After going 2-1 opening weekend against Santa Clara University, the Boston College baseball team will return to action this Thursday in one of the most enjoyable days of each season, when they take on the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game in Fort Meyers, Florida.
Jet Blue Park (Fenway South), Ft. Meyers, Florida
Thursday, February 22nd @ 3pm ET vs. Boston Red Sox
BC: TBA vs. BOS: TBA
How to Watch/Listen:
Thursday’s game will be carried locally in the Boston area on both NESN and FOX 25, as well as aired on WEEI Radio. For those traveling to Florida for the game, tickets are available for purchase here.
Thursday’s game is unlike any other Boston College will play this season, or any season for that matter, and as such, I’m going to change up the way in which it’s previewed. Instead of going through both team’s coaches,lineups, and pitching staffs, I’m going to explore why this game is so special for each and every BC baseball player who has been, or will be, lucky enough to play in it, while also divulging of few of my fondest memories from the times I was privileged enough to step onto the same field as the team from Fenway.
First and foremost, Thursday’s game is a dream come true for any kid who grew up playing baseball,watching baseball, or just liking the game of baseball. Statistically speaking, a small percentage of college players go on to become professionals, and an even smaller percentage of that group go on to become big leaguers. So, getting the opportunity to step onto the field and compete against future Hall of Famers like Dustin Pedroia is incredible. Seeing that talent up close and personal will give even the best college performer a greater appreciation of just how good those guys really are and a better understanding of how much work each Red Sox player puts into his craft every day.
For the Red Sox, this is simply a seven-inning exhibition game versus a bunch of college kids before the grind of a six-month, 162 game season begins. However, watching their hitters work during batting practice, or witnessing their pitchers getting their conditioning in along the warning track prior to first pitch, really hammers home the idea that everything is this sport, even for the biggest superstars, is earned, not given. For their part, in the five games I was lucky enough to be a part of, I never met one Red Sox player who saw our team as a nuisance, or who shied away from a picture, autograph, or question. They were truly ambassadors of the game and I know, to a man, every player on our team appreciated them taking the time to play against us and allowing us to hang around with them before the game.
I have two favorite memories from my games against the Sox and neither of them have to do with events on the field. The first comes from my freshman season in 2008. A senior on our team, who shall remain nameless, had started to grow a beard in the weeks leading up to the season. It was not a great beard and we let him know it. Sometime before the game against the Red Sox, this senior, tired of the playful ribbing he was receiving, decided to to shave the beard into a “chin-strap.” It still looked horrible. The morning we played the Red Sox, we arrived at the stadium four hours early to watch the Sox take BP. As we all huddled around the cage, David Ortiz walked up and introduced himself to us. He was kind enough to take pictures and exchange pleasantries with a lot of the guys on the team. When the chin-strapped senior approached Ortiz to introduce himself, Big Papi, who had an immaculately clean beard at the time, burst in laughter saying, “F— man! I gotta get you to my barber. That’s awful!” Everyone, including our head coach, died laughing. It was hysterical.
The second memory comes from the following season in 2009. Rocco Baldelli, the older brother of current BC sophomore Dante Baldelli, was in his first year with the Red Sox and was considered one of their big offseason acquisitions that year. Terry Francona had him him batting in the number two spot in the Sox lineup and he came to the plate in the first inning. Our starting pitcher that day, Geoff Oxley, struck him out badly. If I recall correctly, Baldelli missed by about a foot on a 1-2 change-up and headed back to the Red Sox dugout. After the side was retired, and before the Red Sox had run onto the field to start the second inning, a baseball came flying into our dugout from across the field. One of our coaches picked up the ball and told Oxley it was for him. Taking a closer look, Baldelli had written a message to Geoff congratulating him on the strike out, along with a few good-natured expletives, and added an autograph. Again, we all lost it.
While I do have many other fond memories from those games, including some I can’t dive into here, the above two serve as prime examples of why Thursday’s game is so special. You get to hang out, and compete against, some of the best players in the world and through the course of the day, you learn that, while they are incredibly talented, they’re just like us: guys playing a game, trying to have some fun. It’s an amazing day and the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and Boston College is something that is unique to college baseball and should never be taken for granted.
As has been the case since this game was first played more than 20 years ago, the Boston College lineup will start out being very upperclassmen-heavy, as coach Gambino will likely give his older players the privilege of starting the game against the Sox. There will then be a flurry of pinch-hitters, defensive substitutions, and inning-by-inning pitching changes, to try and get everyone at least some time on the field. The only players who will likely be off-limits during the game will be the weekend rotation of Stevens, Metzdorf, and Rapp, who will face three talented Big 10 teams this weekend. As for the outcome of the game, Boston College has never beaten the Red Sox in this series, so you have to figure the law of averages will come into play at some point, right? Right? Regardless of who wins or loses the game on Thursday, personally, I’ll be interested to see if the Red Sox give their newest member, JD Martinez, any playing time. Given that his contract was agreed to only 48 hours ago, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s not available to play, or even in camp. Either way, it’ll be a fantastic day and one these BC players will never forget.