Immediately upon completion of the Futures at Fenway experience, I hopped into my car and began the hour or so drive to Pawtucket, RI. Although it might have been logical to stay the night in the Boston area, I was taking in a Pawtucket Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon, so I decided to get right to where I needed to go.
This meant two nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Smithfield-Providence, which turned out to be great. The hotel was packed because of a couple events in town, but I didn’t hear a peep; nice, especially given how exhausted I was after touring Fenway Park for so many hours. The next morning, I awoke and took this shot of the outside of the hotel …
… as well as these images of my room:
The room was perfect. I was in a suite, and although traveling by myself, it was nice to have room to spread out, especially given that I was staying for two nights. I’m also 6’3″, so small rooms tend to make me feel a little claustrophobic. None of those feelings here! The room was equipped with two beds, a living room area, kitchen area and a desk, which I used to catch up on blogging and Twitter messages. And as I’ve said in the past, given that I’m Canadian, it’s always a treat to be able to watch any of the ESPN feeds when I’m staying at a hotel in the U.S.
One last word on the hotel. From a baseball fan’s perspective, it’s a perfect place to stay. It’s only around 20 minutes to Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, and there are a number of places to eat and shop less than five minutes’ drive from the hotel. It’s also very close to the highway, making it quick and easy to access.
The PawSox, as they’re often called, were playing a 1 p.m. game against Buffalo in a continuation of the series that included the game at Fenway. As I packed up and got ready to make the short drive, I realized that since I’d gotten up, I wasn’t feeling that well. It’s easy to say I’d caught some sort of bug, or perhaps my system was in shock from the sharp contrast of the cold air conditioning of my car or hotel rooms and then the hot sun of these stadiums, but the reality is I wasn’t eating very well or getting enough sleep on this trip. Yep, I’d come down with a cold.
I virtually never get sick, so this was a real drag. I didn’t feel the worst I’ve ever felt, but it was one of those deals where I needed to blow my nose every 34 seconds. Not fun. So, with my pockets stuffed full of Kleenex, I made the drive to McCoy Stadium and arrived around 11 a.m.
The first thing I did was pick up my media pass, which is one of the nicest passes I’ve gotten so far on my adventures:
And before I entered the park, I walked around and took in the sights. McCoy is an older ballpark, and given that the Pawtucket team has been affiliated with the Boston Red Sox since 1970, there are tons of cool Red Sox displays to see. I can see visiting McCoy Stadium being a bucket list item for any die-hard Sox fan, simply because of all the displays. If a guy in recent memory came up through Boston’s system, he almost certainly had a stop in Pawtucket. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a banner featuring my favorite current Red Sox player, Dustin Pedroia:
By the time I made it to the main gate, I was impressed at the length of the line. Likely because of Pawtucket’s affiliation with the BoSox, the fans here seemed very serious and passionate:
Toward the back side of McCoy Stadium, the team has its International League division championship banners on display:
And just below, are the parking spots reserved for the coaching staff. Here’s the spot belonging to pitching coach Rich Sauveur, for example:
After wandering outside for a bit, I decided to head in and get out of the sun — and load up on some napkins at a concession stand, as my Kleenex supply had dwindled quickly. One of the neatest things I saw was a huge wall display honoring the longest game in professional baseball history, which took place in 1981 between the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings:
The stadium’s team shop was selling a book about this game, and the wall display was absolutely fascinating. Imagine a game that long? It was actually played over three days and actually involved some Baseball Hall of Famers. Who? Wade Boggs suited up for the Red Sox and Cal Ripken, Jr., was playing for Rochester in those days.
The box score for the game was absolutely hysterical. Ripken went 2-for-13 and Boggs went 4-for-12, but there were some guys who had horrendous luck. It was a bad time to play center field, apparently. Rochester’s Williams went 0-for-13! And Pawtucket leadoff hitter Graham went 1-for-14. A combined 1-for-27 from center field — yikes!
As you might have seen above, there’s a giant scoreboard-style box score painted along the bottom of the wall. It’s far too wide to capture straight-on in one shot, but I think this angle looks neat:
Before the park began to fill up, I went out to the cross-aisle and took the shots that make up this panorama:
Notice anything about the relationship between the first level of seats and the field? Perhaps this photo will demonstrate things a little better:
As you can probably see, the field is way below the seats. You can see some suites located to the right side of the dugout, but otherwise, the fans are well above the action. How do you get any autographs? We’ll get to that a bit later.
I took a quick trip up to the press box, which you can see to the left side of the panorama above. Here’s the view from up here:
Then, it was time to visit the team shop. Despite the age of the stadium (it opened in 1942), the team shop was spacious and modern. There were lots of neat things to see …
… and my favorite area was a rack with game-used Pawtucket jerseys. Here’s one worn by Mike Cameron:
So, any ideas on how you’d get an autograph from a player around the dugout? You go fishing! I saw many fans with long lengths of rope and buckets; just fill your bucket with a baseball or card and a Sharpie, and lower it to your favorite player. In fact, the stadium’s team shop sells autograph fishing kits. This picture will give you a better idea of how it all goes down:
I’ve got to admit that my legs were still a little sore from all yesterday’s walking, so I decided to go to the outfield bleachers and chill for a few minutes. The game hadn’t begun yet, but I took a bit of a breather out here:
And, yes, blew my nose a dozen or so times.
It was out here that I learned that the Pawtucket Red Sox frown heavily on rowdyism! Egads! Scoundrels!
Soon enough, Buffalo starter Jeurys Familia, who I saw pitch last summer at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium, came out to stretch. There’s a great open area down the first base line, and that’s where I stood to watch him get ready:
The visitors’ bullpen is in the right field corner, so it wasn’t long before Familia was warming up. I was right there to take some shots and appreciate his power from my spot roughly three feet behind catcher Lucas May:
How close was I? Check out this shot of May’s left foot:
When the game began, I went to the nearest concession stand and perused the menu. I didn’t want anything too obscene, given that I was feeling crummy. So, I settled on boneless chicken wings. I made the mistake of picturing the boneless wings that you get in a sports bar or even see on a KFC commercial, but I was pretty far off. I realize that “boneless wings” are a man-made idea to begin with, but all I got were dry chicken nuggets. Blah:
They were so dry that I went back to the concession and got some honey-mustard dipping sauce, which improved things dramatically.
After an inning or two in the bleachers, I went back to the first base line, which is the only place in the park that puts you at actual field level. From here, I had this view:
And as soon as I took this panorama, I got as close to home plate as I could so that I could take a bunch of action photos, which is something I really enjoy doing.
Here’s Buffalo’s Fred Lewis, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays for a stint:
Pawtucket outfielder Alex Hassan, I think:
Shortstop Jose Iglesias:
Outfielder J.C. Linares, fouling off a pitch:
A close play at the plate:
And, finally, Andy LaRoche showing some poor form chasing this pitch:
Next, it was over to one of the viewing decks on the tower on the third base side:
And then, thanks to my media pass, a seat directly behind home plate:
Remember Lucas May, the catcher I watched warming up? I managed a pretty decent shot of him making contact from my next vantage spot, on the first base side:
I spent the rest of the game doing the same as I’d done for the last few hours — checking out the game from different locations. And while I really felt miserable, there’s nothing that acts as a cure as well as being out in the fresh air and doing something you enjoy.
After the game, I went back to my hotel, grabbed some groceries at a nearby store and relaxed for the evening. Time to recharge my batteries a little, as there were still lots of places to see on my road trip!