Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fenway Park: Futures at Fenway Game


It's not every day that you get to pitch a game at historic, Fenway Park. Actually, it's never for most people. Until the other day, I was "most people". I had never pitched in front of more than 9,000 people (Brooklyn opening day, 2009) in my life, and I assumed that pitching in a big league park was reserved for...well, big leaguers. Yet somehow, in the craziness of this season, I was given the opportunity to pitch the Futures at Fenway game.

Every year, two of the Boston Red Sox affiliates (usually AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket) play a game at Fenway Park as a treat for Red Sox nation to see their future Sox and for the players to get a taste of the Bigs. This year the B-Mets drew the game against Portland. Exciting! I realized that this game would be a good opportunity for Ashley to visit friends in Boston and to catch a game at Fenway, even if I wasn't going to be pitching. You see, I made the assumption that in a starting rotation stacked with 2 former Big League pitchers and 3 other top prospects, I would be at the end of the queue for this rare opportunity. Plans were set in place anyway. Ashley would be in Boston for that weekend, and I would be at Fenway. Again, exciting!

I tend to make declarations mid-season. Each year for the last 3 seasons I have looked myself in the eye and said "nobody will pitch better than you the second half of this season." It worked the first couple times I did it, so I figured why not do it again this year. Post all-star break this year I had actually thrown really well. Well enough to merit a start in Fenway? I assumed not.

Two weeks away from the big game, all the starters began to do the math in their heads. "If we are on a 5 man rotation then that would mean _____ would start". "If we decide to stick with a 6 man, then that would mean...McHugh?" Sure enough, the calendar was working in my favor. A week away, I waited for the coach to let me know I was in luck. The day grew closer and there was still no word from the coaching staff. So, casually, I walked into the coaches' office and said (in my best nonchalant voice) "So what does the rotation look like this week?" The pitching coach turned around in his chair and with a smirk on his face said that I had Saturday...I had Fenway.

We could talk about all the buildup to the game. The 8 hour bus ride from Bingo to Portland. The 2 hour bus ride from Portland to Boston, wherein our bus broke down a mile and a half from the park. The make-shift locker room that we shared with the opposing team. Walking around the park for a couple hours. But all of that pales in comparison to actually toeing the rubber at Historic Fenway Park. I don't consider myself a baseball historian by any means, but a student of the game? Absolutely. I know about Fenway. The oldest Major League stadium in the country. Pesky's pole. The Lone Red Seat. The Green Monster. I know about Fisk's homerun that he waived fair in the '75 series. Ted Williams going 6-8 on the last day of the season to ensure his .400 batting average. And, last but not least, "The Babe" pitching and hitting in his (pre-Yankees) uniform.

Roughly 25,000 strong, the stadium was filling quickly. As I began warming up on the same plot of ground as so many that had gone before me, I felt confident. If they could succeed here, why not me? It was, in fact, just like any other start this season. It was the 3rd time I had faced the Sea Dogs, each time pitching better than before. I was coming off one of my best starts of the year, and it was my turn. Taking a deep breath and relaxing my shoulders, I threw my first warm up pitch. Right down the middle. I was really there. I was really pitching at Fenway Park. The noise was no longer a factor. The mystique of past heroes died away. It was me and the catcher. Time to go to work.


6 innings later with a two run lead I exited the game. It wasn't a sense of relief, nor accomplishment, that I felt. For the first time in my baseball career, I felt like I belonged. I had thrown in a big league stadium, in front of a big league crowd and performed well. The ghosts of Fenway past seemed more like comrades. I felt closer to the Bigs than ever. It was short lived.

After chatting with my wife, dad, and a few friends, it was time to get on the bus...again. 2 more hours, another bus malfunction and we were back in Portland, ME. Afternoon game the next day, then another 8 hours on the bus back to good ole' Bingo. Life was the same on the outside. Yet, nothing could take away the confidence and assuredness that I got from toeing it up next to The Babe and succeeding.

I don't pretend to know what the future holds for me and my baseball career. I don't know if I will ever have the chance to pitch at Fenway again. But for a brief moment my wife, my father and I got a glimpse of where I could go. What I could do. We came face to face with the reality of why we put in all the work. It felt good, natural even. At the very least, it was a story I shared with those closest to me, and one that I will continue to share with my kids and grandkids. I think we forget, in the day to day grind, that we are building a life's worth of memories here. This was one that I will never forget.


5 comments:

  1. Great post Collin, and nice pitching. Your last two starts have been brilliant.

    In fact you've had a pretty nice stretch so far in July and August. Keep it up throughout the AFL and you've got a good chance of being on the big league roster a year from now. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Collin, I came to your post by way of Metsblog, and I must say that this was an excellent post. Being a Mets fan, seeing you and the rest of the guys down in Binghamton, I am extremely hopeful for the future and can't wait to see you, Harvey, and (a bit further down the road) Wheeler toeing the rubber at Citi Field down the road!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a Mets fan stuck in Boston I was there Colin, and you were absolutely lights out. You pitched an amazing game, can't wait to see you at Citi. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post and even better performance. It's very encouraging that the Mets have young guys in the minors that appear to have their heads screwed on straight. Keep working hard and your dream of the majors will come true, good luck the rest of the way.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, Collin, loved this post. I'll be keeping up with your progress. When you pitch at Atlanta stadium, I'll be there. Madame Mattingly

    ReplyDelete