My Trip to the Trop

At 4:15 AM on Friday morning, I still hadn’t fallen asleep. My alarm
was set to go off at 6 AM and I had a long day ahead of me (much longer than I
could have ever presumed). As I was lying in bed, tossing and turning, I
couldn’t begin to comprehend that in a few short hours I would be in St.
Petersburg, FL at Tropicana Field within feet of my favorite players. Finally,
I dozed off and it seemed like only five minutes later, a loud buzzer woke me
up. I was too excited to realize how little sleep I got, and really didn’t care
that I would be facing my day on two hours of sleep. All I could think about
was a group of guys that consume my everyday thoughts and emotions, and how I
was about to experience what I love more than anything else in this world: Red
Sox baseball.

My dad and I headed to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 6:30 AM and
boarded our flight to Tampa. We sat in our seats and waited patiently for the
rest of the passengers to board. I couldn’t help but notice five or six people
wearing Red Sox hats walk on to the plane and take a seat as well. I’m somewhat
of a social butterfly and love meeting new people, especially ones who share
the same love that I have for baseball and the Red Sox. So, I made my way over
to talk to a couple a few rows ahead of me. They were very kind, and they were
headed down to see the games as well. They go to Sox games every year in
different cities. Last year they went to Fenway and this year they were headed
to the Trop just like me! I talked a little bit with a few other Red Sox fans
and it’s absolutely amazing to me how one little symbol (the Boston
“B”) can bring so many people together. I always find a way to talk
baseball with people and this was no different! During the flight, I was
finally able to start reading “The Teammates” by David Halberstam. It
was recommended to me by a few of my Twitter followers so I had to check it
out. I absolutely love it so far and it was the perfect read to start my
exciting trip.

After we landed (which wasn’t the smoothest landing, I might add), we got our
luggage, ran some errands (we had to buy some baseballs so we could hopefully
get a few autographs) and finally made it to the hotel. We quickly changed,
went to grab a late lunch then finally headed over to the Trop. As we pulled up
to the stadium, I couldn’t believe that we were actually going to be watching
baseball in a dome. I had never been to a dome baseball stadium and it just
didn’t seem right. We arrived around 4:40 and the gates opened at 5:10, two
hours before game time. As soon as we got in, I looked around, certain I was in
a mall. I raced down to the third base wall and stood next to tons of other
screaming Red Sox fans. I was in awe. There’s just something about a baseball
field, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, that truly makes me happy. There’s
nothing else like it. And, to top it all off, the whole team was right there,
stretching and getting ready to start batting practice.  

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Watching BP was fun, mainly because I love watching all the guys warm-up and
joke around with each other. All of the players walked by, a few acknowledging
the fans (Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava were two that really stood out), but most
were too preoccupied to give us the attention that we wanted. I wasn’t able to
get an autograph the first night, but I really didn’t care because I was just
so happy to finally be there. The game went great, we beat the Rays 3-1 and Jon
Lester and Victor Martinez really stepped up at a very crucial time. Lester
went seven innings, giving up only one unearned run off two hits. He struck out
ten, while walking five on 106 pitches. It was definitely a turnaround from his
previous outing. VMart belted two homeruns that night and caught what Terry
Francona said was “the game of his life.” Daniel Bard came in for the
8th inning to set-up for Jonathan Papelbon who closed the game out and recorded
his 33rd save on the season. After the game, they allowed fans to walk on the
field and exit through center field. My dad and I decided that we wanted to do
that, and we were able to take some great pictures. It was a perfect ending to
a perfect day.

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Luckily, on Saturday, my dad let me sleep in to catch up on the sleep I missed
out on the night before. I wasted a lot of my day by not waking up till 1 PM,
but I really needed it. After I got ready, we ate a late lunch again and then
headed back over to the field. I decided that I wanted to be closer to the
dugout this time so I could watch parts of the NESN pre-game show. I was at the
wall, right next to the dugout and it was great being able to see some of the
behind-the-scenes action of the broadcast. As soon as I reached the field, I
noticed Elizabeth Dreeson (@redsoxgirl46)
was on the field and I had to take some pictures for her! She was able to meet
a lot of the players and even interviewed Darnell McDonald (you can check out
her blog with her latest post about her adventures here)! The next person I noticed
was Heidi Watney. She was getting ready to do her portion of the pre-game show
and was sitting right in front of me. After she finished, a few of the fans
called her over for autographs. She graciously came over and signed for
everyone, including me, and was even nice enough to take a picture with me. It
really meant a lot, because she does hold the position that I would love to
possess some day. It showed me the type of person she is and I was pleasantly
surprised. And to answer the question all of you have been asking…no,
I did not tell her I intend to take her job someday! I truly enjoyed witnessing
that side of the media that I never get to see, and it makes me want to be a
part of it that much more. It was kind of like watching a Red Sox game from a
sports bar, when I could be sitting on top of the Green Monster. 

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Game two of the series was another incredible pitching match-up. Clay Buchholz,
who had a 0.00 ERA in his previous three starts, and is an AL candidate for the
Cy Young Award was facing Rays pitcher Matt Garza. Buchholz went 7 1/3 innings,
giving up four hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out five and
walking two. VMart kept up his hitting from the previous night, hitting another
solo shot in the top of the eighth to break the 1-1 tie and give us the lead.
However, when Buchholz returned for the bottom of the inning, he quickly gave
up that lead when B.J. Upton hit a lead-off, game-tying homerun. A few crucial
errors occurred for the Sox in the bottom of the seventh inning, though. The
first being a bad pick-off attempt by Buchholz that sailed into the right field
bullpen, allowing Carlos Pena to advance from first to third. After that, J.D.
Drew made a mental error by chasing a foul ball down the right field line and
catching it to make the out. However, that was only the second out of the
inning and Pena was able to tag-up and score from third. Pena’s run was the
first run allowed by Buchholz in 26 innings. One incredible defensive play was
made my Ryan Kalish in the bottom of the second, though, when he robbed Upton
of a possible RBI double or triple by making a diving catch in center field
(with a somersault at the end) to end the inning. As a
baseball fan, I was very excited about the bonus baseball we encountered that
night. I’ll never complain about free baseball, although it was heartbreaking
to watch Dan Johnson hit a walk-off homerun to win the game 3-2 against my team
in the bottom of the tenth inning. Being there to witness that was surreal,
bittersweet, but most of all, depressing.

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That picture is me and Jamie Brooks (@jsbsox). I was able to meet her at the game on Saturday!!

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Sunday came way too fast for my liking, but we had all day to waste because the
game was changed to the 8:00 PM ESPN game (which my dad was not thrilled about
because we had to change our flight from Sunday night to Monday morning). We
decided to go to the beach for a little while since we were staying in
Clearwater, which was only a 10-15 minute drive to the shore. I refused to wear
a bathing suit because I was on this trip to watch baseball, not get a tan. We
spent about an hour out there taking pictures and we even got some ice cream.
It was very relaxing (but very hot) and I was just ready to get back to the
field. After the gates opened, I rushed down and decided to try a new spot
during BP and I ended up on top of the dugout, right where the players walk in.
Within the first few minutes, Terry Francona came out of the dugout and started
signing autographs. I was lucky enough to have him point at me so I threw my
ball to him and he signed it and threw it back. A lot of the players
acknowledged us but I knew how focused they were on the final game of the
series. While I was standing there, Dick Vitale, a season ticket holder in the first
row behind home plate, showed up. My dad has always been a fan and talked me
into getting his autograph. It’s kind of ironic that I went to a three game
series to watch the Red Sox and I ended up walking away with two broadcasters
and a manager’s autographs. Oh well, it is what it is and I wouldn’t have
changed it for the world. But, there was a very essential game about to start
and we really needed to win, but the baseball God’s had something else in mind.

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John Lackey was starting for us that night while we faced James Shields. Lackey
went 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits, walking three and
striking out seven. The turnaround in the game was in the bottom of the sixth,
when Lackey gave up three runs, a two-run game-tying homer by Carl Crawford and
then a bases loaded, one-out RBI single from Dan Johnson (the hero from the
previous night). It could have been two runs, however, VMart had a great block
of home plate to prevent the second run to score. But, the damage was done and
the Rays were on top 3-2 and never gave up the lead again. Yamaico Navarro had
his first RBI in the big club in the top of the fifth when he singled to score
Mike Lowell from third. The Rays ended up winning the game 5-3 and took two out
of three at Tropicana Field. It was a very tough weekend for the Sox, as we
fell 6 1/2 games behind the Rays and Yankees in the AL East and the Wild Card
Race.

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Despite losing the series, I had such an incredible time. The cowbells, I must
admit, were a bit obnoxious and I would be perfectly content never having to
listen to them… ever again. A few of the Rays fans even stooped as low
as the World Cup and brought vuvuzela’s. It wasn’t completely

abhorrent, however, I could never imagine having to deal with
that every single home game. I guess being a Red Sox fan isn’t so bad after
all. If I had to choose my favorite part of the entire weekend (which is almost impossible), it would be having the opportunity to watch Daniel Bard warm-up and pitch in two of the three games. He is my favorite player and my dad was amazed at how many pictures I took of him (sorry, dad)! 


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Regardless of the injuries, the disappointments this season, and all the
heartbreak we’ve sustained, it was absolutely worth every penny to be able to
spend a weekend with my daddy, watching my favorite boys. So, thanks dad, for
everything. I had such a wonderful time with you and I know these memories will
last a lifetime! My trip to the Trop was an experience I will never forget, and
I just hope that we can turn this season around and show everyone what we are
capable of!


If you would like to see all the pictures from this weekend, add me as a friend on Facebook! I should have them up very soon!

Go Red Sox!

Jenn

3 Comments

Looks like a lot of fun, and a great experiece. I’ve been enjoying your pics on facebook, too.
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

Nice entry Jenn!
cheers,
Michael
http://thomasox.mlblogs.com/

Thanks so much, guys!! I had such a wonderful time! Thanks for reading!!

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