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Thank You, Trot

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fitton Field, Worcester

I always say that if I could personally thank every one of the 2004 Red Sox, I would.  Over the years, I have gotten to meet and thank several of the players, and I have a photo of me with the World Series trophy that I’ve been collecting autographs of the members of the ‘04 team on ever since Spring Training of 2005.  So when I heard that Trot Nixon, the original dirt dog, was going to be in Worcester, I knew I had to go.

Trot Nixon spoke to Worcester area Little Leaguers.

Trot Nixon spoke to Worcester area Little Leaguers.

The event, open to the public, was held on the Holy Cross campus at Fitton Field, home of Holy Cross’s baseball team and, in the summer, of the Worcester Bravehearts, a team in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.  (They play the Brockton Rox and Nashua Silver Knights, among other local teams, and half the players on each team either grew up in New England or currently attend a college in the area.)  The Bravehearts were promoting ticket sales for their coming games, and the day marked the opening of the Worcester Little League season, with food and activities for the kids.  Besides the mayor and league officials, the speakers included Trot Nixon, a fan favorite (who played his intense style of baseball well before any of the Little League kids were born) and member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.  With the kids lined up in their team uniforms ringing the infield, he talked about how much he loves the game, and encouraged the kids to find time to practice every day.  After the speeches, he signed autographs and posed for pictures with anyone who wanted one.

Thank you, Trot!

Thank you, Trot!

When my turn came, I thanked him for 2004, and added, “And for that walk-off home run in the playoffs in ‘03.  I went to that one, and we were hugging random strangers by the end.”  That was Game 3 of the ALDS against Oakland.  The Sox had gone down 0-2 in the series, and it took an eleventh inning pinch-hit home run by Trot to extend the series, which they would eventually come back to win.  It was a crazy game, with bizarre obstruction calls and the play where Eric Byrnes got tagged out by Jason Varitek after he failed to touch the plate.  I was sitting in an obstructed view seat right behind a pole, and really did end up hugging the woman next to me at the end.

Trot's autograph is second from the left in the top row, between Brian Daubach and Lenny DiNardo.

Trot's autograph is second from the left in the top row, between Brian Daubach and Lenny DiNardo.

There are still a bunch of players from 2004 who I haven’t had the pleasure to meet yet, but it was fun to cross another name off the list.

April 29, 2017 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

Can’t Buy A Run

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0

A rainout on Tuesday night pushed all the pitchers back a day, meaning that instead of seeing Drew Pomeranz pitch against the Yankees, I was going to get to witness the artistry of Chris Sale, who was off to a ridiculously dominant start.  Coming into tonight’s game, he had made four starts, going at least seven innings in each, with an ERA of 0.91 and a league-leading 42 strikeouts.  The problem had been run support.  His teammates had provided only four total runs of support while he was on the mound over those four starts, and as a result he had a very unfairly pedestrian-looking 1-1 record.

I always did enjoy a good sale.

I always did enjoy a good sale.

Sale continued his string of dominant performances. At the end of the third, he had six strikeouts and had thrown only 37 pitches.

Sale continued his string of dominant performances. At the end of the third, he had six strikeouts and had thrown only 37 pitches.

(I swear I took some pictures that weren’t of Chris Sale.  They’re in here somewhere…)

There was a buzz in the ballpark based on the night's starting pitcher.

There was a buzz in the ballpark based on the night's starting pitcher.

(OK, so not that one, but here are a few…)

Dustin Pedroia sprints out of the box after hitting a ground ball in the first inning.

Dustin Pedroia sprints out of the box after hitting a ground ball back to the mound in the first inning.

Andrew Benintendi strikes out in the fourth.  The fourth inning ended at 8:12, just one hour into the game.

Andrew Benintendi strikes out to open the fourth. The fourth inning ended at 8:12, just one hour into the game.

Hanley Ramirez picked up two of the Red Sox' three hits in the game, but neither resulted in a run.

Hanley Ramirez picked up two of the Red Sox' three hits in the game, but neither resulted in a run.

Mookie Betts made the defensive play of the day, with a basket catch of a Chase Headley pop fly over near the rolled-up tarp.

Mookie Betts was responsible for the defensive play of the day, with a basket catch of a Chase Headley pop fly over near the rolled-up tarp.

(And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming…)

The K-Men were kept busy recordinf Sale's 10 strikeouts. And look at those stats on the scoreboard at the end of the eighth: 103 pitches, 77 strikes, and a season ERA of 0.72.

The K-Men were kept busy recording Sale's 10 strikeouts. And look at those stats on the scoreboard at the end of the eighth: 103 pitches, 77 for strikes, and his ERA down to 0.72.

As awesome as Sale’s pitching was – and he really is fun to watch – the offense did nothing to help him out.  He pitched just like his other starts, working very quickly, so that the end of the eighth inning came right at the two-hour mark of the game.  That’s fast by any standard, but especially for a Red Sox-Yankees game.  (I once went to a game between these two teams that lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes – the longest 9-inning game in MLB history!)  It was unfortunate when an unearned run crossed the plate for the Yankees in the fourth (single, groundout, passed ball, sacrifice fly).  Sale gave up one more run in the ninth (and was charged with another after he came out), causing his ERA to “skyrocket” all the way up to 1.19.

It ended up the third shutout for the Red Sox offense in theor last seven games.

View from Section 43. The game was so quick that no one left early, so I didn't get to move around to better seats later in the game.

It ended up the third shutout for the Red Sox offense in their last seven games.  It was frustrating to waste such a good start, as Sale now had a mere four total runs of support over his first five starts.  At least it was so fast that the game was over at 9:30, and I was all the way back home at 10:45.

Ready for the punchline?

April 27, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Knuckled Under

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Orioles 12, Red Sox 5

You could say the first week of the season “flu” by, with many key players on the team hit by either influenza, a stomach bug, or a respiratory bug, all of which were circulating through the clubhouse.  Add to that two players on the bereavement list at the same time, and transportation issues when they attempted to return.  Play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien even had to leave one broadcast half-way through due to illness.  But after a road trip to Detroit which caused the Tigers to have the visiting clubhouse fumigated when they left, the team returned to Fenway in much better shape, with the full lineup they envisioned all winter (with the exception of Jackie Bradley, Jr., on the D.L. with a sprained knee).

For me, it was the first game of the year in my familiar Tenth Man Plan seats in Section 43.

Steven Wright warms up before the game.

Steven Wright warms up before the game.

Give 'em the ole knuckleball!

Wright deals a knuckleball.

Unfortunately, Wright’s knuckleball wasn’t exactly knuckling.  He gave up two homers as the Orioles batted around in the first and two more in the second, and the Sox were down 8-0 when he exited the game.  I didn’t have the flu, but I sure felt like puking.

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Chris Young had to chase down a lot of hits all night.  And it could have been worse if Benintendi, filling in in center for JBJ, hadn't made a great diving catch in the fourth that prompted me to nickname him "Andrew Bradley, Jr."

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Chris Young had to chase down a lot of hits all night. And it could have been worse if Benintendi, filling in in center for JBJ, hadn't made an impressive diving catch in the fourth that prompted me to nickname him "Andrew Bradley, Jr."

Ben Taylor replaced Wright in the second, and pitched 3-2/3 innings while only allowing one run.  The rookie came into the game having struck out 4 of the 5 batters he had faced in the majors, and added 3 more Ks.

Ben Taylor replaced Wright in the second, and pitched 3-2/3 innings while only allowing one run. The rookie came into the game having struck out 4 of the 5 batters he had faced in the majors, and added 3 more Ks.

Once they were down 9-0, the Red Sox did try to make a comeback.  The first run scored in the third on a sac fly.  Three more came in the fourth, capped by a homer by Pablo Sandoval.  In the fifth they had the bases loaded with one out, and when Xander Bogaerts drove in their fifth run, that brought the tying run to the plate.  Unfortunately that was as close as they’d get.

Even the mighty Sandy Leon couldn't tie up a four-run game with no one on base.

Even the mighty Sandy Leon couldn't hit the five-run homer we needed to get back in the game.

It was a clear but cool night in my Tenth Man Plan seats.

It was a clear but cool night in my Tenth Man Plan season ticket seats.

When Ben Taylor finished his 3-2/3 innings of relief, Fernando Abad was next, making his first appearance of the season.  My favorite thing about Abad is getting to make “Abad pun” every time he pitches.  Tonight he did well, which I called “Agood Abad outing,” and then when Joe Kelly allowed three more runs in the eighth, “This game just went from Abad to worse.”  (Sorry, but with a game like this, I had to do something to stay amused.)

Left-hander Robby Scott pitched well in the ninth.

Left-hander Robby Scott pitched well in the ninth.

The game's not official until I get a picture of Xander Bogaerts blowing a bubble with his gum.  It's kind of like trying to capture Dustin Pedroia in the air when he does his trademark hop before each pitch.  Come to think of it, I didn't get a good picture of the "Pedey hop" tonight, so does that mean this game doesn't count?

The game's not official until I get a picture of Xander Bogaerts blowing a bubble with his gum. It's kind of like trying to capture Dustin Pedroia in the air when he does his trademark hop before each pitch. Come to think of it, I didn't get a good picture of the "Pedey hop" tonight, so does that mean this game doesn't count?

The Red Sox retired numbers light the way to the Yawkey T Station. I don't normally walk past them after a game, but tonight I did.  They're going to need to add a 34 later in the season.

The Red Sox retired numbers light the way to the Yawkey T Station. I don't normally walk past them after a game, but tonight I decided to. They're going to need to add a 34 later in the season.

April 12, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Game 1 A.D.

Monday, April 3, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

Every year, I make the same tweet on the morning of the home opener:

Though this marked my 17th Fenway Park Opening Day, there were a couple of things different this year: they opened the season at home for a change (2002, ‘09, and ‘10 being the other times since I started going), and this was the first in a long time without the services of David Ortiz.  While I was going to miss the irreplaceable Big Papi, Year 1 A. D. (After David) brought a young, exciting team, and opening at home meant we got to see reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello on the mound.  I got to Fenway around 10:30 and made a couple of laps around the outside of the ballpark.

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day.

Obligatory shot of the Fenway façade early on Opening Day.

Fans stream past the Cask & Flagon on their way up from Kenmore Square.

Fans stream past the Cask 'n Flagon on their way up from Kenmore Square.

The back of the center field scoreboard as seen from Lansdowne St.  I got in the early entrance line for Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members that forms at Gate C and went in at 11:35.

The back of the center field scoreboard as seen from Lansdowne St. I got in the early entrance line for Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members that forms at Gate C and went in at 11:35.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. takes batting practice. It was still cool in the morning, but the sun on the seats of the Green Monster felt great. Too bad my seat for the game was in the shade!

Jackie Bradley, Jr., takes batting practice. It was still cool in the morning, but the sun felt great as we watched B.P. from the seats of the Green Monster. Too bad my seat for the game was in the shade!

Happy New Year, '17!

Happy New Year, '17!

Chris Sale got an extended ovation when he was announced in the starting lineups. It was one of the biggest of the day, along with Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello, and Mookie Betts (although that one was a "Moooooooo!" so it's hard to compare.)

Chris Sale got an extended ovation when he was announced in the starting lineups. It was one of the biggest of the day, along with Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello, and Mookie Betts (although that one was a "Moooooooo!" so it's hard to compare).

We pretty much knew the Patriots would be involved in the opening ceremny as they've won the Super Bowl a time or four before.  This time it was Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, James White, Rob Gronkowski, and Bob Kraft who emerged from behind the American flag, carrying the team's five Lombardi trophies.

We pretty much knew the Patriots would be involved in the opening ceremny as they've won the Super Bowl a time or four before. This time it was Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, James White, Rob Gronkowski, and Bob Kraft who emerged from behind the American flag, carrying the team's five Lombardi trophies.

When they got to the infield, we finally got a break in the case of who stole Tom Brady’s historic Super Bowl LI game shirt.  But don’t worry, the thief was chased down and apprehended by Brady himself.  Following is a slide show of the still pictures I took as it all unfolded:

Once the five Patriots said, “Play ball!” the game was underway.  Rick Porcello picked up right where he left off at the end of the ‘16 season, retiring the side in order in the first on just 11 pitches.  In the second, the Pirates got their first baserunner, who was promptly gunned down by Sandy Leon as he tried to steal.  “He’s not even our best defensive catcher!” I yelled, not as a slight to Sandy, who’s a good defensive catcher in his own right, but as a compliment to Christian Vazquez on the bench.  In the fourth, Jackie Bradley made a long running catch deep into the triangle, a step shy of the bullpen, before banging into the wall.  Because it was the third out, we were able to keep cheering right into the inning break.  An inning later, at the half-way point of the game, it was still scoreless, as Pirates ace Gerrit Cole kept the Red Sox off the board.

Por-CY-llo was brilliant in the first 6 innings, and finished with a line of 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K.

Por-CY-llo was brilliant in the first 6 innings, and finished with a line of 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K.

One small change at Fenway this year is that the dugouts go three feet further out than before. That's enough room to put a second bench in behind the first step, but most players spent the game leaning against the railing.

One small change at Fenway this year is that the dugouts go three feet further out than before. That's enough room to put a second bench in behind the first step, but most players spent the game leaning against the railing.

Another change is the new video board in the right field roof area where the Cumberland Farms sign used to be. It was really helpful to me in the left field grandstand, because I was so far back that that was the only board I could see.  It had batter/pitcher info like the side one in center over the camera area.

Another change is the new video board in the right field roof area where the Cumberland Farms sign used to be. It was really helpful to me in the left field grandstand, because I was so far back that it was the only board I could see. It had batter/pitcher info like the side one in center field over the camera area.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Red Sox put together a rally.  JBJ hit a two-out triple, and then Pablo Sandoval beat out an infield hit to drive in the first run.  Sandy Leon followed with a bunt toward an unmanned third base, and made it safely to first.  Dustin Pedroia singled in the second run, and then Andrew Benintendi blasted a three-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen.

Andrew Benintendi provided the big offensive blast of the day.  He still qualifies as a rookie, and wasted no time getting started on making his case for Rookie of the Year.

Andrew Benintendi provided the big offensive blast of the day. He still qualifies as a rookie, and wasted no time getting started on making his case for Rookie of the Year.

Xander Bogaerts had a good day at the plate, too.  He had two hits and two stolen bases.  That puts him on pace for 324 SB; Opening Day math is fun!

Xander Bogaerts had a good day at the plate. He had two hits and two stolen bases. That puts him on pace for 324 SB - Opening Day math is fun!

Porcello got a nice ovation as he walked off the field in the top of the seventh.

Porcello got a nice ovation as he walked off the field in the top of the seventh.

Powered by the five-run fifth, all the Red Sox had to do was hold the lead.  Matt Barnes got the final two outs of the seventh, although he did let a couple of inherited runners score.  Robby Scott came in to start the eighth, threw one pitch which was grounded to second for the first out of the inning, and then gave way to Heath Hembree for the next two outs.  In the ninth, Craig Kimbrel put two runners on, but struck out two, before getting the final out on a foul popup to first.  With that, the Red Sox showed that they had good pitching, good defense, and just enough timely hitting to win games in the post-Ortiz era.  All that was left was to see whether “Win Dance Repeat,” the outfielders’ celebratory dance, would return in some form for the new season.  Here’s the latest version of their victory moves:

Arias Wine

Thursday, March 23, 2017 – Sturbridge, MA

With a little over a week to go till Opening Day, I heard about an event in Sturbridge, Mass.  David Ortiz was launching a brand of wines, named Arias after his mother, and the Yankee Spirits store had a meet & greet event planned.  What made me jump at this chance was that everyone who bought a case of Arias wine would get a picture taken with Big Papi.  While I’ve been lucky to get his autograph before in Spring Training, and I’ve been able to get a picture with plenty of players over the years, I’ve never had one with him, and he’s one of my all-time favorites.  I had already purchased a “Big Papi Love” t-shirt to support the David Ortiz Children’s Fund a month earlier, so I even knew what I’d be wearing that day.

I guess you could call us the Papi-razzi.

The cameras came out when the Large Father entered. I guess you could call us the Papi-razzi.

I bought my ticket online in advance, then took the day off from work and made sure to get there early.  There were 180 people guaranteed a spot, but he was only supposed to be there an hour, meaning just 20 seconds per person to meet him and take the picture.  Even though I was near the front of the line, they did whisk everyone though so quickly that there was barely time to face forward and smile before they called the next person up.  I did manage to say, “Thank you for everything, Papi.  You totally changed what it means to be a Red Sox fan.”

I was just a little excited to meet Big Papi.

I was just a little excited to meet Big Papi.

He signed one bottle and handed it to us, and then we went through another line to pick up the rest of the case.  The case contained three bottles each of merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.  You can get your bottle at ariaswine.com.

Cheers!

Cheers!

March 23, 2017 • Posted in: Events • 1 Comment

Road Trip to Port Charlotte

Sunday, February 26, 2017 – Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Rays 7, Red Sox 3

Today was the first road game for the Red Sox, a short drive north to Port Charlotte to take on the Rays.  It was also my last game before heading much further back north.  We know going in that for road games in Spring Training, especially this early on, teams are expected to bring just four guys who are projected to be on the major league roster, filling in the rest of the spots with minor leaguers.  Today the four were Brock Holt, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Fernando Abad.  Blake Swihart was there too, but he’ll most likely start the year in Pawtucket.  The rest of the starting lineup were Triple A guys, and they were all eventually replaced by Double A (or lower) guys.

Charlotte Sports Park on a sunny Sunday.

Charlotte Sports Park on a sunny Sunday.

The game was started by Hector Velazquez, who just signed with the Red Sox last week after playing in the Mexican League for the last three years.  The 28-year-old had a quick first inning but labored a bit in the second. He ended up throwing 32 pitches over 2 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4.

The game was started by Hector Velazquez, who just signed with the Red Sox last week after playing in the Mexican League for the last three years. The 28-year-old had a quick first inning but labored a bit in the second. He ended up throwing 32 pitches over 2 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4.

Brock Holt manned shortstop and went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and a hit-by-pitch.

Brock Holt manned shortstop and went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and a hit-by-pitch.

Andrew Benintendi's hair also made it into the game.

Andrew Benintendi's hair also made it into the game.

Rusney Castillo was there, too, but his #38 uniform jersey didn't make the trip, so he had to wear a leftover #80. (My brother, who was watching on TV, told me the NESN announcers called it a "wardrobe malfunction.")

Rusney Castillo was there, too, but his #38 uniform jersey didn't make the trip, so he had to wear a leftover #80. (My brother, who was watching on TV, told me the NESN announcers referred to it as a "wardrobe malfunction.")

Not a lot went right for the Red Sox in this game.  They got in a 4-0 hole and only got going offensively in the seventh when they finally broke through for three runs.

Deven Marrero scores the Red Sox' third run of the seventh inning.  But look out, the throw has just come in to third, and Rusney Castillo is about to get caught up in a rundown.

Deven Marrero scores the Red Sox' third run of the seventh inning. But look out, the throw has just come in to third, and Rusney Castillo is about to get caught up in an inning-ending rundown trying to extend past second.

The subs for both teams included lots of players borrowed from minor league camp.  For the Rays, they were the guys without names on their backs.  For the Red Sox, they duplicated uniform numbers of guys we knew.  I do follow our minor league teams, so many of the names were familiar to me.  I felt like I was saying “we saw this guy on the Sea Dogs last year” a lot.  One guy I was excited to see was Kyri Washington, who came in to play right field in the bottom of the seventh.  I felt like Peter Gammons when I recalled that we had seen him play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League at a game in Hyannis in 2014, and that he had made it as far as Single A Greenville last season.  I always keep score when I watch a Cape League game for that very reason, and I’ve been tracking the players I saw on both teams ever since to see who got drafted and how far they went.  Today, that research finally paid off!

Channeling my inner Peter Gammons: I saw Kyri Washington play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League back in 2014.

Channeling my inner Peter Gammons: I saw Kyri Washington play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League back in 2014. And now, here he was in the eighth inning of a Spring Training road game.

The Rays had their share of minor leaguers too. They even had two number 74s in the starting lineup, batting back-to-back.

The Rays had their share of minor leaguers too. They even had two number 74s in the starting lineup, batting back-to-back.

The game ended as a 7-3 loss, and now tomorrow I have to fly back to Boston.  I won’t get to see these guys again until Opening Day on April 3.  (I suppose technically I won’t see many of the players from today’s game until July, when I make my annual trip to watch the Sea Dogs.)  Until then, I’m going to end with another picture from last Tuesday, when my all-time favorite player put in an appearance:

Pedro!

Pedro!

Home Whites

Saturday, February 25, 2017 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Red Sox 8, Twins 7

Saturday brought the third game of the spring calendar, and the first where the team was wearing their home white uniforms.  Again we arrived in the morning before the gates opened and went around back to see what was going on.  It was the usual drills – outfield practice, PFP and sprints for the pitchers, and batting practice.  Mostly we saw the same players we had watched over the past couple of days, and we added an autograph from Rusney Castillo.

Allen Craig and Josh Rutledge take B.P. under the backdrop of the Green Monster-sized fence on Field 1.

Allen Craig and Josh Rutledge take B.P. under the backdrop of the Green Monster-sized fence on Field 1.

This game got off to a much better start than yesterday’s.  Roenis Elias retired the Twins in order in the first and then the Red Sox jumped out to an early lead.  Dustin Pedroia, in his first game of the spring, led off with a double, Mookie Betts singled, and then Hanley Ramirez doubled in one run and Mitch Moreland drove in another.  One inning in, and it had already become my favorite game of the year!

It's not truly baseball season until Pedey gets in a game and does his trademark hop.

It's not truly baseball season until Pedey gets in a game and does his trademark hop.

Mookie Betts takes a lead off third base. He scored the first run of the game on Hanley's double.

Mookie Betts takes a lead off third base. He scored the second run of the game on Moreland's groundout.

Elias gave up a solo homer in the second, but everything was fine until Tyler Thornburg was charged with five runs while only getting two outs in the third.  Matt Barnes had to come in to finish Thornburg’s inning and stayed to complete one of his own, but he gave up another homer in the process, and the Sox found themselves down 7-2.

Tyler Thornburg's outing was as painful to watch as this pose looks.  But apparently he's one of those guys who has followed a really bad spring with a very good season.

Tyler Thornburg's outing was as painful to watch as this pose looks. But apparently he's one of those guys who is able to follow a really bad spring with a very good season, or at least that's what he did last year.

Luckily the Red Sox were able to chip away at the deficit.  They scored three runs in the fourth on doubles by Chris Young and Christian Vazquez (and with the assistance of an error by the Twins).  They added another run in the fifth on Pablo Sandoval’s single.

Hanley's hair flaps in the breeze as he swings.

Hanley's hair flaps in the breeze as he takes a big swing.

Speaking of flowing moss, Robbie Ross pitched a perfect sixth.

Speaking of flowing moss, Robbie Ross pitched a perfect sixth.

And while we're on the subject, Heath Hembree and his long locks took the mound in the seventh.  He also pitched a scoreless inning, but that was thanks to a runner being gunned down at the plate by left fielder Allen Craig.

And while we're on the subject, Heath Hembree and his long locks took the mound in the seventh. He also pitched a scoreless inning, but that was thanks to a runner being gunned down at the plate by left fielder Allen Craig.

Finally, in the sixth, the Red Sox tied the game on a double by first base prospect Sam Travis.

A pitchers' duel it was not.

A pitchers' duel it was not.

By the time the shadows grew long at JetBlue Park, there was not a cloud to be found in the sky.

By the time the shadows crept onto the field at JetBlue Park, there was not a cloud to be found in the sky.

The game was slow-paced (despite not having any intentional walks, if you can believe that) but it was worth it in the eighth when Deven Marrero led off with a double.  Later in the inning, Brian Bogusevic hit an RBI single to drive him in and give the Sox an 8-7 lead.

Brian Bogusevic takes a lead off first after driving in the go-ahead run.

Brian Bogusevic takes a lead off first after driving in the go-ahead run.

Non-roster invitee Austin Maddox got quickly through the ninth to nail down the save, and just like that it was back to being my favorite game of the year again!

Grapefruit League Opener

Friday, February 24, 2017 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Mets 3, Red Sox 2

On Friday the Grapefruit League games got underway with a contest against the Mets.  We again arrived well before the gates opened, and walked around to the practice fields in the back of the complex.  On one field, most of the major league team was practicing calling for and catching pop-ups.  On another field, the PawSox-caliber guys were doing their drills.  When the major leaguers went in (those players who were in the game today would be taking their batting practice in the stadium) the minor leaguers stayed out to take several rounds of B.P.

Marco Hernandez takes a break between rounds of B.P.  He started at second base in both of the first two games.

Marco Hernandez takes a break between rounds of B.P. He started at second base in both of the first two games.

Left to right: Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross, Edgar Olmos, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Chris Sale, and Tyler Thornburg were among the pitchers running sprints on the agility field.

Left to right: Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross, Edgar Olmos, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Chris Sale, and Tyler Thornburg were among the pitchers running sprints on the agility field.

Off beyond the agility field, we could see Rick Porcello and David Price throwing off mounds.  Apparently this is the closest I'm going to be to seeing any of the "big three" pitch in a game, despite going to all of the first four games. They'll be throwing a few innings in simulated games over the next couple of days, while Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Roenis Elias, and Hector Velazquez get the starts in the first four games.

Beyond the agility field, we could see Rick Porcello and David Price throwing off mounds. Apparently this is the closest I'm going to be to seeing any of the "big three" pitch in a game, despite going to all of the first four games. They'll be throwing a few innings in simulated games over the next couple of days, while Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Roenis Elias, and Hector Velazquez were named as starters for the games I'm going to.

As the players went in at the end of batting practice, we got autographs from John Farrell, Bryce Brentz, and Allen Craig, then headed into the stadium ourselves for the game.

Before the game, Sandy Leon warmed up in front of the bullpen.

Before the game, Sandy Leon warmed up in front of the bullpen. He caught the first five innings but hit into a double play in his only at-bat.

It was a gorgeous sunny day as the game got underway.

It was a gorgeous sunny day as the game got underway.

Henry Owens pitched the first few innings.  He gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk, and threw (by my count) 42 pitches.

Henry Owens pitched the first two innings. He gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk, and threw (by my count) 42 pitches.

Brock Holt started at short and went 0-2.

Brock Holt started at short and went 0-2.

After Owens was done, Kyle Kendrick pitched the next two innings, giving up a solo homer that put the Sox down 3-0.  And through the first six innings, three Mets pitchers combined to hold the Red Sox hitless.  That finally changed when Hanley Ramirez doubled to lead off the seventh.

Hanley broke a couple of things today: He broke up the no-hitter in the seventh, and he broke his bat in the fourth.

Hanley broke a couple of things today: he broke up the no-hitter in the seventh, and he broke his bat in the fourth.

The best part was that after Hanley’s double, Brian Bogusevic followed with a homer. That made the score 3-2 and put the Sox back in it.

The best part was that after Hanley's double, Brian Bogusevic, a 33-year-old journeyman outfielder who's played for the Astros, Cubs, and Phillies and spent last season in Japan, followed with a homer. That made the score 3-2 and put the Sox back in it.

Brian Bogusevic is a 33-year-old journeyman outfielder who's played for the Astros, Cubs, and Phillies and spent last season in Japan. Besides today's homer, he's made good catches in left field in both games so far.

It wasn't a bad day for Fernando Abad, who had two strikeouts and a groundout in a 1-2-3 fifth inning. All the relievers did well today, as Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Brandon Workman, and Kyle Martin each threw a scoreless inning.

It wasn't a bad day for Fernando Abad, who had two strikeouts and a groundout in a 1-2-3 fifth inning. All the relievers did well today, as Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Brandon Workman, and Kyle Martin each threw a scoreless inning.

After the first few innings, all the starters were replaced.  There are always a couple of subs that aren’t even in major league camp, who are just brought in for the day.  While all the players in major league camp have a unique number, the guys brought over from minor league camp don’t.  Some years they give them a number in the 80s or 90s to wear for that one day, but other years (like this one) they let them wear whatever number they would wear with the team they’re on.  That means that sometimes there are repeat numbers in a game.  (And for those like me who like to keep score, it can make things tricky!)  Yesterday there were two number 5s (Allen Craig and Mike Miller) and today there were two 17s.

After the first few innings, all the starters were replaced. There are always a couple of subs that aren't even in major league camp, just brought in for the day. While all the players in major league camp have a unique number, the guys brought over from minor league camp don't. Some years they give them a number in the 80s or 90s to wear for that one day, but other years (like this one) they let them wear whatever number they would wear with the team they're on.  That means that sometimes there are repeat numbers in a game. Yesterday there were two number 5s (Allen Craig and Mike Miller) and today there were two 17s. Here's #17 Deven Marrero at-bat, with #17 Tzu-Wei Lin on deck. Lin spent last year in Double A and projects to open the year there again.

Here's #17, shortstop Deven Marrero, at bat, with #17, second baseman Tzu-Wei Lin, on deck. Lin spent last year in Double A and projects to open the year there again.

Aside from Ramirez and Bogusevic, no one else did much of anything offensively for the Red Sox, and they ended up losing 3-2.  But we left the house at 9 am and got back at 5, which makes for a very full day of baseball, and any day like that is a good day in my book.

Welcome Back, Baseball

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

Red Sox 9, Huskies 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infielder Deven Marrero pauses between rounds of batting practice.

Infielder Deven Marrero pauses between rounds of batting practice.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a video of the drill:


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

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

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

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

Brian Johnson pitched the first two innings.

Brian Johnson pitched the first two innings.

Xander Bogaerts walked and was hit by a pitch.

Xander Bogaerts walked and was hit by a pitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Room Floor

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It was pouring all morning and we knew there was no way the players would take the field for the final workout.  It’s no big deal for them, because they have the weight room and batting cages indoors that they can use, but it was a bummer for me when we saw an announcement on Facebook that the players would not be coming outdoors and therefore the complex would not be open to the public.  The good news is that real pretend games start tomorrow with a matchup against Northeastern University.  In the meantime, here are some photos from the past two days that didn’t make it into the original blog posts.

On Monday the players were given the option of putting on a second pair of pants for their sliding drill.

On Monday the players were given the option of putting on a second pair of pants for their sliding drill.

Andrew Benintendi walks back after completing a sliding drill, while Xander Bogaerts practices declaring himself safe.

Andrew Benintendi walks back after completing a sliding drill, while Xander Bogaerts practices declaring himself safe. (You can tell Beni opted to wear the sliding pants, since the outer pair has no belt.)

Hanley Ramirez fields a ball at first base.

Hanley Ramirez fields a ball at first base.

Dave Dombrowski watches live batting practice.

President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski watches live batting practice, and he likes what he sees.

When Chris Sale thre live B.P., Rick Porcello, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and several other pitchers came to the field to watch. Normally the pitchers who aren't throwing are off doing their own thing, so it was a cool sign of respect to see that they were watching each other.

When Chris Sale threw live B.P., Rick Porcello, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and several other pitchers came to the field to watch. Normally the pitchers who aren't throwing are off doing their own thing, so it was a cool sign of respect to see that they were watching each other.

Dustin Pedroia and new first baseman Mitch Moreland prepare for an infield drill.

Dustin Pedroia and new first baseman Mitch Moreland prepare for an infield drill.

Xander Bogaerts waits his turn in batting practice on Monday.

Xander Bogaerts waits his turn in batting practice on Monday.

JBJ finishes up a round of batting practice.

JBJ finishes up a round of batting practice.

Craig Kimbrel during Pitchers' Fielding Practice on Tuesday.

Craig Kimbrel during Pitchers' Fielding Practice on Tuesday.

Chris Sale waits his turn during PFP.

Chris Sale waits his turn during PFP.

You didn't really think I was going to pass up the chance to post another picture of Pedro, did you?

You didn't really think I was going to pass up the chance to post another picture of Pedro, did you? My all-time favorite player made an appearance on Tuesday.

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