(Full Fan Appreciation Day photoset here...)
Iain and I were tipping a few at the Baseball Tavern (above) when my Dad called. He'd been talking with the Herald's Sean McAdam (an alumnus of the high school my dad and I both went to - my dad works at the park now part-time), who tipped him that the Sox were letting fans on the field and possibly letting them meet players as part of the Fan Appreciation Series.
I haven't shotgunned a malt beverage like that since college. Iain and I quickly settled our tab, ran to buy baseballs and Sharpies (which didn't wind up getting used) and get in line to be let in to the park.
Sure enough, at 5:10 pm, the gates opened. We entered, walked a ways, then took a left at Canvas Alley, walking past the groundskeepers' brooms, past the field box seats...and out the open door onto the warning track.
We were, of course, expressly forbidden from treading on the field. But just getting to be up close to the bullpen and Monster had everyone, of every age, grinning and giggling and pointing and mugging for cameras like little kids.
We still weren't sure as we took up places in front of the Monster whether we would get to meet any players, or who we would get to meet.
Turns out, it was everybody. And I do mean everybody.
Jed was the sweetest. I said, "Hi Jed!" and he gave me a big grin. The younger guys were definitely more amazed by the attention than the older ones. Asked him for a pic and he said, more enthusiastically than most, "Sure!" He was a doll.
My season-long stumping for Nick Green for shortstop over Julio Lugo finally pays off.
I got to shake Tim Wakefield's hand, look him in the eye, and say, "Thank you. Thank you for everything." I'll never forget that.
Mike was one of the guys who seemed like he was not enjoying this event one bit. However, Mike at least let fans shake his hand and take pics--MUCH more than I can say for Jacoby Ellsbury, and especially Jon Lester.
I'm not saying they needed to stop and listen to everyone's life story or give us all a big kiss and a hug. Some of the guys ran quickly past everyone high-fiving, or waving and smiling, but not stopping for any one person. That's not what I'm talking about with Lester. He walked by about five feet away from the fan line as part of a big clump of players with a totally bored / pissed off expression on his face the entire time, and barely acknowledged anyone. Even if he wasn't feeling well or something like that, I really think it would've been better if he hadn't shown up, than to show up and telegraph so effectively just how much he didn't want to be there.
I still got him to turn around after calling his name a few times, just to tell him, "great game last night." He said "Thank You," but didn't crack a smile. Don't do us any favors, dude. Seriously.
Pedroia seemed scared of us. Maybe because he's about 2 feet tall. I understand how much has been made of his size, but it is impossible to exaggerate how TEENY TINY he really is.
Youk was one of the ones who surprised me with his warmth and friendliness. I'd always thought he'd be the type to be aggravated about doing this kind of thing.
As you can imagine, many of these pictures of me would not see the light of day were it not for the context.
As I said, some of the guys went around the field quickly, high fiving and handshaking or waving and smiling, but not stopping. Others stopped every so often to shake hands or take a picture. But Papi had to stop for every. single. person. Nobody would let him by without throwing their arms around his neck or handing him their baby or getting a picture with him. It took him about five times as long to get around the field as any of the other players.
But when he got to us, the wait was worth it. He, like most of the other players, was actually not as tall as you'd expect (although I think in my mind I was expecting them all to take the field in front of us like Doctor Manhattan.) However, just as it's impossible to exaggerate how slight Dustin Pedroia was, it's almost impossible to exaggerate how broad and solid Papi was. His shoulders are approximately the width and breadth of a dining room table. His arms are like sapling trunks with tattoos.
When he got to me I asked if I could have a hug. Without a word, he opened his arms and wrapped me up in them.
My voice rose easily an octave as I said, "Thank you!!" He chuckled into my ear and pulled away with a big grin.
Iain's daughters are going to FREAK when they see this.
We also noticed that guys who had come in from somewhere else, like Bill Wagner and Alex Gonzalez, were friendlier than some of the veteran homegrown guys.
Jonathan Papelbon ran around the field high fiving people and yelling half-intelligible crazy things as he went by. My picture of him didn't come out, though I do think it's funny and fitting that he was a grinning blur. I also didn't get a picture of Alex Gonzalez because I was too busy talking to him and shaking his hand.
After about 45 minutes, I figured we'd seen everyone that was going to come out. I noticed Josh Beckett had not made an appearance, but decided he was probably going to skip it.
That's when I noticed a gray-hooded figure coming down the line...
Note he is using his left hand to high-five fans here. He switched to the right momentarily as he passed by us. Meaning, I touched Josh Beckett's pitching hand. *dies*.
Dorky as this sounds, I've had dreams about getting to meet / hang out with Red Sox players plenty of times. Even as this was happening, I thought to myself every so often, I'm gonna be so pissed if this isn't real.
But this morning, when I woke up, I had the pictures to prove it was.