez, whose number was retired this past year.

All the retired numbers are on display outside the stadium, so we had to track down the #45 for my all-time favorite player, Pedro Martinez, whose number was retired this past year.

JetBlue's version of the Green Monster has seating half-way up as well as in the top.  Here's the view from the middle level, looking through the netting and onto the field.

JetBlue's version of the Green Monster has seating half-way up as well as on the top. Here's the view from the lower level, looking through the netting and onto the field.

We weren't allowed to open the door that leads inside the Green Monster, but there was no reason I couldn't pretend that I had just come through it. I guess that's just Kristen Being Manny!

We weren't allowed to open the door that leads inside the Green Monster, but there was no reason I couldn't pretend that I had just come through it. I guess that's just Kristen Being Manny!

A Second Look

Friday, February 26, 2016 – JetBlue Park

Spring Training Workout

Today I was back in Ft. Myers for my second look at the 2016 team. The temperature was still below 70, but without yesterday’s breeze it felt a lot warmer.  I even got started on my annual farmer’s tan.  Big Papi was given the day off, and Rusney Castillo still has the flu, but the rest of the team was out working on fielding drills, live B.P., and regular batting practice.  My favorite photos from the day are below.

Jim Rice came out to watch while the team stretched. He's just one of several Red Sox alumni who we've seen working with the kids over the past couple of days.  Rich Gedman is the Triple-A hitting coach, and Dwight Evans and Tom Wakefield are special instructors.

Hall of Famer Jim Rice came out to watch while the team stretched. He's just one of several Red Sox alumni who we've seen working with the kids over the past couple of days. Rich Gedman is the Triple-A hitting coach, and Dwight Evans and Tim Wakefield are special instructors. Former players Lou Merloni and Steve Lyons are here too as members of the media.

New closer Craig Kimbrel.

New closer Craig Kimbrel, who came to the Red Sox in a trade with the Padres.

Lefty Robbie Ross Jr. and righty Carson Smith. Smith was acquired this off-season in a trade with the Mariners.

Lefty Robbie Ross Jr. and righty Carson Smith. Smith was acquired this off-season in a trade with the Mariners.

Travis Shaw fields a grounder at first base. He also got in some reps at third.

Travis Shaw fields a grounder at first base. He also got in some reps at third.

I got my first look at Hanley Ramirez at his new position. He spent the time fielding grounders and receiving throws from the other infielders, and did both without incident.

I got my first look at Hanley Ramirez at his new position. He spent the time fielding grounders and receiving throws from the other infielders, and did both without incident.

We watched Clay Buchholz throw live batting practice to Dustin Pedroia.  We also saw Rick Porcello, Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa, and minor leaguer William Cuevas throw to their teammates.

We watched Clay Buchholz throw live batting practice to Dustin Pedroia. We also saw Rick Porcello, Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa, and minor leaguer William Cuevas throw to their teammates.

Jackie Bradley Jr. waits his turn as Rick Porcello throws live B.P.

Jackie Bradley Jr. waits his turn before facing Rick Porcello.

It was a beautiful day for some batting practice.

It was a beautiful day for some batting practice.

Jackie Bradley Jr. smiles after finishing a round of B.P.

Jackie Bradley Jr. smiles after finishing a round of B.P.

At the end of practice, Mookie Betts and Brock Holt stopped to sign autographs.

At the end of practice, Brock Holt stopped to sign autographs. We got Mookie Betts's autograph too. Thanks, guys!

The workout wrapped up earlier than usual because the players were on their way to a charity golf tournament in the afternoon.  I was so happy to get an autograph from Mookie Betts that I didn’t even make a crack about whether he should be allowed on the course after his cart rolled into a lake during a golf outing earlier in the spring.  Maybe let someone else drive the cart this time!

After lunch we headed up to Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota.  It was cooler north of Ft. Myers – only 62 and very windy at the beach.  But the water temperature was 64 and felt quite nice, warmer than my favorite Maine beaches get in the summer.  We made sure to stop for an orange ice cream (technically I had a chocolate-lime twist) at Nokomis Groves in Nokomis on the way back.

Siesta Key Beach... Air temperature: 62, water temperature: 64, clouds in sky: 0.

Siesta Key Beach... Air temperature: 62, water temperature: 64, clouds in sky: 0.

Train To Reign

Thursday, February 25, 2016 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training workout

It’s great to be back in “The Fort” for my 14th spring training trip.  The first time I went was 2003, also the first year in Red Sox camp for one David Ortiz.  I’m still having a hard time comprehending his retirement and it disturbs me to think that when I come back next year he won’t be around.  But for now, I’m going to enjoy Big Papi and his teammates as much as I can.

The players took the field later than usual due to an MLB Players’ Association meeting in the morning, but they still held a full workout.  Between warmups, fielding practice, live B.P., and regular batting practice I took my usual 300 or so photos.  My top ten favorites, in no particular order, are below.

Eduardo Rodriguez spent a lot of time with fellow lefty David Price. Price is already embracing a leadership role on the team. For the record, I hate the nickname "E-Rod" for Rodriguez because it sounds too much like A-Rod. For the purposes of this blog he shall be known as "Ed-Ro," which sounds more like Pedro.

Eduardo Rodriguez spent a lot of time with fellow lefty David Price. Price is already embracing a leadership role on the team. (For the record, I hate the nickname "E-Rod" for Rodriguez because it sounds too much like A-Rod. For the purposes of this blog he shall be known as "Ed-Ro," which sounds more like Pedro.)

I am so happy to see John Farrell back with the team after beating lymphoma last fall. He made the rounds and kept a watchful eye on all the proceedings.

I am so happy to see John Farrell back with the team after beating lymphoma last fall. He made the rounds and kept a watchful eye on all the proceedings.

Mookie Betts is one of the guys I'm most looking forward to seeing this year.  He runs, he hits, he makes amazing plays in the field, he bowls, and he can solve a Rubik's Cube in under two minutes. What's not to love?

Mookie Betts is one of the guys I'm most looking forward to seeing this year. He runs, he hits, he makes amazing plays in the field, he bowls professionally, and he can solve a Rubik's Cube in under two minutes. What's not to love?

David Price threw live batting practice to Mookie Betts, Pablo Sandoval, and Dan Butler. Let's just say there was not a lot of contact made.

David Price threw live batting practice to Mookie Betts, Pablo Sandoval, and Dan Butler. Let's just say there was not a lot of contact made.

The "Train to Reign" sweatshirts that many of the players were wearing are probably standard MLB issue that every team has in their colors, but I thought it was cool that President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wore one as he visited the various drills.

The "Train to Reign" sweatshirts that many of the players were wearing are probably standard MLB issue that every team has in their colors, but I thought it was cool that President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wore one as he visited the various drills.

Meet new outfielder Chris Young. He was taking batting practice in the same group as Big Papi and Hanley Ramirez.

Meet new outfielder Chris Young. He was taking batting practice in the same group as Big Papi and Hanley Ramirez.

It's not really officially baseball season until Pedey's in the house. As he took batting practice, David Ortiz sat on a water cooler and heckled him, calling him "Pee-Wee."

It's not really officially baseball season until Pedey's in the house. As Dustin Pedroia took batting practice, David Ortiz sat on a water cooler and heckled him, calling him "Pee-Wee."

Another young player who I love to watch is Xander Bogaerts. We'll get you to the All-Star Game this year, X-Man!

Another young player who I love to watch is Xander Bogaerts. We'll get you to the All-Star Game this year, X-Man!

Blake Swihart has already been anointed as the starting catcher. I look forward to seeing him build on the xperience he got at the end of last year.

Blake Swihart has already been anointed as the starting catcher. I look forward to seeing him build on the experience he got at the end of last year.

And finally, here's the man, the myth, the legend, the soon-to-be-retiree himself, Big Papi.

And finally, here's the man, the myth, the legend, the soon-to-be-retiree himself, Big Papi.

It was a slow day on the autograph front – the only two I got were pitching coach Carl Willis and outfield prospect Bryce Brentz – but those often come in bunches and I’ve got four more days of workouts to watch. After practice we hit the beach in Englewood, north of Ft. Myers.  With temps on the “chilly” side for Florida, it was practically deserted, but as New Englanders that didn’t stop us.  (Actually the water was as warm as the air, the waves were beautiful, and if it hadn’t been for the wind it would have been perfect.)

Englewood Beach on a breezy afternon.

Englewood Beach on a breezy afternoon.

Best. Day. Ever.

September 19, 2015

My Day with the World Series Trophy

Today was the Best. Day. Ever.

All summer long I’ve been scanning my season ticket holder card at games and watching for code words on TV to earn rewards points.  I used the points to enter a raffle… and won!  And it was the best prize ever – my very own day with the World Series trophy!

The 2013 World Series trophy came to my apartment and spent the whole afternoon.  It really makes sense, given how hard I’ve worked over the years to help my team win.  They surely couldn’t have done it without me!  (Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

So how did I spend my day with the trophy?  Just like any other day, only a million times cooler.

We woke up…

Rise and shine! We woke up...

Rise and shine!

had breakfast…

Wheaties - the breackfast of champions - of course!

Wheaties - the breakfast of champions - of course!

read books…

Story time

Story time

played games…

The trophy won, of course.

The trophy won, of course.

took selfies…

Isn't that what everyone does now?

Isn't that what everyone does now?

got a snack…

Those are the magnets they give out every year on Opening Day all over the fridge. We ended up with some Pedro Salsa.

Those are the schedule magnets they give out every year on Opening Day all over the fridge. We ended up with some Pedro Salsa.

watched some TV…

The trophy and I have the same taste in TV shows.

The trophy and I have the same taste in TV shows.

hung out with a friend…

What? Doesn't everyone have a giant Red Sox monkey?

What? Doesn't everyone have a giant Red Sox monkey?

and another friend…

Tessie (named after the Dropkick Murphys song) watches a lot of baseball.

Tessie (named after the Dropkick Murphys song) watches a lot of baseball.

and some more friends.

A few of the trophy's closest friends.

A few of the trophy's closest friends.

It was a busy day.  Good night!

Sweet dreams!

Sweet dreams!

Believe it or not, I actually predicted this years ago.  When the Red Sox won in ‘04, before they even announced that they would be coming to all the towns in Massachusetts, they said they would bring it to the minor league stadiums, to spring training, to the Dominican Republic – all the spots significant to Red Sox Nation.  I said, “Well then they should bring it to my living room; it’s significant because that’s where I was when they won it!”  But even I didn’t think they actually would!  Special thanks to Chris and Donny of the Red Sox who put up with all the silly things my family and I came up with.  It truly was the Best. Day. Ever.

September 19, 2015 • Posted in: Personal, Trophy • No Comments

There’s No Place Like Home

Monday, April 13, 2015 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

This year’s home opener was my fifteenth Fenway Park Opening Day.  It’s always a welcome sight, but after a disappointing season last year and a record-setting snowfall all winter, plus the fact that we were already 13 days into April, I was definitely ready!  Topping it off, this was my warmest opener ever, a gorgeous, sunny day with a game-time temp of 69°.  I got to Fenway almost five hours before the game and waited outside the players’ parking lot for a while, where I saw Robbie Ross, Wade Miley, Koji Uehara, Ryan Hanigan, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz drive in (well technically Koji walked in).

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK".

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK." (Three years ago the Red Sox also opened on the late date of April 13, but that year this tree was already full of leaves.)

After circling around the park, grabbing a slice of pizza from a vendor, and picking up a Media Guide in the souvenir store, I got in line at Gate C.  Red Sox Nation members and season ticket-holders get to enter 2½ hours before the game.  I went up on the Green Monster, but with this being a day game after a night game, the Red Sox weren’t taking batting practice on the field.  The pitchers were out in right field long-tossing, and Hanley Ramirez was in left working with coach Arnie Beyeler fielding caroms off the Wall.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster. This is his first year as an outfielder after starting out as a shortstop.

One of the changes to the park this year is the removal of the center field camera well, which makes room for some new seats in Section 34.  To do this, the cameras were moved up to a new platform above that section, near where the K-Men post strikeouts on the walkway to the Green Monster seats.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

Here’s what the area looks like from the stands, compared to the same view last year.  According to the numbers in the Media Guide, there are a grand total of 24 extra seats now (which along with the other seats in Sections 34 and 35 are covered up during day games to provide a dark batter’s eye background).

New center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

New look of the center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

There’s another new seating area too, over in left field.  Section 33, the last section of left field grandstand before the Green Monster, never used to have a roof over it.  This year the roof deck was extended so that it covers that last little bit up to the Fisk Pole, adding 150 new seats and another suite.  That’s great for when I sit in that corner of the grandstand and it rains, but today it meant that our seats in Section 32 were shaded from the sun for the whole game.  It would have been a perfect beach day in the bleachers, but we actually needed jackets in the late innings when the breeze picked up.

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

As usual, the opening ceremony was beautifully done.  They hit all the right emotional highs.  The National Anthem was sung by the children’s choir of Jane Richard, who lost her brother in the Marathon bombings two years ago.  Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, along with Patriots owners Bob and Jonathan Kraft, brought the Lombardi trophies and Brady threw out the first pitch.  Then the Red Sox honored former Boston College player Pete Frates, who has ALS and was credited with creating the ice bucket challenge last summer to raise money to fight the disease.  Both the Red Sox and the B.C. Eagles had worn his number 3 during their annual Spring Training game, and today they presented him with the shirts.  And lastly, out came Hall of Fame electee and fan favorite Pedro Martinez.  He said the official “Play Ball” and then hugged everyone – Pete Frates, the whole Frates family, even Wally the Green Monster – on his way back in.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

The game itself more than lived up to the hype, and it didn’t take long to get exciting.  The second batter of the game singled off Rick Porcello, and then Bryce Harper launched what looked like a 2-run homer toward the Red Sox bullpen.  But Mookie Betts had it all the way, and he timed an impossible-looking leap perfectly to reach over the wall and rob Harper of the home run.  We were still cheering him for that as he walked to lead off the bottom of the first.  I kept my camera on him as he broke for second during Big Papi’s at-bat and captured him sliding in with a stolen base, but when he saw that the shift was on and no one was covering third, he popped right up and kept on going.  The shortstop and pitcher gave chase, but he was safe at third, prompting another ovation (and an unsuccessful review challenge).

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

We thought we couldn’t cheer any louder, but Mookie’s next at-bat came in the second with two runners aboard, and resulted in a three-run homer into the Monster seats.  Oh, and apparently yelling “Mooooooo” for Mookie (like “Looooou” for Lou Merloni and “Yooooou” for Kevin Youkilis) is now a thing.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me was ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me is ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching base 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and he also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

The game really couldn’t have unfolded any better.  It ended up the perfect way to usher in a new season.  I can already tell that this is going to be a fun (and wild) season to watch, and I’m so happy it’s finally underway.

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!

Closing Time

Monday, March 2, 2015 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workout

Monday was the last day of workouts before games kick off Tuesday against Boston College and Northeastern.  In the meantime, it was another fun day of fielding drills, live B.P., and batting practice.  We got to see Justin Masterson and Koji Uehara pitch, cutoff and relay drills, and more long batting practice bombs.  We also got autographs from pitching coach Juan Nieves, Garin Cecchini, and Sean Coyle.  Some of my favorite pictures from the day are below.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts walk in at the end of a drill where they worked on fielding cut-offs, relays, and bunts.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts walk in at the end of a drill where they worked on fielding cut-offs, relays, and bunts.

Justin Masterson threw live B.P. to batters from minor league camp.

Justin Masterson threw live B.P. to batters from minor league camp.

Hanley Ramirez is all smiles after hitting a bunch of long drives in batting practice.

Hanley Ramirez was all smiles after hitting a bunch of long drives in batting practice.

Shane Victorino has been batting from both sides of the plate all week, even running the bases between rounds of B.P., and he's not showing any signs of the injuries that plagued him last year.

Shane Victorino has been batting from both sides of the plate all week, even running the bases between rounds of B.P., and he's not showing any signs of the injuries that plagued him last year.

I don't know what Brian Butterfield is saying, but it's cracking Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Brock Holt up.

I don't know what Brian Butterfield is saying, but it's cracking Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Brock Holt up.

Garin Cecchini, the third base prospect who made his major league debut last year, signed autographs after practice.

Garin Cecchini, the third base prospect who made his major league debut last year, signed autographs after practice.

Since today's workout was the last of the year before games start, I can't think of a better way to close it out than with a picture of Koji Uehara, who faced live batters today.

Since today's workout was the last of the year before games start, I can't think of a better way to close it out than with a picture of Koji Uehara, who faced live batters today.

The weather was absolutely perfect today, so after eating lunch in our car and sampling the gelato at Norman Love’s Artisan Gelato right down the street from the ballpark, we made the drive to Sarasota and spent the afternoon at Siesta Key beach, where we saw a genuine (sort of) Florida gator:

You can't expect to spend a week in Florida without seeng a gator. We found this one at the beach.

You can't expect to spend a week in Florida without seeing a gator. We found this one sunning himself at the beach.

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