Fenway vs. Other MLB Fields

“Fenway Park, America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.” If you are a Red Sox fan, chances are you have strolled down Yawkey Way, entered the big gates at Fenway Park, emerged from the concourse with popcorn, and have seen the rolling green field before you. There is no feeling like it. The towering Green Monster, iconic yellow Pesky Pole, and small park charm makes the Boston ballpark the perfect place to watch the Red Sox conquer their opponents.

On Memorial Day I found myself in Chicago with some friends waiting for a late-night flight back to New England. It just so happened that the Red Sox were playing the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago that afternoon. So on a bit of a whim, we stood in line outside the stadium for a $15 ticket in upper-level seats. If you thought that I was going to be in Chicago at the same time as the Red Sox and not watch them play then you are kidding yourself!

We made our way through the gates and security, and took several escalator rides up to our seating level. Along the way up, my friends and I found a lookout that perfectly framed Chicago’s skyline with the iconic Willis Tower in the center. We stopped for a picture, as many other people did too!

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Great view of Chicago!

The view was unlike any other! We walked through the concourse and found our seats. I was very impressed with the field. There were three decks of seating surrounding the infield. However in the outfield, only one relatively low section of seating was available to allow spectators to see the city beyond the ball park.

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Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, IL

Very contrary to Fenway Park, while I was sitting in Guaranteed Rate Field, I felt like I was very much part of the city. At Fenway, I often feel that the big Green Monster shields me from the surrounding city, like walls of a castle, and I am completely invested in the field before me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the intimate feeling at Fenway, but I enjoyed the view from my seat in Chicago because I was able to take in the city and the game in one sweeping view.

This was my first time experiencing a Red Sox game not at Fenway Park. It was odd to be cheering when those around me were lamenting, and vice versa to be disappointed while those around me cheered. I felt like a bit of a rebel! Although, I was very surprised by the number or Red Sox fans in the stands, as evidenced by the red hats and shirts in the crowd.

It was also great to see David Price’s first game this season after he was benched with an elbow injury for most of April and May. Price went 5 good innings. It was by no means a lights-out performance but it was an okay first day. The Sox went on to lose but the game was an exciting one to watch with a very close score throughout.

It was odd to not hear “Sweet Caroline” ring out among the crowd, and there was no one shouting “Get your Fenway Franks here!” But I must say it was a fun experience and very interesting to watch the game in another team’s field. I am hoping to visit other MLB parks to experience the different games and cities, though I’m quite certain that no field will ever measure up to Fenway!

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Baseball on TV vs. Radio

One of the greatest feelings in the world is emerging from the concourse of a baseball stadium and seeing the green grass on the field. Players take their positions, fans cheer, and peanuts are thrown around. Nothing compares to experiencing a baseball game right in front of you.

However, most fans rely on television and radio to get their baseball fix because attending every game is hardly realistic (no matter how much we’d like to think a “Fever Pitch” scenario is possible). So there lies the debate. Do baseball fans like watching the sport on TV or listening to it on the radio.

Personally, my favorite way to experience baseball is to put the game on TV, mute the volume, and put on music. I like to watch the game but I watch it without the announcers’ commentary to allow myself to have my own thoughts about the plays. 

Recently, my cable subscription no longer includes the Red Sox baseball carrier, NESN. Thus, I have turned to the radio to get my Red Sox fix. And while I love hearing Joe Castiglione’s voice over my radio, I can’t help but feel like something is missing when I listen to the games. I like to see the players and see their interactions.

However, radio does allow you to make fantastic pictures in your head about what is going on on the field, like reading a book or listening to a story. I’ve seen people listen to the game on the radio while they sit in the ballpark! It allows the fan to be much more in-tune to the game without the distraction of their surroundings.

I will admit, when Don Orsillo left the NESN broadcast booth to cover the San Diego Padres, my heart broke a little. I’m happy for Don but Red Sox nation was sad to see him go. Proving that the announcer truly has a large role in the fan’s experience of a baseball game.

So which is better? Watching baseball on TV or listening to it on the radio? Each have their pros and cons. Each impact the fans’ experiences in a different way.

Sox Standouts this Season

22 games into the season and the Red Sox are still searching for their groove. While the pitching has been generally consistent and reliable, the offense has been rather lackluster. The Red Sox are sitting in the middle of the AL East, currently 3 games behind the Yankees. But there is plenty of time to catch up!

Although the offense collectively may be experiencing a beginning slump, there are a few key players who have been standouts throughout this young season!

Chris Sale is on track to win his first Cy Young award. With the second lowest ERA in MLB (1.19) and the most strikeouts in MLB so far this season (52), Sale is proving to be just as successful as promised. And while his 1-2 record may look meek, his power is anything but!

But Sale isn’t the only new Red Sox performing well so far this season! Mitch Moreland is proving to be “More” than expected! In the 22 games the Sox have on the season, Moreland has 24 hits (half of those being doubles). His power at the plate and athleticism at first make him an anchor for this 2017 team.

But if we are talking about power and talent, we need to acknowledge Andrew Benintendi. The rookie has come up strong this season with 27 hits and a .325 batting average. Though he is young, he seems anything but inexperienced.

The youth in this team is coming in strong this season, as expected. Xander Bogaerts remains a top offensive stand-out this season. Though the slumping hitters may be missing the power and guidance of David Ortiz, Bogaerts is proving yet again why he deserves his spot on the team. He’s got over 20 hits and a .313 average so far this season. And though he batted sixth on opening day (after missing much of Spring Training due to his participation in the World Baseball Classic), Xander has worked himself up to the lead-off position.

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Xander Bogaerts at the plate! PHOTO CREDIT: BoSox Injection

With Xander leading off, where does that put Dustin Pedroia? At sixth where Xander started. With the nasty slide at second in the Orioles series, which left Pedey benched with an injured knee, his season has been just shy of everyone’s hopes. But I think he just needs to find his rhythm and we will see great things from him going forward.

So is the offense off to a slow start? Yes. But do they have the potential to do amazing things this season? Absolutely! And I have a feeling we will breakout soon!

‘Twas the Night Before Opening Day

‘Twas the night before Opening Day, when all through Sox Nation,

All the players were stirring, ready to take their stations.

The cleats were hung in the clubhouse with care, with hopes that the fans soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of home runs danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her jersey, and I in my cap, had just awakened from a long winter’s nap.

When out on the field there arose such a clatter, and I ran to my seat to see what was the matter.

Off to the Grand Stands I ran in a dash, to see Pedey’s ball hit the Monster with a crash.

He rounded first to beat the fielder’s throw, and slid into second, missing the tag just below.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but thirty-eight thousand on their feet with cheer.

Then Mookie stepped up so lively and quick, and I knew in a moment that this would be it.

With a crack of his bat, to me the ball came,

And Pedey slid home to win us the game.

He sprang to his feet to give his team a shout, and ran his way over to the ecstatic dugout.

But just before he disappeared out of sight, he shouted to us:

Happy Opening Day to all, and to all a good night!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest.com

 

What a World!

With Spring Training underway, you will find most professional baseball players practicing in the sunny south in preparation for the 2017 MLB season. But there are some Red Sox faces that you won’t be seeing a lot of this spring, including Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez. These two Sox, along with some other MLB players, have flown back to their home countries to compete in the World Baseball Classic.

The 2017 World Baseball Classic is only the 4th in history. The country-based tournament was first played in 2006, then again in 2009, and most recently in 2013. Japan took home the first two titles and the Dominican Republic is the reigning champion. The establishment of the World Baseball Classic came after the 2005 International Olympic Committee decision to drop baseball and softball from the 2012 games.

While many professional baseball players suited up to represent their home countries, a lot of players decided to practice with their MLB teams in spring training, so as to not mess with their pre-season mojo or risk injury. The World Baseball Classic consists of a first round, a second round, a semi-final round, and a championship round that concludes on March 22.

So who will the Red Sox be missing? As previously mentioned, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez have left Red Sox training camp to join the Netherlands and Dominican Republic teams respectively. Also, Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez will play for Venezuela, and Sox reliever Fernando Abad will join Hanley to represent the Dominican Republic.

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Xander Bogaerts triples in his first at-bat in the World Baseball Classic to help bring the Netherlands to win #1! (PHOTO CREDIT: The Boston Globe)

When asked about his time off from Spring Training to play in the World Baseball Classic, Xander commented:

I’m going to play baseball. I’m not going on vacation. I’ll be in baseball mode and I’ll be playing in some competitive games, playing for some real important things for the country and playing with teammates you grew up playing with or against so it should be fun.

Team USA plays their first game today against Colombia. Some notable names on the team USA roster include Andrew Miller (LHP), Buster Posey (C), Eric Hosmer (infield), and Andrew McCutchen (outfield). Team USA doesn’t have a single CY Young award-winning pitcher lined up. Why? Pitchers are afraid a tournament-style competition right before the opening of the 2017 season will throw them off and open the potential for injury. Under the careful eye of former Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, team USA will do the best they can with who they have.

Does Team USA have a chance at the world title? Maybe. But it will be pretty hard to do without stand-out players that have chosen to skip the tournament (*Cough* Mookie Betts *Cough*). All I know for sure is that I can’t get enough of all this baseball after a long, cold winter!

 

Out with the old, and in with the new!

Ahhh Spring Training, a time for players to rise and stretch after a season of rest. It is a time for veterans to begin the season with a clean slate, and gives rookies an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

But perhaps the best part of Spring Training is watching a generation rise up to take its rightful place. After all, like Closing Time suggests, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

And who else has had a better beginning, middle, and end than David Ortiz? Big Papi has been the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox for the past 14 years. #34 has an enormous smile and even bigger heart, and brought a spark to the team that will undoubtedly be incredibly missed.

But the 40-year old hung up his jersey after an emotional departure last season, leaving the designated hitter spot wide open. Who could possibly fill that gaping hole?

The Red Sox are hoping it will be Hanley Ramirez.

I don’t think that any player will ever be able to match the skill, determination, heart, or spirit that Papi showed for every game, but players can try. And the Red Sox are hoping that Hanley is up to that challenge.

In November 2014, Hanley Ramirez signed a 4-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox. That means Hanley has/will make $22 million dollars a season. Just for some perspective, that is more than 4 times what Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts make combined.

So it is needless to say that when Hanley came to Boston in 2015 he was expected to perform at a very high level. Unfortunately, his results were underwhelming to say the least. With only 53 RBIs and a .249 batting average, it is easy to see that the Red Sox thought they would get a little more from the left-fielder for his pricy $22 million salary.

But then something changed.

Hanley Ramirez moved to first base in 2016. He whacked 30 home runs and reached a career-high of 111 runs batted in. It is needless to say that Hanley found his moxie last season.

So what happened?

Maybe Hanley finally got used to playing in Boston weather. But if you ask me, I think he learned from the best. Hanley spent last season in Papi’s shadow. Hitting right behind him in the lineup and learning from the wealth of knowledge that is David Ortiz. Hanley had undoubtedly the best mentor a designated hitter could ever have.

When describing Papi, Hanley explained:

He’s my mentor. He’s my everything.

So it should come as no surprise that the Red Sox will promote Hanley Ramirez to fill David’s shoes (or should I say cleats). And I think Hanley is more than up to the challenge. It is the end of the David Ortiz era but hopefully it will be the beginning of a new one for Hanley Ramirez.

And though Hanley will be taking over the DH spot, he will always have a special place in his heart for David, as evidenced by his choice of apparel for his arrival at Spring Training (pictured below).

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Hanley Ramirez arrives at Spring Training in Fort Meyers, Florida in a David Ortiz shirt. PHOTO CREDIT: CBS Boston

Yeah, we see you in that shirt, Hanley. We know whose shoes you are trying to fill. And though there will always be rumors and dreams that Papi will emerge from retirement to rejoin the team, the current Red Sox know it is their turn to step up to the plate without Papi.

But we have not seen the last of David Ortiz. I’m sure he will be at many Red Sox games cheering on his former teammates from a luxury box instead of the dugout.

 

So will Hanley become the next David Ortiz in all capacities? Skilled player, dedicated teammate, and charming friend? Will Hanley rise up to be a veteran leader on the team? Only time will tell for sure. But with a mentor and friend like David Ortiz, it would be hard to expect otherwise.

They’re Baaaaaaack!

What a night for New England sports! After the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the New England Patriots emerged victorious over the Atlanta falcons 34-28. The overtime win earned Tom Brady his 5th Super Bowl ring, making his hand the most decorated Quarterback hand in all of football.

And to top that off, roughly 13 hours after the Pats clinched the title, the Fenway crew packed up America’s most beloved ballpark to prepare Fenway South for Spring Training. The Red Sox begin Spring Training on Tuesday, February 14th (what better way to celebrate the day of love?!). While some fans were busy sleeping off the Super Bowl win, many lined Van Ness Street to see the truck off and even sign the side!

Even though Punxsutawney Phil called for 6 more weeks of winter, I would argue that today was the first day of Spring! Wally, his sister (Tessie), and some ballpark staff greeted the Fenway faithful that braved the cold winter morning to wish the truck well on its 1,480 mile journey down the east coast. What is in the truck, you ask? Well lots of things, but some highlights: over 20,000 baseballs, over 1,000 bats, 20 cases of bubble gum, and 60 cases of sunflower seeds.

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Red Sox truck headed for Fenway South! PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press/Steven Senne

But more important than the truck’s journey down the coast, is the Red Sox’s journey through the Spring. The Sox saw some major additions and subtractions during the offseason, and this Spring will be our first glance at how the changes will pan out.

It is without a doubt that all eyes will be on the Sox’s newest ace, Chris Sale. After changing the color of his socks in December, Red Sox nation has had their attention fixed on him. He joins a powerful Red Sox rotation with two Cy Young award winners (including the reigning champ). The added depth in the rotation will undoubtedly set a lot of fans’ (and players’) hearts at ease.

And as sweet as it is to have a solid rotation, the Sox can rest easy knowing that their bullpen is just as talented. For the Sox, as the innings go on, the pitching will remain strong and consistent. With set up guys like Joe Kelly, Koji Uehara, and Robbie Ross Jr. to set the stage for Craig Kimbrel, the starting pitchers can rest easy and feel confident leaving their game in very capable hands.

So what about position players? Well the outfield is pretty set with the Win-Dance-Repeat squad, and Xander and Dustin have the middle infield locked up. So that leaves the corners. And of course that also leaves the gaping void of designated hitter after Papi’s retirement. (Side Note: Get your tickets now! The Red Sox will retire Papi’s #34 on June 23rd!) That begs the question, can Hanley keep up his hitting and leave first base to follow in Papi’s footsteps? I think so. So then what to do about first? Travis Shaw has been able to prove himself in the past, however a new and improved Pablo Sandoval seems to be waiting in the wings.

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Carlos Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval (showing significant weight loss), Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera practicing with Team Venezuela (World Baseball Classic) in the offseason. PHOTO CREDIT: Jose Altuve Instagram @josealtuve27

Sandoval has worked feverishly in the offseason to shed some pounds and practice technique. If that holds up, I could definitely see him at a corner and leave the other to either Travis Shaw, Chris Young, or the vastly underrated Brock Holt. That will be something to be decided in the weeks to come. Can Sandoval live up to his $17 million salary? I hope so.

Another face to look for in sunny Fort Meyers is that of Andrew Benintendi. Though he quickly became a fan favorite last season, he did not reach 130 at-bats and is thus still considered a rookie. Benintendi topped MLB’s top prospects list and has high hopes for 2017! His carefree spirit and determined attitude makes him a perfect fit for the Sox outfield.

Who am I most excited to see this season? Xander Bogaerts. Without a question. Xander’s consistency, hard work, likability, and young talent is unmatched. The Red Sox struck gold with Xander and I hope with my whole heart that they never let him go!

There is most definitely a lot to look forward to this season. Between the Fenway faithful, the warm summer nights, and the hardworking team, April 3rd can’t come fast enough! Thank you to all the fans that have followed my blog for the past year. I hope 2017 is even better!

Let’s get excited, Red Sox Nation!