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.
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.
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!