Tagged: Pawtucket Red Sox

Lehigh Valley IronPigs – July 10

Every player in the Philadelphia Phillies system who suits up for the Short-Season A Williamsport Crosscutters dreams of one day moving up through the minor leagues to Triple-A in Allentown to play for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. It’s a journey that takes some players years to make, while others never get the chance to make it at all. I was lucky to make the jump from Williamstown to Allentown in less than 24 hours.

OK, so I wasn’t exactly promoted through the ranks of the Phillies system, but I was checking out my second Phillies affiliate in two days when I stopped at Coca-Cola Park to watch the IronPigs host the Pawtucket Red Sox.

I got to experience Coca-Cola Park last May, and when setting the schedule for this road trip, I was excited to visit this gem of a ballpark once again.

The IronPigs were hooking me up with a press pass like they did during last year’s visit (thanks, Matt!), so I got to the park a couple hours before first pitch so I could take in all the sights. The team was giving away an IronPigs replica cap at the gate, which meant that shortly after 5 p.m., this was the scene at the right field gate:

coca-cola-park-fans-lineup

Fortunately, I grabbed my credential, entered through the media entrance and a few seconds later, was staring at this:

coca-cola-park-batting-practice

I love walking into a park and seeing batting practice underway. It’s one of the best moments I get to enjoy on my road trips.

When I make return visits to parks, I’m always curious to see what’s changed since I was last in town. This year, the IronPigs introduced PorkCenter, which you can follow on Twitter. It’s a social media booth with a pile of TV screens and staffers who post regular updates about the team on social media. It sort of brought back memories of my visit to the Social Suite at Progressive Field earlier this year, and it’s a really neat feature. Here’s what the outside of the studio looks like, and if you’re visiting Coca-Cola Park, be sure to check it out. It’s on the concourse on the third base side:

coca-cola-park-porkcenter

With the park largely deserted except for employees scurrying around, I took the opportunity to take a big circuit of the concourse. One of the things I stopped to photograph was the park’s video board:

coca-cola-park-video-board

It’s one of the nicest-looking boards I’ve seen on my travels. The video portion, of course, is huge, and I love the use of iron in the board’s construction to pay tribute to the area’s iron industry. See the Coke bottle up top? It lights up and moves when the ‘Pigs score a run, which is cool. I love interactive stuff like this that people might not immediately notice.

The Red Sox were taking batting practice, so I stopped on the grass berm in center field for a few minutes to watch the action. From here, I had this great view:

coca-cola-park-center-field-panorama

And as I looked around, I caught a glimpse of a pair of home run balls sitting at the base of the batter’s eye. I’m leery about picking up baseballs I find before the gates open, and since there was a little fence between the balls and me, I decided it’d be better to leave them where they sat:

coca-cola-park-batter's-eye-balls

Did you see the giant acoustic guitar on the left side of the panorama above? Martin Guitars, which arguably makes the best acoustic guitars in the business, is located in nearby Nazareth, PA, and this guitar standing area is new to the park this year. It’s got a few places to lean against and watch the game. Check it out:

coca-cola-park-martin-guitar-view

I’m an avid guitar player, so this perhaps the coolest music-related thing I’ve seen on my travels.

Speaking of cool, I took the opportunity to cool off up in the suite level. It was an extremely hot day and the air conditioned suite level offered a nice reprieve from the muggy heat. It also provided a great view, which I captured in this panorama:

coca-cola-park-suite-level-panorama

I suppose not everyone who visits Coca-Cola Park gets to experience the suite level, so I thought I’d share a neat photo for you here. One of the interesting visuals you’ll encounter is an enormous timeline of the team’s history, dating back to the team’s move from Ottawa, Canada, before the 2008 season. That moment and dozens of others are mentioned on the timeline, which winds along the hallway:

coca-cola-park-suite-level-timeline

By now, the gates were open and the park was quickly filling up, so I went back down to the main level of the park and took another walk around. In the terrace in left field, I briefly watched the team’s pre-game broadcast with Matt Provence and Doug Heater being filmed, which was neat:

coca-cola-park-ironpigs-pre-game-show

This area is also home to the Red Robin Oasis, which I saw last year but didn’t study in depth. Turns out, it’s a really fun place to watch the game and enjoy a meal. At first glance, it looks like a group picnic area, which might convince you to steer clear of it. It’s open to all fans, however, and all you need to do is find a table and wait:

coca-cola-park-red-robin-oasis

Pretty soon, a server will be over to take your order, and as you wait, you can enjoy the game and the Philadelphia Phillies broadcast on numerous TVs throughout the area. The menu here looked great. I didn’t end up eating in this area, but was certainly tempted. Menu items included pierogies, BBQed turkey, chicken skewers, flank steak sliders, burgers and s’mores. I’m getting hungry just thinking of it. Why the heck didn’t I eat here?!

Well, in short, the answer is that I wanted something light tonight. After several consecutive days of pounding heavy ballpark food, I was looking forward to something that wasn’t going to feel like a bowling ball in my stomach. I found what I was looking for at the Aw Shucks concession stand in right field. Now, I don’t want to alarm you, but the following food photo contains a vegetable:

coca-cola-park-food-aw-shucks-corn

The seasoned corn on the cob is one of Coca-Cola Park’s signature dishes, and I definitely recommend trying it out. My cob was tasty and the seasoning — salt, Parmesan cheese and an assorted spice rub — was delicious. And I have to give the folks at Aw Shucks credit; they even supply toothpicks!

After dinner, my next mission was to find a seat on the first base side and shoot some action shots with my new camera. On the way there, I looked back and saw a couple people using the giant guitar, and snapped this picture to give you a better idea of what the front of the guitar looks like:

coca-cola-park-martin-guitar-area

Here’s an action shot that only loosely involves the word “action.” It’s PawSox first baseman Drew Sutton in mid-spit:

drew-sutton-pawtucket-red-sox

Sort of gross, but the chances are good if you’ve watched a ballgame in the past, you’ve seen more spits than you care to recall.

Here’s some better action. This is Lehigh Valley catcher Erik Kratz fouling off a pitch:

erik-kratz-lehigh-valley-ironpigs

PawSox third baseman Will Middlebrooks striking out:

will-middlebrooks-pawtucket-red-sox

And Pawtucket starter Charlie Haeger, one of just a handful of knuckleballers in the minors:

charlie-haeger-pawtucket-red-sox

After spending a couple innings behind the first base dugout, I took another walk through the suite level and then made my way back out to the outfield grass berm, from which the park looks awesome at night:

coca-cola-park-center-field-panorama-night

Once I spent an inning with the above view, I returned to the first base side to shoot a few more action shots. Here’s Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who had a home run later in this at-bat:

zander-bogaerts-pawtucket-red-sox

And Tyson Gillies and Freddy Galvis celebrating Galvis’ two-run home run in the home half of the inning:

tyson-gillies-freddy-galvis-lehigh-valley-ironpigs

The ‘Pigs scored three runs in that inning to bring their total to nine, and cruised to a 9-4 win over Pawtucket, thanks to 16 hits from their offense and 11 strikeouts from their pitchers. I had a blast during my second visit to Allentown and a day later, I’d be demoted (well, you know what I mean, right?) to the Phillies Double-A franchise, the Reading Fightin Phils.

2012 Media Passes and Tickets

Nearly a year ago, I spent a bunch of time scanning and posting all my tickets from my baseball road trips in 2010 and 2011 for The Ballpark Guide, and I think it was a neat look at how different teams do their tickets. If you haven’t seen that, you can view that post here.

And then, after my first road trip from this past summer, I blogged about all the media passes I received. You can read all about it here.

On my second road trip of 2012, I was fortunate enough to get media passes to most of the games, but occasionally bought my own ticket. All this means that in this post, I’ll have a combination of media passes and tickets to share with you.

The first game of my August road trip was in Troy, N.Y., to watch the Tri-City ValleyCats. I meet the team’s media/production manager Chris Chenes for a pre-game tour, and as he gave me my press pass, he said, “One to add to your collection. I saw your blog entry about media passes.” It was a cool moment, and thanks again, Chris, for everything. If you’re interested in the ValleyCats or the New York-Penn League, you can follow Chris on Twitter.

Here’s the Tri-City pass:

tri-city-valleycats-media-pass

The next day, I drove to New Britain, CT, to watch the Rock Cats. I didn’t get a pass for that game, so here’s my ticket:

new-britain-rock-cats-ticket

A day later, I was in nearby Norwich, CT, to see the Connecticut Tigers, and they were kind enough to give me a media pass:

connecticut-tigers-media-pass

Next up was Boston, where I watched the absolutely outstanding Futures at Fenway doubleheader. I bought my own ticket for this event, but it was well worth it for eight-plus hours in Fenway Park. For some reason, this ticket has decided to grow legs and is hiding from me. When I’m able to solve this troubling conundrum, I’ll post the ticket here.

After visiting Fenway for the first time, I made the short drive to Pawtucket, R.I., to see the International League’s Red Sox, and got this awesome press pass:

pawtucket-red-sox-media-pass

Then, it was back to the New York-Penn League to watch the Lowell Spinners, who gave me this pass, which was on a neat Spinners lanyard:

lowell-spinners-media-pass

Twenty-four hours after seeing the Spinners, it was back to Boston to watch the Red Sox host the Angels:

boston-red-sox-ticket

If you read my blog entry about the BoSox game, you might recall that I paid $15 more to park than I paid for my ticket. Ugh.

A day later, I checked out Fenway Park in a tour, which you can read about here. The pass, as you can see, has the same background as a game ticket, but with different lettering:

boston-red-sox-fenway-park-tour-ticket

The last game of my August road trip was in New York’s Hudson Valley to watch the Renegades. The NYPL team keeps it simple with its press passes:

hudson-valley-renegades-media-pass

In September, I caught two Blue Jays games against the Yankees. I’ve been to several Jays games in the past, and if you clicked the first link in this entry, you’ll see a handful of tickets to Rogers Centre. Nonetheless, here are the two tickets from a few months back:

toronto-blue-jays-2012-ticket-1

toronto-blue-jays-2012-ticket-2

(I should note that when I dug through my backpack to find the Jays tickets, I also found a granola bar that the team was giving away to people before the game. Time to get snacking.)

Pawtucket Red Sox – August 19

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!

Futures at Fenway – August 18

Finally, the day of my first visit to Fenway Park was here. But this visit had a twist. Instead of seeing the Boston Red Sox, I’d be attending the seventh Futures at Fenway day, which features a pair of Minor League games for affiliates of the Red Sox. The premise is the Minor Leaguers will get to play a game at Fenway and the fans will get to enjoy a full day of baseball for relatively low prices. This year, the two Boston affiliates in action were the Short-Season A Lowell Spinners and the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

I’ve wanted to go to this event since I first heard about it a few years back, and the timing here could not be more perfect. I’ll be checking out the BoSox on August 21 and 22, but beforehand, I get the opportunity to explore Fenway Park without it being absolutely packed.

Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about going to Fenway Park says to never consider driving. Instead, they say, leave your car in the outskirts of the city and take the train in. I decided to drive right down to the park for this event, however, because I knew it wouldn’t be as busy as a Red Sox game and it was Saturday morning when I got to town. It turns out that driving was perfectly fine on this day, and despite all the parking lots charging $25 and $30 for the day, I managed to park about a block away for just $10. This was the view from the lot, and you can see the famous Citgo sign that’s visible from inside Fenway:

After a few seconds of walking, I rounded a corner and this was the scene before me:

It’s hard not to get pumped just reliving the experience through these photos. It truly was amazing to see Fenway Park standing before me for the first time.

It seemed like I was the only person in the area without some sort of Red Sox garment, so I quickly stopped at the first team shop I saw and bought a Fenway 100 cap, which incidentally knocks off two items on my to-do list for the trip — get a new cap and get something with the Fenway 100 logo.

It’s a crappy photo, but here’s a shot of me with the cap as I’m standing at the mouth of the legendary Yawkey Way:

Now, I should say that I’m not going to go nuts with the photos in this post. Well, maybe a bit, but considering I took nearly 400 and I’ll be at Fenway twice more this week, I need to practice some moderation. A bit about Yawkey Way: It’s a street along one side of the ballpark and it’s full of cool things to see and do. One side is basically a humongous merchandise store and the other side has food vendors. It’s open before the game, but a short while before the park’s gates open, everyone is cleared out of Yawkey Way and it’s blocked off. This is done so that after you enter the park, you can go out to Yawkey Way and still get back inside when you want. It’s basically an extension of Fenway Park.

The side of the ballpark is lined with World Series banners:

And as for that merchandise store I mentioned? It’s as big as a warehouse and sells anything you could ever want if you’re a Red Sox fan.  This is just one part of the store:

The part I liked best was a back room full of memorabilia, including game-used bats and jerseys, signed baseballs and so much more. They even had Fenway Park bricks for sale for $75! Some of the displays were set up like locker stalls:

I spent a fair bit of time browsing around the store, and then exited back onto Yawkey Way and took a shot of my Futures at Fenway ticket, which is cool to add to my collection:

Next up was a stop at the bleacher bar (I got IDed on the way in!), which is a bar basically under the outfield bleachers. I just wanted to go in and take a photo of the field, and that’s exactly what I did:

I took two giant laps around Fenway Park, taking photos along the way to document all the sights. It was amazing just to be there, next to the building that is arguably the most famous in all of North American sports. I found it neat that while I’m sure the park is structurally sound, there are a lot of spots that have plenty of character, like this corner of the building:

I also saw the Howard Johnson hotel next to the ballpark, which looks run-down. But it’s noteworthy in that it’s the hotel that Ben Affleck visits while planning the Fenway Park robbery in The Town. If you watch the trailer in the link I just provided, you’ll see the exact same curtains as those on the ground floor of this photo in the scene with Affleck at the 2:05 mark:

OK, one more movie trivia thing. At exactly 1:59 of the trailer, you’ll see the team shop in the following photo in the background:

Eventually, the area around the park started getting crowded, although I’m sure that I’ll soon learn this crowd is nothing like that at a Sox game:

On my walk around the park, I got a bunch of photos of the back of the video board, which is decorated with the Fenway Park 100 Years logo:

Finally, about an hour before first pitch, the gates opened up and I was in! As soon as I entered, I didn’t get the same overwhelming feeling that is easy to get at a lot of parks. It was more of a, “I just want to see everything” feeling. As I wandered, I took shots of many of Fenway’s trademark sights, including the retired numbers:

The press box:

And, of course, the Green Monster:

And the Green Monster with me:

The entire time I just had this feeling of, “I can’t believe I’m here.” I don’t tend to like people who tell me that I “should” go do something, but if you’re a baseball fan and haven’t been here, I’ll just say that you’ll love it. I wasn’t sure if it would completely meet my expectations, as I’ve wanted to come here forever and it’s easy to build something up in your mind. But it was way more than I expected.

Futures at Fenway had a Star Wars theme this year, so you’ll see a number of Star Wars-related photos throughout this post. There was a pre-game parade of Star Wars characters, too. It was made up of kids in cute costumes and adults who, well, wear Star Wars costumes. You know the type. (Let’s just say that several hours after the parade was over, I still saw many of the adults marching around the concourse in full costume, looking sinister.)

Soon enough, it was time for the player introductions, and I happened to be just on the visitors’ side of home plate, so I took this panorama to capture everything:

As expected, the Sox had a nice tribute to Johnny Pesky, who’d died the week before. This was the first game at Fenway Park since his death. I didn’t get down to check out Pesky’s Pole, but I hope to do that in my follow-up visits to Fenway. He was honored on the video board in center field:

In keeping with the Star Wars theme, Darth Vader threw out the first pitch — only he did so from atop the Green Monster. The next photo isn’t the greatest, but here’s what the scene looked like:

I think he was using “the force” to throw the pitch, which traveled all the way to the wall behind home plate. (He may have been aided by the string to which the ball was attached.) It was all very funny. As you can see here, the ball is zooming past the managers and umpires exchanging scorecards. It’s in the air, too, although it somewhat looks like it’s on the grass:

As the game was about to begin, I found a great spot to sit — the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck in right field. As you can see below, areas like this one were nearly empty during Futures at Fenway, which gave me an awesome opportunity to move around and check things out. I sat at a table right above Ted Williams’ number nine:

I had the video boards just to my right …

… and the bullpens below and to my right:

The starting pitcher for Lowell was a rookie named Brian Johnson, a 2012 draft pick. It wasn’t a very good day for the poor guy; on just the second pitch of the game, he took a line drive to the face off the bat of Hudson Valley’s Joey Rickard. It was a scary sight, and about the last thing you ever want to see at any level of baseball. The game was delayed for several minutes while Johnson was attended to …

… and eventually carted off:

He sustained multiple fractures of his orbital bone, but had no signs of a concussion. Let’s hope he heals as quickly as possible. You feel for anyone who suffers this injury, but to have his Fenway experience end so prematurely is sad.

After a couple innings, I continued my exploring. There’s an awesome pavilion area in the outfield that is not only lined with concession stands, but also has bricks donated by Sox fans and players’ hand prints, just like in Hollywood. Here’s longtime Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek:

All my walking had definitely worked up an appetite, and given that I was in a big concession area, it was the perfect time for lunch. I settled on a steak and cheese sandwich with peppers, onions and hot sauce (a Philly cheesesteak by any other name, although perhaps anything with Philly in its name wouldn’t sell well in Boston):

And I couldn’t resist a souvenir cup of pop, which meets my soft drink quota for the next, oh, year or two:

I ate my lunch down in the right field bleachers, and if you’re able to peek past my giant cup, you’ll see the crowds weren’t bad at all. Once I’d eaten (but it would take me probably 45 minutes to drink all that pop) I went back up to the Bud Deck where I took a self-portrait:

I absolutely loved this spot that I’d found, so I hung out here (and in another bar-style area nearby) for much of both games. I didn’t want to go nuts with exploring, because I’ve got two more chances to do so. As I said earlier, I had a close-up view of the video board, where I saw that Lowell’s Matty Johnson looks old and wise …

… and Hudson Valley’s Justin O’Connor is sporting the latest in batting helmets:

Midway through the game, I resumed my trekking around and saw a bunch of neat historical displays, such as framed replicas of every Sports Illustrated featuring a Red Sox player on the cover …

… and wall with plaques recognizing a number of key moments in the team’s history:

I also ducked into the State Street Pavilion bar behind home plate (I didn’t get IDed this time!) and took a shot of the view …

… as well as of the bar itself:

Afterward, I went over to the left field corner, right near the entrance to the Green Monster seats. I looked back into the right field bleachers and was delighted at what I saw:

The Lone Red Seat was open! I’d been keeping an eye on the seat all game, and it was always occupied. And although I was literally the farthest away I could get, I set out on a “walking with purpose” route that took me right to the area. When I got there …

… success! The Lone Red Seat is one of Fenway’s must-see sights. It’s represents the longest home run ever hit in the park — a Ted Williams blast in 1946 that landed on the fan in the seat, exactly 502 feet from home plate. The fan, whose straw hat was “penetrated,” according to Wikipedia, reportedly said, “How far away must one sit to be safe?” Awesome.

I occupied the seat for a half inning and shot this panorama from one of the most famous seats in all of sports:

I tried to get a shot of myself in the seat with the red showing, but most of the images just show my crotch. I shall not be posting them on here.

Or will I? BWA HA HA!

For those of you still reading, here’s what the Pesky Pole looks like from afar:

I’d love to sign it, but need to find out whether fans are actually allowed to, or do they just sign it anyway? I imagine it’s the former, as you’d think the ushers would be on top of things if it wasn’t permitted.

For the last three innings of the first game, I found a seat down the third base side to take some action photos. I’ve got to say that Fenway’s ushers were remarkably helpful/easygoing. Maybe they’ll be more vigilant during Red Sox games, but on Saturday, they were great.

Here’s Lowell’s Matty Johnson stealing second:

And Hudson Valley’s Dylan Floro, who got roughed up but hung on in a very exciting ninth inning:

Final score: Hudson Valley 6, Lowell 5:

Boy, we’re at nearly 2,200 words and I haven’t reached the second game of the doubleheader yet. Fortunately, I didn’t take as many photos during the Buffalo Bisons vs. Pawtucket Red Sox game. By 5 p.m., which is roughly when the game began, I’d been at Fenway Park for more than seven hours, and I was ready to just find a quiet area, get off my feet and enjoy the game. So that’s exactly what I did. I’ve seen the Bisons play twice in the past, including this season, but I’ve only seen the PawSox in action once — way back in 2010. (Although I’ll see them again on this trip.)

First, though, I went back out to Yawkey Way before the second game …

… toured through the team shop again:

And then stood in the concourse while the Spinners passed by on their way to a post-game autograph session:

As the Bisons and Sox were starting to warm up, I watched the action for a few minutes from the right field seats:

But once the game was set to begin, I went back up to the roof deck in the right field corner where I was literally the only spectator seated in the area. I watched the entire second game with this view — although, technically, the popcorn level went down steadily and the souvenir cup eventually went into my backpack so I wouldn’t have to think about how much soda I’d had today:

I took a handful of photos from this spot, but most are pretty similar to others through this blog entry, so I’ll leave you with one final shot:

The entire Futures at Fenway experience was phenomenal. I highly recommend it to everyone, whether you’ve been to Fenway or not. It’s a great way to get accustomed to the park without giant crowds or huge expense. And speaking of crowds, I’d be seeing the Red Sox at Fenway in just a couple days. But in the meantime, there were stops at the home parks of two of the teams involved in the Futures doubleheader — Pawtucket and Lowell.