Despite a long love affair with the game, this was my first experience with March baseball and it was certainly worth the trip. Under bright blue skies and comfortable temperatures, your correspondent took in Red Sox games at home at JetBlue Park, and in enemy territory at the Yankee’s springtime home.
JetBlue in Fort Myers, Florida, is just six seasons old this year and features dimensions similar to Fenway. It’s a beautiful park. But, to be fair, just as lovely is the much older George M. Steinbrenner field in Tampa, which is now in its 22nd season. The parks have similar official capacities, but Steinbrenner seems bigger, as do its wider more comfortable seats. Both parks are run by a veritable army of (mostly older and very friendly) staffers who do a magnificent job directing parking and managing concessions.
The spring experience is a treat for baseball fans. While it’s fun to see Rick Porcello or Dustin Pedroia, there’s joy, too, in assessing the up and comers like Sam Travis and Marco Hernandez. Seats are relatively inexpensive and though you’ll need some patience getting in and out of the stadium, the $10 fee was money well spent for what turned out to be a well-oiled parking machine.
You can find additional pictures from the trip over on the RSNStats Instagram page. While you’re there, click the Follow Button for future updates.
Now, some more news and notes for Red Sox fans:
- ESPN has an interesting look at the rags-to-riches life of former Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada, who is now with the White Sox following Boston’s trade for Chris Sale. There’s more the story, but it’s hard to bypass anecdotes like Moncada’s quest for Twinkies (he’s known to have gone through 85 a week) or his love of customized sportscars (he tried to order ten at once, complete with monogrammed logos). “New family, new language, new friends, new life, new rules,” Moncada says. “I knew I wanted to come here to play baseball, but I never thought about dealing with all of this.”
- Despite solid offensive production at Spring Training, the Red Sox have optioned Blake Swihart back to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Boston Globe‘s Alex Speier talked with the club’s bullpen coach and catching instructor, Dana LeVangie, who says Swihart can benefit from the examples of Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. They both came to the big leagues with stronger batting than defensive skills, but over time successfully shifted that balance.
- Two catchers that were with the Red Sox in 2016 found their way to the Phillies in the off-season. Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan won’t be with Philadelphia in 2017, however. Holaday exercised his opt-out clause after being told he won’t make the Opening Day roster according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that Hanigan was released by the club.
- Another one-time, short-time Red Sox player, James Loney, was let go by the Rangers on Monday. Texas had signed Loney in the off-season after he spent 2016 with the Mets. The Houston native was 23-for-100 (.230) with two home runs in 30 games with Boston in 2012.
- And finally, a third Sox alum, reliever Matt Albers, got his walking papers this past week from the Nationals. Albers was 6-4, 3.81 ERA over 96 appearances in two Red Sox seasons of 2011-12. Since then Albers has appeared with the Diamondbacks, Indians, Astros, and White Sox.
- Still no word on what off-field role, if any, David Ortiz will play with the Sox this season. His number retirement ceremony, however, is locked in for June 23rd.
- Whereas once a simple dog and a beer sufficed, that time is no more. New to the Fenway menu in 2017 is a “Lobster Poutine Stak,” consisting of french fries covered in lobster meat, cheese curds, bisque, chives and, presumably accompanied by a cardiac paddle. Admittedly, the new sandwiches, a Lobster Melt and a Surf & Turf Kebab, look pretty tasty.