Seven men, one dream and the journey to the big leagues

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The road to the big leagues is more challenging than most fans realize.

Each step up the ladder through the minor leagues produces another set of obstacles. A player’s energy is sapped by long bus rides, bad food and cheap motels. His skills are tested by opponents just as hungry as he is to reach the majors. And his desire can take a hit at any time by a prolonged slump or streak of bad luck.

I spent a week at spring training in Arizona talking to players about the challenges they have faced in chasing their big league dreams.

From established big leaguers like Torii Hunter and Colby Lewis, to journeymen like John Lindsey (pictured) and Corky Miller, to rising star Dustin Ackley, they each had a unique take on life, sports and their love of baseball.

But they all had one thing in common: To them, it’s the journey itself that matters most.

Here are their stories.

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Astros, Red Sox announce lineups for ALCS Game 5

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The Red Sox are looking to punch their ticket to the World Series in Houston on Thursday night Game 5 of the ALCS. If they do, they’ll return to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2013, knocking out the defending champs in the process.

Red Sox

RF Mookie Betts
LF Andrew Benintendi
DH J.D. Martinez
SS Xander Bogaerts
1B Mitch Moreland
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Rafael Devers
C Christian Vázquez
CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.

SP David Price

Chris Sale is still feeling weak after his brief stint in the hospital earlier this week, so Price is getting the start instead. If the series goes to a Game 6, Sale would start.

The lineup is a little different than it was when they faced Verlander in Game 1. Moreland and Kinsler are new additions. Devers draws another start with Eduardo Núñez banged up.

Astros

3B Alex Bregman
RF George Springer
DH José Altuve
SS Carlos Correa
1B Yuli Gurriel
2B Marwín González
LF Tony Kemp
C Martin Maldonado
CF Jake Marisnick

SP Justin Verlander

Bregman hits leadoff again. He hasn’t hit for average — just .182 — but he has drawn seven walks across four games. González handles second base again as Altuve’s right knee remains sore. Marisnick is getting his first start of the postseason. He’s had just one plate appearance, coming in Game 2 of the ALDS and he struck out.