Friday, February 27, 2009
Local family enjoys a Red Sox vacation
When we arrived for our family vacation last week at the Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach, Florida, we had no idea we were entering Red Sox Spring Training central. Perhaps the sea of Red Sox jerseys in the lobby should have been a tip-off, but it wasn’t until Monday morning, when we discovered a flyer under our door, that we realized Comcast Sports Net would be broadcasting their “On the Road to Spring Training” live from the pool deck adjacent to our condo. Throughout the week Sox players would be visiting to be interviewed, and we were invited to be part of the studio audience.
Although we are fans and knew the Red Sox had their Spring Training in Ft. Myers, we had never ventured to attend. Pre-season games don’t start until after school vacation week, and I guess we assumed it would not be that much fun to compete with a crowd of fans for a glimpse of players taking batting practice, with no guarantee the stars would even be there. But with Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia coming to our place, we had to check it out.
The first night featured newly acquired pitcher John Smoltz, and we showed up, as it turned out, unnecessarily early, assuming the event would be mobbed. Although there was a solid audience of obvious regulars (this is the sixth year the show has been at the Pink Shell), we could have walked in at 6:15 and had fine seats for a 6:30 p.m. show. So we had a great view as sportscasters Gary Tanguay, Mike Felger and Lou Merloni chatted with Smoltz about preparing for the upcoming season. It was interesting to get the lowdown, and also to see how a sports show is produced. My son Eric found it amusing that the angry argument between our hosts over the power in the line-up immediately turned into convivial small talk at the commercial break.
While we waited for the show to start, we had a chance to chat with other Red Sox fans and learn more about spring training. We were assured that the full roster of players would be arriving this week, and that there were definite possibilities for good viewings and autographs. We decided to go by on Thursday, predicted to be a cool day for the beach.
That day we arrived at the Red Sox stadium, City of Palms Park, at around 10 a.m. From there the Sox had arranged buses to the training facility about 15 minutes away (buses were $2 per person, but parking was free). After seeing the numbers of packed buses making the trip, we wondered about the chances of even getting a glimpse of our favorite players, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were several fields with action at each, and many familiar faces. With a little chutzpah and some patience, it was possible to squeeze up to the fences and get a good view of batting practice (pitchers were behind two fences and harder to see).
At first it seemed that autographs would be scarce. Everyone was there to work, and only occasionally would a player sign a few. Still, we were able to score a Luis Tiant, and narrowly missed a Papelbon. Would our opportunity come when the players broke for lunch? At noon, Jason Varitek passed the fence without stopping (still mad about that contract?). But Jed Lowry, unrecognized by some, was happy to sign, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury, who all spent several minutes signing autographs and chatting with the fans.
Stoked on Red Sox fever, we decided to spend our final night watching Dustin Pedroia being interviewed by the Comcast crew. Again we got excellent seats from which we could wave to friends in Boston when the cameras scanned the audience. The interview was good, but the highlight occurred during a commercial break when Pedroia forgot the audience and opened up with his opinion on the loss of Manny Ramirez (he doesn’t miss him), concluding, “of course I can’t say that.” To top the evening off, at the end of the show we discovered we were winners of a $50 gift certificate for Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of several given out by the sponsors of the show.
It was fun to get back to Carlisle Friday and open the Globe to see reports on the spring training camp we had just visited, and to watch “On the Road” at the hotel we’d just left. I would recommend that any Red Sox fans vacationing in the Ft. Myers area next year make a point of visiting Red Sox camp and The Pink Shell when Comcast broadcasts “On the Road” all week at 6:30 and 10 p.m. ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito