While Hot Stove talk goes on from the end of the World Series to the start of Spring Training, it’s nice to get a midwinter taste of the real thing; the boys of summer may not take the field, but here in Boston we’ve had a very full month of rookies, prospects and veterans alike! Needless to say I’ve been snapping away… click thumbnails below for larger photos!
Sunday, January 6 marked not only the eve of the Red Sox Rookie Development Program but the annual Hot Stove concert at the Paradise. In years past players have appeared, but this year we made do with some Sox brass
prominent Sox fans…
and one former player!
On Saturday, January 12, the Jimmy Fund held their third annual New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser at Jillian’s, right down the street from Fenway. Gabe Kapler, now signed by the Brewers, appeared in something of an elder statesman’s role, while Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester represented the 2007 World Series Champions. A selection of Sox prospects–Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie, Bubba Bell, Ryan Kalish and Nick Hagadone–rounded out the bill. It was a delight to meet Bowden and Masterson in particular, and Jed Lowrie’s long been a favorite of mine.
Jed Lowrie and me, photo by the Red Sox Chick. Thanks!
Next up was the benefit for the Red Sox Foundation at the Team Store on Yawkey Way, featuring the twelve players selected to take part in this year’s Rookie Development Program. Since last year’s event I’ve suspected that while this is a treat for the fans and a nice fundraiser, it’s also an illustration for the rookies of the invigorating but potentially oppressive lunacy of Red Sox Nation. This year my suspicions were confirmed…
Meg Vaillancourt, executive director of the Red Sox Foundation, was
happy to help the future stars try to get accustomed to the intensity
that is Red Sox Nation.
"This teaches them what to expect when they get here, how to handle
being bombarded by fans, sign autographs and how to deal with having a
sore hand afterward."
Even Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie looked a little apprehensive as they walked in
but they seemed to relax a little as they figured out that none of us were actually dangerous.
Thursday night brought the biggest event: the Boston Baseball Writers Association of America awards dinner at the Westin Waterfront. Judging by audience reaction Mike Lowell reigned as king for the evening, though his court included Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Theo Epstein, Dave Magadan, and John Farrell at the head table while the rookie development pups sat at tables right up front.
Saturday, January 19 it was time to celebrate the minor leagues, as the PawSox held their Hot Stove party in the inner sanctums of McCoy Stadium. Showing no signs of flagging enthusiasm, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie, Dusty Brown and Jonathan Van Every joined PawSox manager Ron Johnson in greeting fans and signing autographs!
What I enjoyed most about this series of events, aside from spending time with baseball friends and acquaintances, was getting a chance to meet the young men on their way up in the Sox organization. I often cite Theo’s statement that to become Red Sox GM he had to give up being a fan, and I know that in some ways my belief that the Sox should hang on to Lester, Masterson, Lowrie, Bowden et al. is indeed that of a fan. But this is a remarkable group of prospects, in talent and in character, and I have to say that if I had a vote, I’d hang on to every last one of them.
I came into September with tickets for three of the six games on the final homestand for the Sox, and realized about mid-month that that wasn’t going to do. Hit ebay and Stubhub, and managed to cover all six games. Tuesday I brought my friend Cindy to see Curt Schilling. Wednesday I had a loge box single from which I hoped to see Clay Buchholz pitch in relief of Jon Lester, but ’twas not to be. Thursday we drove toward a possible clinch of the AL East… but again, not in the cards that night.
Friday I had a loge single way out in left field–quite a challenge even to get into the section! It was quite a good game–good pitching from Daisuke, quality offense, and a satisfying win. Not to mention a quick one! I’d spared a few glances at the scoreboard, enough to see that the Yankees had a pretty good lead on the O’s. But I was still delighted when, a few bars into "Dirty Water," the PA cut out and the Yankees/O’s game was suddenly on the scoreboard.
About two weeks earlier I’d had a thoroughly wonderful evening at Fenway… on an off day. The Red Sox Chick had invited me to a benefit for the Angel Fund, a charity supported by Mike and Dawn Timlin. The benefit was terrific; getting winked at by Mike was even better. But perhaps best was going on a brief tour of a dark Fenway and sneaking off to the far end of the Monster to gaze over the mysteriously unlit park, and later eating dinner perched in the Pavilion over home plate, again, gazing into a familiar home seen literally in a ddifferent light.
So I thought of all that as the fans sitting around me left and I settled in to watch the televised game. The Orioles threatened in the bottom of the eighth, but failed. Many of the fans who did stick around headed out. I looked in toward home, and seeing that many who were left had clustered around the Sox dugout, I moved down to the first row between the visitors’ dugout and home.
The O’s held the Yankees in the ninth, and then the fun really started. I hadn’t dreamed I’d hear an enthusiastic "Lets go Orioles!" chant at Fenway–let alone that I’d be participating! Jay Payton came through with the stunning tying triple, and I started to think that maybe this could happen after all. In the tenth, we screamed our hearts out for Millah, but it was Melvin Mora who came through with the bunt and sealed the clinch for the Red Sox.
I hadn’t allowed myself to think about it, but I got out the camera…
Mike Timlin with his new tee!
Beckett watches Dustin Pedroia.
Jon Lester on the receiving end of a cold beer down the spine.
Jason Varitek, who had left the park, returned after the clinch, and received an extra-thorough dousing as a result!
Jonathan Papelbon points to Alex Cora up in the PA booth.
Lots more photos on this page. Enjoy!
Going to ten games in the 11 days from September 1 to September 11–in two states–has wreaked havoc with my ability to get photos up in timely fashion. But here’s a couple from Sunday, September 9 at Camden Yards…
Clay Buchholz stretches…
… and throws.
Announcing the changeup.
Two fingers means…
… well, in this case it meant “I’m going to throw it past you and scare the daylights out of the fans.” Note Clay is laughing.
Josh Beckett was the first to see the descending alien mothership.
Never hard to pick out a hatless Bobby Kielty.
Tek with a wistful look back. “Are you sure he wasn’t out?”
Clay acknowledges his admirers as he returns to the dugout.
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.
A few samples from Clay’s winning debut on August 17 against the Angels; more photos to be found here.
Congratulations, Clay! May it be only the first of many, many wins.
Had a couple of great photo days in the past week, leaving me way behind on editing… but I need to put up a couple from yesterday, when I made the trek to Pawtucket with redsoxchick. Last time I’d gone to McCoy I’d given Jed Lowrie a promotion to AAA in my own mind, if nowhere else… about six days later the Sox saw fit to make it reality, and for the first time since Spring Training I could see one of my favorite prospects! How did he do? Well… let’s look at a few shots from August 5!
Clay Buchholz smiles in the pen…
… and snarks a little (nicely) at the catcher.
One of the dancers in the Dominican celebration.
Knuckleballer Charlie Zink.
Jacoby Ellsbury trots the bases, beaming. Why is he beaming?…
… because he was on first base when Jed Lowrie clocked a home run, that’s why!
That was worth the wait!
Jed was a little less successful next time up.
I’m not sure Ellsbury’s allowed to be so athletic, talented and handsome…
… though young Jed is no slouch there either. (Gotta be the sunglasses.)
Hey, look! Jacoby’s loping and smiling again! Could it be…
… that Jed has clocked another 2-run blast?
I think it could!
Great game for the PawSox, who won 6-4. Zink was terrific, and in addition to Lowrie’s power Ellsbury went 3-3 with a stolen base (photos of Jacoby in flight to come!). All in all a very satisfying Sunday afternoon at the park!
Another year, another July 31, another belly full of stress about my boys.
I’ll admit that when it comes to trades I’m very, very conservative, and maybe a little possessive. ^_^ Birds in the hand, and all that. As a result, I’ve been grateful to hear that Clay Buchholz
July 22, 2007.
and Jacoby Ellsbury
July 4, 2007.
are not on the table.
But some of the names that have been coming up make me worry.
Craig Hansen has had a July resurgence–just as Manny Delcarmen found consistency and confidence, Hansen may just now be coming into his own. I worried earlier in the year that he might need a fresh start like the one Cla Meredith got in San Diego, but now I’d hate to see him go just as he gets it together.
March 3, 2007. (I have yet to see Hansen pitch this year…)
And what of Delcarmen? Possibly expendable if the Sox go after Gagne? No, please.
I’d like to see Manny in the bullpen here, thanks.
And then there’s Wily Mo.
June 20, 2007.
By all rights, Wily Mo should be traded, to a team where he could play every day without the pressure he has in Boston. But… but my heart wants to keep him here. He came to Boston under a dark star, but he has the character to play in Boston, letting the boos and sarcastic cheers roll off his back. He works hard. He can hit hard. And…
May 13, 2007.
… and, well, Papi loves him.
Five hours and change to go…
You’ve looked for something greater than this
I promise you it doesn’t exist
And I wouldn’t trade places for what I know
For months it was hard to believe it would happen–now it’s hard to believe it’s over! From June 18 through June 28, I made a grand circuit of the country to follow my beloved Red Sox to Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle.
Those page links will take you to a few shots from each series, though I’m a long way from being done picking out photos!
Here’s a few samples for now:
Tek in Atlanta.
Julian ropes in Wily Mo for a new bizarre stretch.
National League rules are stranger than I thought. Kyle Snyder and Wily Mo.
Tavarez and his unusual batting stance.
J.D. shares his knowledge of Petco with an attentive Dustin Pedroia.
How can you not love Papi?
"I’m not Daisuke. He’s over there." (Poor Okaji–I wish I were kidding, but I don’t think I am!)
Can’t miss Mikey with his hat off.
An iPod ad, or Manny in Seattle?
Far behind on updating, as ever. Last night I made a little more progress on the last unfinished Spring Training game, and while it’s pretty sad that I haven’t finished them yet, it was nice to re-review some photos taken when everyone was relaxed and having fun!
I have some favorite "moments" to look for when I shoot. Reunited former teammates at BP and in the moments before the game starts. Players at attention for the National Anthem or God Bless America. And, in the spirit of playfulness, players goofing around with the ball.
Kyle Snyder (there’s actually a whole series of Snyder at the top of my current What’s New page!)
Took me a few games, but I finally managed to get the diminutive Dustin Pedroia with lanky Seattle first baseman Richie Sexson on May 3.