So this isn't exactly how I pictured my first post at IIATMS going, however, while I enjoy the analytical part of the game, I also enjoy the storytelling component of baseball just as much. The game of baseball was founded on stories and tales that have been debated for over a century now. Now, that's not to say this story is one that should be debated, but it's just a little something I thought would be cool to share with you. ***
I attended the game at Fenway Park this past Monday night and it just so happened that the Boston Red Sox were scheduled to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in what could be considered a pretty meaningful series for July. Tampa Bay walked into the series on a five-game winning streak and were only a game and a half out of first place.
Naturally, I expected to see a good game, and while you can't predict baseball - I was right, I got to see a good game.
Night before - July 21
I was contemplating wearing my Evan Longoria terzee. (A terzee is a t-shirt jersey for those of you who don't know.) I decided to wear it because we bought tickets a row behind the Rays bullpen. My thought process was that they were going to throw balls into the stands and I was sure to get one. The little kid in me never got a ball at a big league game, so this was my chance. Plus, they were playing the Red Sox. I firmly feel in my rights as a Yankees fan it states you can wear opposing team's gear when they're playing your rivals. Someone should make a Yankee fan handbook or something.
Morning/Afternoon - July 22
This wasn't my first trip to Boston or Fenway so I was better prepared this time. We left around 10:00 and after a few rest stops we arrived in Boston at about 2:00. We ate at some Italian restaurant in the North end before checking in at the Howard Johnson.
After settling in, we went to the team store. My stepdad is a Red Sox fan (don't hold that against him), so we stopped by and bought a few things. I didn't buy any Red Sox apparel, but I did buy an overpriced Boston Braves t-shirt. To my surprise, they actually had other teams gear in the store, including a Mariano Rivera final season shirt.
Game Time - July 22
I originally walked to Fenway Park at 5:00, but was denied the early entrance because I am not a member of Red Sox Nation. So I walked back to the hotel to kill some time before walking back. Luckily for me, the hotel happened to be right across the street from Fenway, so walking back and forth wasn't a big deal. Besides, it was too hot to sit and wait for a half hour.
When I walked back, I was greeted with a line of people waiting to get into the park. The man in front of us began talking to me about how much a tear the Rays were on. He used the term "You guys" because of my shirt, and I had to stop him and explain that I wasn't a Rays fan. Then we had a quick conversation on the Yankees injury situation, as if I hadn't heard enough about that already.
Finally, we got to the gate and entered Fenway. We went to the ramp, walked through the tunnel into our seats and I was shocked to see how close everything was.
Now, when I say I was behind the bullpen, I mean I was behind the bullpen.
One of the first players I saw shagging fly balls during batting practice was my nemesis Kyle Farnsworth.
I guess, I should explain.
Back in 2006 or 2007, I sat on the first baseline at a Yankees game. Farnsworth was signing autographs and I was one of the last kids there. He decided to stop signing autographs just as I was about to get to him. He went down to the dugout with so much time left before the game. I was snubbed. Well, on Monday night, I figured I'd give Kyle a chance to redeem himself. He caught a fly ball deep to right, and me, being a loud guy had to scream "KYLE! OVER HERE!", and he ended up chucking it to someone else anyway.
So here we are six or seven years later and I was snubbed once again by Kyle Farnsworth.
One benefit of sitting right behind the bullpen is watching the starters throw before they head to the dugout. Matt Moore is a fun guy to watch. "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson started playing and Moore was mouthing the words while throwing his warm-ups. I got a good laugh out of that.
It's incredible to watch a guy who was one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago and who has now developed into one of the better starters in the league. Plus, he was right in front of me.
I decided to record some of the bullpen session on my iPhone. At first, Moore didn't seem like he was throwing his hardest. It looked as though he was going through the motions while working on mechanics. As the Fenway announcer began to read the Red Sox's starting lineup, Moore began to throw a bit harder. This is when Luke Scott came into the bullpen to act as a live batter.
As Moore threw the ball faster, it was harder for my iPhone to keep up with his pitches going into the catcher's glove. One of his throws was in the dirt, but on that throw Jose Lobaton foreshadowed what would be an excellent night behind the plate. Moore threw his final pitches and headed for the away team's dugout, not knowing that on that night, he'd blank the Red Sox en route to his first complete game shutout.
After Moore was done pitching, I turned around to see what was on the jumbotron, and that's when bullpen catcher Scott Cursi got my attention. He handed me a ball that Moore threw into the dirt during his bullpen session. It was a 12-year-old moment for me. I never had a real MLB used ball before so I was in a bit of shock, because I honestly thought I'd have to outwrestle a nine-year-old kid if I wanted one.
Mid Game - Bullpen Antics
Moore was mowing through the Red Sox lineup. I had joked with my stepdad earlier in the game about the possibility of a no-hitter, but Mike Napoli got a hit with 23 outs to go. Rats. But at that point in the game, it was the Red Sox's only hit, so the fans in Fenway were pretty quiet.
This brings me to the Rays bullpen. In my opinion, the Rays might have one of the more entertaining bullpens in baseball. Around the 6th or 7th inning Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta walked to the bullpen with each other's arms around their shoulders. I was sitting close, so I attempted to get Rodney's attention. The only way I figured I could do it was to reenact his archery celebration. If you're unfamiliar with it, here he is with the the Dominican Republic team, doing it after they won the World Baseball Classic. I actually didn't know it was a bow and arrow celebration. I originally just thought he pointed to the sky, but I realized I was wrong when he and Peralta started to duck when I pointed at them. It was a funny exchange because there I was shooting imaginary arrows at the Rays closer and he was ducking them.
This eventually led to me getting an autograph from each of them in the next half inning, which was awesome, because that was also a first for me. When I tossed the ball to Peralta to sign, it fell about two steps in front of him then ended up rolling between his legs. I guess, I was afraid to throw it too hard. Knowing my luck, I would have hit him hard in the chest or something. At least that's what I'm going with.
The game ended 3-0 and Moore pitched his first career complete game shutout. The game was a fun one to watch and I'm really looking forward to attending a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway in the near future.
Feel free to share some of your cool ballpark experiences and firsts in the comments below.