Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 1

Leave a comment

City of Palms Park.jpgI haven’t been to Steinbrenner Field yet so this may be a bit
premature, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a Red Sox
spring training game is about as close to a major league experience as
you’re going to get in the Grapefruit League. For better and for worse.

City
of Palms Park is really just a ballpark and not part of a larger spring
training facility. The Sox actually do their training at a player
development complex a couple of miles away, thus depriving the visitor
of that campus-like setting most places have.  If you’re parking at the
ballpark you’re there for a game, not to gawk at a lot of pitcher
fielding practice and shuttle runs and stuff.

The park is also
more squarely in the city than either the Mets or Twins parks are, so
you’re basically just parking your car, walking up a sidewalk and
heading on in to the stadium. No Mike Greenwell Drive or Troy O’Leary
Street. Just a meat and potatoes ballpark. Oh, and if you’re visiting
media you have to pay to park just like the fans do.  I love the smell
of democracy in the morning.

I’ve not been inside a real big
league press box, but I’m guessing City of Palms’ press box is a lot
closer to what one looks like than either Hammond Stadium’s or
Tradition Field’s. It’s huge, and rather than being set apart in some
narrow booth, it’s part of a giant suite of offices, kitchens and
conference rooms.  There are two really, really long rows of seats for
the reporters, but rather than a wall and a hallway behind the seats,
the room opens up to a large area of tables and counters where the
pregame lunch was going to be laid out and where reporters and
photographers sit, drank coffee and futz with their equipment.

Something
else was set up in there too: a press conference table.  No one knew
what it was for when I arrived there early yesterday morning, but word
soon spread that it was about Nomar’s retirement.  I’ll admit my first
thought upon learning that wasn’t about Garciaparra’s career. It was
about how interesting it was that, when big news hits the Red Sox, they
bring the news up to where the reporters are rather than make the
reporters go down to where the news is.

But it makes sense given
the sheer number of reporters covering this particular beat.  The Sox’
press corps. dwarfs that of the Mets. There are multiple newspapers and
multiple radio stations with credentials, and each has multiple writers
on assignment. Add in the smattering of Japanese media, the visiting
contingent of Rays’ reporters and a handful of interlopers like me and
you’ve got quite a party.

I don’t like being in the middle of a
room, so I made my way down to the far end of the box and set up shop
at one of the handful of spaces marked “visiting media.”  As I set up
my laptop, an older gentleman came over and started setting up in the
only seat closer to the wall. Turns out it was Jonny Miller of WBZ
radio, who I ended up talking with all game long.

As I sat down he asked me where I was from. When I told him Columbus,
Ohio he rattled off a half dozen sportswriters he knew from Columbus at
one time or the other, most of which had moved on to that great press
box in the sky. Then he asked me if I knew who Dorothy Kilgallen was.
When I said I didn’t know, he explained to me her role in the JFK assassination coverup
When I asked him who he thought shot Kennedy he said he didn’t know who
pulled the trigger, but that he was pretty sure LBJ was behind it all. 
“Who became president?” Miller asked me rhetorically.  I’m 97% certain
he was messing with me to see if I’d tell him he was full of it. Not
that I cared. He’s a fun guy and I enjoyed sitting next to him during
the game.

Not sure he’d say the same about me given something that happened
during the game, however, but I’ll save that for a bit later.  In the
meantime, I had to get down to the field and walk around a bit.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
2 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 11, Nationals 5: The Mets were down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth and all they did was put up a nine-spot. The damage: a two-run Todd Frazier single, a two-run Juan Lagares double, a bases-loaded walk to Michael Conforto and then a grand freakin’ slam by Yoenis Cespedes. Ryan Madson was the most victimized in terms of runs allowed that frame with six, Sammy Solis put two on with walks, one which forced in the run, and both of the guys he walked scored, and  A.J. Cole gave up the salami. Anyone get the number of the bus that hit the Nats?

Athletics 12, White Sox 11: Who doesn’t want to watch nearly six hours of the White Sox and Athletics? At least this one was kinda exciting, with the A’s trailing 6-1, 9-4 and 10-8, before taking the lead and then giving up a tying run in the ninth before Matt Olson singled in Marcus Semien with two outs in the 14th for the win. There were 33 hits and 18 walks in this game, issued by 18 — EIGHTEEN — pitchers. James freakin’ Shields got the loss, pitching in relief. A total of 556 pitches were thrown. Lost in this was Yoan Moncada hitting his first career grand slam, scoring three times and driving in four, Olson finishing with four hits and three RBI, and Jed Lowrie driving in three. This wasn’t baseball. It was test cricket. They were stopping for tea on the field and should’ve broken the thing up over three or four days.

Braves 7, Phillies 3: One of the reasons the Braves signed Jose Bautista to play third base yesterday was the seemingly reasonable belief that Ryan Flaherty‘s hot start to the season is not sustainable. Perhaps he took some personal umbrage at that because last night he drove in four, three of which came on a three-run homer that put the Braves up 3-1 in the fifth and the fourth of which came via an RBI single to extend their lead in the eighth. Dansby Swanson homered, backing Brandon McCarthy‘s one-run ball into the sixth.

Twins 2, Indians 1: When you’re playing on backup generators you probably want to conserve energy, but hey, sometimes games go 16 innings and you need to keep the lights on for five hours and thirteen minutes of play. That’s baseball. Jose Berrios and Carlos Carrasco dueled for seven scoreless innings and the teams’ relief corps fired bullets for six more before each team broke through for a single run in the fourteenth. Two innings later the Twins got to Josh Tomlin, a starter pressed into service, with an Eddie Rosario single, a Jason Kipnis error that allowed the runner to make it to third and and then a walkoff single from Ryan LaMarre, scoring Rosario. Following Francisco Lindor‘s homer on Tuesday night, Rosario getting to celebrate the winning run made it a couple of great games for Puerto Rico natives.

Pirates 10, Rockies 2Josh Bell drove in three runs and the Pirates rattled off 13 hits in all. The Rockies are last in the NL in hitting. Which is totally what you expect from the Rockies, right?

Tigers 6, Orioles 5: Machado hit a walkoff homer to win a game in which the Orioles played. Unfortunately for O’s fans it was Dixon, not Manny, and Dixon plays for Detroit. That came after a wild eighth and ninth, in which each team scored three and Luis Sardinas tied it with a solo shot off Shane Greene before Machado’s heroics. Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario and John Hicks also homered for Detroit. The O’s have lost five straight.

Rays 4, Rangers 2: Jake Faria allowed one run over six innings to get his first win since last July and the Rays rode a three-run sixth inning, powered by Daniel Robertson’s RBI double, C.J Cron’s RBI single and an Adeiny Hechavarria‘s sacrifice to victory. Play of the game, though, came from this Rays fan, who reached over the railing to grab a ball, interfering with a ball in play, and then reached into his pocket to throw back a different ball:

I’m struggling to think of what, exactly, his plan was when coming to the ballpark yesterday. Did he think he’d catch some historic ball in a rando Wednesday Rangers-Rays game and had the decoy to throw off the people he expected to mob him? What was going on in this dude’s head? Either way, the play was called a double due to fan interference and the fan was moved to a different section and given a warning. To be fair, it probably would’ve been a double anyway. He now has a super valuable, I’m sure *looks at the box score* Renato Nunez ball to call his own. He can probably retire off of that bit of swag now. Or something.

Brewers 2, Reds 0: Zach Davies tossed six and a third three-hit shutout innings and Eric Thames hit a two-run homer for all of the game’s scoring. Thames has abused the Reds recently, having hit a two-run shot off of them the day before. He has 58 homers in his career. Eleven of those have come against Cincinnati. He didn’t have the play of the day, though. Christian Yelich did, snagging a ball that first hit off of Hernan Perez‘s glove:

 

Blue Jays 15, Royals 5: Teoscar Hernandez had four hits, including a two-run home run, finishing a double short of the cycle and Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam and the Jays swept the Royals and sent them to their eighth straight defeat. Toronto, meanwhile, is off to its best start since 2009.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 3: Arizona came back from a 2-0 deficit in the eighth and ninth to force extras but Brandon Belt‘s two-run homer — his 100th career dong — broke the tie in the tenth and the Giants held on to break their four-game winning streak.

Red Sox 9, Angels 0: Boston continues its scorching hot start, moving to 15-2 on the season. Rick Porcello continues his own personal hot start, moving to 4-0 and dropping his ERA to 1.40 with six shutout innings. Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers each drove in four, Devers via a grand slam and Moreland via two RBI singles and a homer of his own. J.D. Martinez went 4-for-5 and knocked one over the fence as well. The Angels, who came into this series pretty hot themselves, have been outscored 19-1 through the first two games of the series.

Astros 7, Mariners 1: Gerrit Cole allowed only an unearned run in seven innings of work and the Astros’ bats woke up with a six-run seventh inning. George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez each drove in a couple, Carlos Correa and Brian McCann each knocked in a run and the seventh scored on an error.

Dodgers 13, Padres 4: The Dodgers sweep the Padres behind a ten strikeout night from Kenta Maeda and a shellacking of Padres starter Luis Perdomo. Corey Seager went 4-for-5 with three driven in. Max Muncy, who I am not convinced is an actual baseball player as opposed to a character played by, I dunno, Peter Falk in a light Neil Simon-esque comedy from the 1970s, hit a homer.

Cardinals vs. Cubs — POSTPONED:

In the twilight glow I see them
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain
When we kissed goodbye and parted
I knew we’d never meet again
Love is like a dyin’ ember
Only memories remain
Through the ages I’ll remember
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain