I think I first saw Clay at Fenway last September, when he received the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
September 27, 2006
and again at the New Stars for Young Stars event to benefit the Jimmy Fund.
January 6, 2007. After the signing he had a pretty serious game going against Kason Gabbard!
I finally got to see him pitch on a magical day last March when we went to the minor league complex at Spring Training after the big club had decamped but the full-on games hadn’t yet started up.
Had to follow Clay at a distance for a while after that, though we were lucky to see some games televised (including his start on Memorial Day). He went up against Clemens and outpitched the Rocket. His numbers in Portland made it clear he was ready for Pawtucket. And off I went to see him…
July 22, 2007.
July 22, 2007.
And then came the call to Fenway, and I scrambled to get a good seat!
I have to be honest here–as I scrambled to get a better seat for his debut, I fantasized about a no-hitter. Unlikely, sure, but dreams usually are…
I’d had a good pair of tix for Saturday, September 1 in hand all season. Even a few days before the game I hadn’t asked anyone to go. If Clay got the call, I was thinking I’d see if any of the guys who follow him over at soxprospects (an invaluable site for following the minors) wanted to go. But Tavarez got the call. I knew that my great friend Cyn, the Red Sox Chick, was awaiting Mike Timlin’s 1000th appearance, which he might or might not see Friday night, so Friday afternoon I offered her the ticket. In about an hour, Wake was scratched, Tavarez was moved up, and Clay got the call.
And, perhaps not incidentally, the Sox took a tough and injury-laden defeat. They, and we, were reeling. A good night to go with friends (not just Cyn but fellow fans Nancy and Brenken!) whose passion for the Sox is steeped in support and, yes, love for our team!
How to talk about a no-hitter? I’d been close once before; Chris Young took a no-hitter to the first out of the ninth at Petco last September 22. The night before Clay’s start I’d actually turned away from the Red Sox game to watch Scott Baker try for a perfect game. I think I first had the thought in the third. By the fifth I was starting negotiations with the Powers That Be for a large charitable donation if he got through the game unscathed. In the seventh the Powers came back with a counter-offer, which I had no choice but to accept. Anything to do with Pedroia’s magnificent play? You’d have to ask the Powers. (Having seen both Buck’s press conference, in which he described knowing at that moment that something was going on, and having seen the replay, where you can clearly see that epiphany in his expression, well, I’m typing through my tears right now.) And Coco, Coco, throughout making exceptional plays we are coming to take nearly for granted.
And this is where going with Cyn–and having good fans all around us–comes in. Cyn and I didn’t talk of the no-hitter. We talked of Brian Roberts’ range of interactions with Sox players at second base (less flirtatious with Lowell than with Drew, for example). As the runs mounted–but the time dragged out, and we were thinking of Buck in the dugout, waiting for his next opportunity to look destiny in the eyes, we decided Joe West was being far too stingy in calling strikes on Coco. Great offense, but it seemed to take forever until Clay took the mound again.
But he finally did. And he seemed calm, though he took that extra moment to compose himself. Tek, I may never have appreciated you so much as I did watching Clay look to you for the signs, for instructions on how to make history. I’ll never forget Fenway, already in a frenzy from the seventh on, all on our feet, screaming as one. I’ll never forget that pause before Joe West rang up Markakis.
Congratulations, Clay. Congratulations.
Clay walks in with John Farrell.
Composing himself before the first pitch.
Nothing to be worried about, son…
… a message that was clearly imparted.
Nice pickoff move to first that busted Brian Roberts.
Gazing in at Tek in the ninth.