Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's spring again

I've been in Grapefruit League country for over three years, yet not once have I traveled to Fort Myers to see the Red Sox in spring training. Once the Red Sox signed Marco Scutaro and Boof Bonser, the trip just planned itself. Destiny. Fate. Boof.

Unfortunately, there was no Boof Bonser action Thursday night. Instead, I was treated to a parade of stiffs like Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima.

But before I get to the game, let me give you an overview of the lovely town of Fort Myers: The City of Palms. I drove 2 1/2 hours through Alligator Alley to arrive at Worcester: South West. Like the Athens of Massachusetts, downtown Fort Myers is clean, but lifeless. At least the parts I saw. Like certain mole people towns, like Mariposa, California, Fort Myers has all its important institutions within on square mile of each other. The newspaper is right next to the fire department which is right next to police headquarters which is right across the way from the "center of justice."

All that was missing was the town saloon.

Also, it was damn cold. In the 50s and 40s. Weather unfit for human experience, I must say.

I arrived at the ballpark a good hour and a half before the first pitch so I could eat a horrifically overpriced "dinner" that would devour my small intestine like Rasheed Wallace devours cheddar burgers before games. The park is your typical spring training facility: nice and cozy with reasonable parking and small-town charm. I would provide pictures, but I forgot my camera. Just imagine a field shaped like a diamond with green grass, walls in the outfield and lots of spit.

Boston's opponent, the Minnesota Twins, struck first in the first inning. 1-0. Game over Another 14-2 Sears rout, right?

Not with these Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia knocked in someone named Darnell McDonald in the sixth, tying it 1-1. During all this action, I struck up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to me. You might be thinking this is dangerous, but there were other adults around. The man is a local dentist who is a fan of (But then again, who isn't?) The guy has been to about every major sporting event in American history. Nineteen straight Final Fours. Almost 20 Masters. The last Super Bowl. Every Florida Gators football game, including both championships. He must be a very successful dentist.

His buddy, who had a nice Southern twang, is an ACC football official who knows Daniel Bard's fiancee. They both know an NFL official who worked the Pats-Giants Super Bowl. He was the sidejudge that game. I was not very interested in discussing that, but overall, they were very interesting. More interesting than I.

In the 8th inning, Sox catching prospect Mark Wagner put Boston ahead with a single. He doesn't know the rule that the Sox must lose any game I attend. Before the 9th started, I left to go to the bathroom, came back and my new friends were gone. Just like that. So much for the dentist and the ACC official, who is a veterinarian. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Oh well. Joe Nelson closed it out and everyone went home happy, save for a few Twins fans. A preview of the season, eh? 2-1. We might be seeing that score a lot this season. Overall, I'd say my first Red Sox spring training game was a success. They didn't lost 20-2 and Eric Gagne was thousands of miles away.

Note: He blew the lead in the last Red Sox game I attended.

Before I go to bed at the early (for me) hour of 2 a.m. ... there was a Northeastern billboard in right field. Too bad 75 percent of the fans at the game were older than 50. Money well spent.

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