Boston Aug 4

Game Day Tours

It wasn’t as easy as it should have been to get out of bed on Monday.  I wasn’t sleepy but I was groggy.  We had decided that although the T worked fine to get us to Fenway, the stress would be less taking a cab.  We shared one with fellow California camper Jerry and his wife Nan.  The traffic was brutal but we got there.  Breakfast was on the EMC level.  The field was beautiful.  The excitement was palpable.  The continental food was excellent.  Ben and colleagues reiterated the restrictions on the infield grass (no problem, as it turned out) and asked for lineups.  Ken Miller, Tim Cyr, Pat Foley and I were the only Gulls present.  I suggested drawing the names out of a hat.  One of them replied, “how about this- since we’re the first four here, how ’bout we bat 1,2,3,4?”  How could I argue with that logic?  I ended up 3rd- a favorite spot for me through all my baseball and softball career.  Pat was selected for leadoff because of his speed.  He protested some but I reminded him that the second time through the lineup he’d be the first one to get that chance.

We took a tour of the facility which was great.  They explained the history of the place including investments made and not made by owners.  The requisite cuts on the Yankees were sprinkled throughout.  They told a great story of the Yankee fan in row 37 of the right field bleachers who had his straw hat and nap ruined by Ted Williams’ 502 foot homer in 1946.  I felt like I “owned the joint” after the tour.

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Game On!

We of the returning Gulls plus the two Fallons played in the second game at 11:30.  So I set up Karen with the video camera and went to the visitor’s locker room.  I got dressed and caught up with Pat Foley.  We went to the visitors’ batting tunnel and got in some swings.  We then went out to the bullpen where Paplebon hangs out and warmed up.  By the time the first game ended, I had a good sweat on and was pretty stretched out.

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Walking on the field was a dream come true.  It was immaculate, the sky was blue, there were fans in the stands and crusty old umpires there to keep us in line.  I started at first and threw infield to Tim, Pat and Craig. I missed some scoops but in reality, I felt right at home there.  Kenny was on the hill and his warmups were right in there.

We battled Berkman and the gang to a 1-1 tie in the first couple of innings.  My first at-bat was what for me was a long fly ball to right center.  On all 3 at-bats I swung at a first pitch fastball.  In my second at-bat I won myself a shaved head (promise to Karen) as I lined one down the left filed line for a stand-up double.  I got to third on a ground out and scored the go-ahead run on Toce’s infield hit (he’s STILL got wheels!).

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The game went by fast.  In the third, with the score tied 2-2, no one else wanted to catch so I did.  I caught when I was 13/14 and again while coaching my sons.  Toce had replaced Miller on the hill and he was throwing them in straight and sweet.  They managed to get a guy on second with 2 outs. The next batter hit a single to the outfield.  I knew a play might be coming.  I threw the mask away and lined up blocking the plate.  The outfielder did his job and hit Foley at short.  I yelled “four, four four” and got ready.  Foley wheeled and gunned a perfect charity hop right to me.  I didn’t have to go up, down, left or right.  I squeezed it in and reached down to tag the sliding runner.  Dead meat!  He never even reached the plate.  The home fans went wild!  I lifted up the ball triumphantly and looked up into the stands where my Uncle John, Aunt Diane and wife Karen were sitting.  Wow, what a moment.  What a day.

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I got up a 3rd time with the bases loaded and grounded the first pitch to short.  A Fielder’s Choice yielded a run and an out.

Gulls Win 3-2

So recapping my “Joesylvania” day at Fenway, I went 1 for 3 with a double, a run scored, an RBI and a stop at the plate.  It would have been heaven to put another “dimple” in the monster (we’d never call them “dents” after ’78) but hey, at 51 I can live with this.  Whenever I see a game on TV at Fenway, I can ask everyone in earshot if they ever played baseball on that field.  Chances are, the answer will be “no”.  And I’ll have a memory of a lifetime to make me glow inside.

Aftermath

I snuck out of the dugout (I’ve been there more recently than Manny!) and grabbed a photo with the recent championship trophies.  I said my goodbyes to my Unle John and Aunt Diane.  I was honored to have them come.  Karen was proud of me.  I felt like a little leaguer about to go grab his free soda after the game.  We ate lunch at the Absolut room and wandered back to the field to catch the end of the last game.  Tours were going on all over the ballpark.  The old guys were taking their turn on the field and it would soon be over.  The weather was perfect.  My quads were sore.  What a great great great experience.  I want to extend a hearty “thank you” to Ben, the groundskeepers and the entire Red Sox organization.  What a class act!  I hope to come back in 9 years when both of my sons are 30.  But even if Fenway isn’t here then, I can die a happy man!

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Boston Aug 3

Fenway By Way of the “T”

Karen and I struck out at 11 after she met her childhood friend Cecilia in the hotel lobby. We took the Silver Line bus to the South Station and caught the red line toward Alewife a couple of stops to Park Street where we caught the Green Line to Kenmore.  Along the way, we picked up our Pittsburgh fan friend who had 5 hours to kill and decided to go out to Fenway to see his former player Jason Bay in person.

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We arrived at Kenmore Station and there was a buzz of people. We just followed the crowds and decided to “get our base” at Game On restaurant.  After a great burger we entered Yawkey Way and got in line for a beer.  Some guy cut in front of me but before I could complain, I recognized the smiling face of “Mahk” Repucci, a fellow camper who was there with his lovley wife.  They ended up being our tour guides for the day.  They were perfect hosts.

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We had great seats in the new “Coke Sign” section 18.  Here are some pictures.

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Jason Bay started things off right by throwing out a runner trying to take 2 and the Sox took the game from the A’s 5-2 after a rain delay which didn’t dampen our spirits in the least. Our whole section was campers and families- David White from Atlanta, The Millers, Canada Dave and his wife, Kevin Nolan and his son, The Habers, JJ Jackson from Toronto, Tim Cyr, Pat Foley, Jeff Adams, Craig Winterfelt and his wife and a host of others. Daisuke Matsuzaka went six innings, allowing four hits and striking out eight for his 12th win.

Mark and Debbie drove us across the Charles and down the Cambridge side past GA Tech of the North (MIT) and on to the Tavern on the Water.  There we had apps and drinks and later we were joined by the Haber boys.  We cabbed it from there to the North end, where we picked out a nice Italian restaurant and enjoyed a chicken and pasta dish with a nice red.  The street was blacked off for the weekly Sunday festival they celebrate.  We cabbed home and just had an awesome, terrific day 2.  But as good as it was, the best for me was yet to come.

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Boston Aug 2

 Travel/Hotel

Four-twenty came early today but the adrenalin was better than coffee to get it going.  I had actually packed the night before so Karen and I jumped in the baby Caddy at 5:03 for Newport News.  Airtran treated us well and we landed at Logan at 8:15. A quick bus trip on the Silver Line “T” bus got us to the World Trader Center stop, only 2 blocks from the Renaissance.

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The hotel is great- only 5 months old.  We’re on the 16th floor and we can see the harbor.  They have a 42in Plasma that plays ESPN 24×7 (shhh…that’s what I told Karen).

We timed sightseeing departure to hit the “No Name” restaurant at 11am at the fishing pier which is right across the street.  This no-frills seasfood restaurant has been operating in the same family since the early 1900’s.  The seafood chowder was good. We then cabbed to Faneuil Hall and bought a couple of gifts, including a signed picture of Yaz that’s going in the Red Sox sanctum at 1205 Hanna Rose Court once it is shipped there.  We grabbed at beer at Cheers (so we could use the facilities) and bought some wine at a corner store based on advice from brother Fridrichsen in Alabama.  A nap was waiting for us at the hotel (sweet).

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At 5:30, John and Diane arrived.  My uncle John was 2 years younger than my Mom.  He and Diane have been married 45 years.  We have not been close recently, But I expect that to change.

John drove us across the Zakim Bridge so we could see it up close (man after my own heart).

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Because of the detour over the bridge, we got to see the “T” maintenance yard and some other industrial properties 🙂 We made our way to the Prudential building and parked in the garage below. A nice stroll through the shopping corridors later saw us at the Hub restaurant at the top of the building.

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Dinner was fabulous.  We caught up about our families and the server was unobtrusive.  Karen was funny, with the right mix of sincerity and irreverance.  I learned a lot of details about John and my Mom’s childhood (lousy).  Their 2 older siblings had died of childhood disease and their mom and another sibling died in childbirth.  Their stepmom was not loving and their dad, my grandfather Oscar, had problems with the grape.  But John had Joe Karen Diane John at Hub comp.jpgmoved on to become very successful as a salesman and an entrepreneur.  We shared stories about failure and renaissance.  We found out both Diane and Karen are Christmas-aholics.  John and I discovered that our disconnectedness over the last 20 years was more about focusing on our own families to nuture them in contrast to our childhood experience and less about not wanting to know one another.

Here’s the view of Fenway from the Prudential building and a picture of the 4 of us after dinner.  It was a great first day in Boston, capped by the Red Sox beating the A’s 12-2 with Tek hitting 4 doubles and Bay hitting his first dinger.  Tomorrow we’ll see the Sox in person if the weather cooperates.

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Fenway Trip in 2 Weeks

Monday August 4 Game

I received my info packet for the renuion game today.  Eighty of us will be playing in one of 4- 90 minute games.  There are eight guys from the original Gulls returning for the reunion.  We’ll be going to the Sox game versus the A’s on Sunday afternoon and then the big team flies out, leaving the field to us old guys on Monday.

The rules of engagement for the field are somewhat unique: the infielders cannot go on the grass to field any balls- grounders or popups.  The groundskeepers are worried that we’ll mess up the grass.  Fortunately, there are no similar restrictions against pounding a ball off the green monster, so it’s all good.

Michael Haber said the champion Jackalls are all coming back for the game.  They play at 10; we play at 11:30.

I’m looking forward to seeing my teammates and David White, my locker mate who is from Atlanta.  We happened to run into one another at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale a couple of weeks ago.  He has done just as much physical prep work for the reunion as I have 🙂

Karen and I are staying at the Marriott Renaissance Waterfront on Congress Street.  I’m working in a visit with my Uncle John Bauman on Saturday.  He and his wife are life-long residents of the area.  It will be good to catch up with him because other than my sister, Robin, he is my only surviving relative on my Mom’s side (including my Mom).

The Sox get back in the action on Friday at Anaheim.  It has been fun watching this see-saw season to date.  Following them has been better than ever this year because of the ties from camp.  You hear that Brad Mills, the bench coach, filled in for Terry Francona and you remember meeting him at City of Palms park.  You hear that Ortiz was taking extra batting practice off the tee at the PDC tunnels and you figure that you probably hit some of the baseballs he hit.  You KNOW you drank a beer from the same tap as the players.  It’s just pretty cool.

Post Camp

Gales_gulls_2008 Here are the Gulls, 7th place finisher of the Red Sox 2008 Fantasy camp.  Click on the image to see it full size.

From Left to right:

Manager Rich Gale- serious, talented, good shape, good man.

Jeff Adams- scrappy, good hitter, good fielder, good guy.

Rich Swierad- good first baseman, good hitter, good guy.

Craig Winterfeldt- good hitter, good defense, quiet, good guy.

Tim Cyr- firey good guy, solid defense, good hitter, leg troubles.

Gordon Walsh- quiet, good hustle, good guy.

Ken "Mercury" Miller- hyper, funny, generous, good pitcher and hitter, groins.

Woody Starr- killer hand-eye coordination, 18 time attendee, knows baseball.

Joe Fuller- good 1st baseman, lousy pitcher, decent hitter, slow (quads).

Patrick Foley- awesome ss, great hitter, good guy, modest.

Bill Finn- quiet but funny, great fielder, good hitter, fast, right glute.

Gary Belt- fun at night, caught a ton, encouraged all, good guy.

Ken Mondzak- great shape, great 3rd baseman, gun arm, good hitter, good guy.

Dale Toce- gazelle, great fielder, good hitter, smiling all the time, good guy.

UL Washington- generous with time, still got skills, good to campers, good guy.

I ended up batting 9 for 24 or .375.  I had a blast hanging out with pro players and regular guys who love the game as much or more than I do.  If there is a next time, it will be after a change in regimen that includes more sprinting.  But all in all, the phyiscal side was fine.  I have a much better appreciation for those that excel and last at this game.  The field is so big.  Hitting a guy trying to get you out is so hard.  Playing day after day beats up your body so much.  Pitching it over the plate is so hard- much less pitching it to specific spots over the plate.  Cal Ripkin and any catcher are now higher on my list of heroes.  I am sure I have new lifelong friends and my appreciation for the Red Sox and the Red Sox organization has grown immensely.  Thanks to all the people who made this happen.  It was a fantastic fantasy come true.

I hope to see you all at the reunion at Fenway in August.  Bring spouses!  My wife Karen wants to meet you!

Day 7 Saturday

The weather was perfect for the 7th day just like the previous 6.  Starting at 8:30, the pros began playing a 3 inning game against each of the 10 teams for a 30 inning marathon at City of Palms Park.  Joe Castiglione, Red Sox radio announcer for 25 years, was PA announcer.  The 10 camper teams played the pros in order of finish, starting with the Jackals, then the Trolls, etc.  The park was abuzz with outsiders, family members of the campers, Red Sox office staff, pros and campers.

I ate breakfast with our "all world" shortstop Patrick Foley, a financial advisor from Peterborough, NH.  He had played awesome defense and had crushed the ball.  I have to think he batted over 600 for the week.  Rich Swierad and Ken "Mercury" Miller were there too.  We stopped in at the PDC to get our stuff and head to COP Park.  Jim Rice was there in the training room getting iced up and stretched out.  He shared thoughts on being aggressive.  He repeated what Rich Gale said.  You had to be tough and he made sure everyone knew he would back down for nothing and no one.  We got to COP Park in time to watch a few of the games before ours.

The pros were bringing it on the mound.  Pride was on the line.  Gedman was doing most of the catching.  Hobson was at third.  UL was at second.  The hitters rotated around.  Bill Lee played a lot of center field.  Corsi was pitching at 80 plus.  A typical inning at bat for the campers was a weak grounder a popup and a strikeout.

We played 7th and batted in Aplhabetic order against Rich Gale.  In the first inning, Gale threw a curve ball to Tim Cyr, fastest backward runner in the West, and he was unhappy and praying for no more curves.  Thankfully, Gale threw a fastball that Tim drove to center for a fly ball out.  In the second, Finn K’d and Foley hit a sharp single to left.  I battled Gale through 5 pitches, fouling off 4 of them.  The 6th pitch was close to being a strike and I threw the bat out at it.  It dropped into right for a sinlge and Foley took third.  After Miller K’d, Ken Mondzak, 47 in great shape with a great gun at third, singled up the middle to score "all world" Foley.  Woody Starr, attending his 18th straight Red Sox camp, ended the inning.  Woody had put the ball in play virtually every time up.  He had been impressive.

We let the pros score 2 so they could retain their pride and lost 2-1.  We were one of only 4 teams out of the 10 to even score against the pros and we had given them their closest game.  Toce had started and pitched a scoreless first inning and also got a hit in the game.  Miller finished and also pitched well, including a strikeout against an unnamed pro who batted twice in a row after walking the first time.

Fantasy_camp_joe_paul_cop_compressed We watched more of the games.  Gedman, Boyd, Lee, Tiant, Hobson, UL, Daubach, Corsi and Miranda all made hitting look easy.  Oil Can Boyd was a cut up.  He hit from both sides of the plate, threw heat and generally entertained the crowd.  Corsi was a beast on the mound.  It was a great day of baseball.

The awards banquet was great.  They introduced the second place Trolls.  Then Johnson said a few words about each of the winning Jackals players.  Mark Landry, Hopkinton, MA, of the Jackals was MVP.  Mike Haber from Kingston, NY picked up the Cy Young award (named after the Red Sox pitcher) for his outstanding week pitching.  Kevin Nolan, deaf comedian, got the personality award.  Victor Lee was most improved.

Joe Castiglione wrapped up the banquet with a quotation from Bart Giamatti, former commissioner of baseball:

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

Day 6 Friday Championship

The championship of the camp featured Treuel’s Trolls against Johnson’s Jackals.  The Trolls’ Manager was Ralph Treuel, a long time pitching coach and minor league manager in the Sox orgainization.  Their coaches were Al Bumbry and Luis Tiant, who split duties over the week.  The Trolls had been favored with their lineup of 30 somethings and older players who could still play.

Haber started for the Jackals and pitched a gem.  Timely hitting by the Jackals and some walks doomed the Trolls.  By the time Luti came in and shut down the Jackals, the damage had been done and the Trolls could not overcome the 5-1 lead.  A player told me after the game that a few of the Trolls could not believe they couldn’t do better against Haber.  Their manager asked them how many walks Haber had given up.  "None" was the answer.  "That’s the difference."

Jackals_celebrate_win_compressedHaber_tips_cap_to_crowd_at_cop_1 At the bar, one of the campers asked me how our team had done.  "Not so well," I replied.  "We finished 7th overall." "Did you have fun?"  "Oh, man," I said, "This was one of the best times of my life."  He responded,  "I wish my team had had more fun."  "What team were you on?", I asked.  "The Trolls; we came in second." He lamented that because they had been so dominant in the early games, everyone expected them to win so there was a ton of pressure on them.  I have to admit that once we were 2 and 4, I started having more fun because there was no chance of us competing for the top spot.

I was really happy for the Jackals and Haber, Zazulak, Jackson and Moore.  They were older guys with no pedigree but a lot of heart.

Friday night Tom Lynch, a fomer attorney who now resides in Senatobia, Mississippi, Reg Godin, Paul Best and I went to Outback for dinner.  We were waited on by Super Heather.  She had more piercings than years of college but planned to change that around.  She did a great job and we encouraged her scholastic pursuits.  Tom was an iron man for the week.  He caught 34 innings:

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