A View From The Pit

Sunday was the day for Red Sox pitchers and catchers to report officially to Fort Myers for Spring Training. There were more informal workouts, along with the first press conferences of the spring — from manager Bobby Valentine and pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.

Formal workouts don’t begin until Tuesday, with players taking all their physicals on Monday.

Sunday was also the day Fenway South first opened to the public so fans could watch the informal workouts. Turns out that fans will really need to keep an eye out for balls hit over the fence during batting practice in areas of Fenway South. If you’re not chasing, you’re probably ducking.

Fans chasing baseballs

Duck and cover

Either way — be alert! Best strategy is to stick close to the fences to lessen the chance of getting hit by a fast-traveling baseball.

And here’s the link to the entire day’s gallery.

… and so does the View From The Pit tumblr. Hopefully it will be easier to keep this updated as I won’t be posting all the day’s photos on tumblr, but just one or two. It is just too much of a pain to post multiple photos here. Instead, I’ll be putting daily photos up on my website, found at — surprise! — www.aviewfromthepit.com. No, I’m not very original.

It’s the day before Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training, and a lot of players are already working out at Fenway South, the team’s new player development complex in Fort Myers. It seems that more pitchers are throwing bullpen sessions earlier this spring; after every bullpen session, pitchers are running wind sprints.

Among the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions today: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Andrew Bailey, Alex Wilson, Franklin Morales and Clayton Mortenson.

Bobby Valentine and Dice-K

Above is a photo of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine talking with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Or, perhaps from looking at Dice-K’s expression, Dice-K trying to understand what Bobby V. is saying. 

Here’s the link to today’s gallery.

A couple words of advice if you’re planning on making a trip to Fort Myers this spring: Bring comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen. This place is huge, with six practice fields and an indoor batting cage facility that looks like it could double as a jet airplane hanger, and there’s not much shade.

Last Saturday afternoon, I found myself on an airboat zipping (and I mean ZIPPING) around the Florida Everglades looking for alligators with David Ortiz, his son D’Angelo, NESN reporter Heidi Watney and NESN videographer Chris DelDotto.

The end result:

  • A few gators — biggest of which was about 10 feet long.
  • Lots of birds
  • Swamp water splashed on clothes, camera, etc.

Also found out that I could in fact hold up my camera, focus, and shoot with one hand while holding onto the airboat seat for dear life with the other hand during hairpin turns that felt like I was in a drift car going through reeds, mud flats and branches. (OK, the focusing was questionable…)

Not sure when the NESN story will air, but more than likely some time this week. Really hope they do their best to edit me out of the video footage.

Final housekeeping note: I had been doing a pretty reasonable job of daily updates until last week, when the combination of minor league headshots (final count, 220), minor league workouts and Grapefruit League games swamped me. More stuff up soon — promise. Less than a week left for me in Fort Myers before I head back up to Boston… 

Dropped by the Red Sox minor league workout Wednesday morning. I know I’ve said this before, but if you’re a baseball fan and you find yourself in Fort Myers, you owe it to yourself to check out the goings-on at the Player Development Complex. It’s free, it’s relaxed and you get to see the future of Red Sox baseball.

Workouts take place in the morning, and there are now games — sometimes up to four simultaneously — going on in the afternoon Monday through Saturday until April 1.

Among the sights this morning: Carl Yastrzemski and Dwight Evans, both player development consultants for the team, working with young Red Sox hitters while they took batting practice.

And also something truly inspiring: Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland taking batting practice on the field, exactly one year after having life-threatening surgery to remove a cavernous malformation on his brain stem.

Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee paid a visit to City of Palms Park Monday, accompanying his grandson onto the field for the “Play ball!” call at the beginning of the game. Here is Spaceman and his grandson relaxing on Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s bench in the dugout before the game. (Bill put on the red socks especially for the game.)

Bill was in fine form on the field before the game, talking to everyone who could listen, including photographers, ushers, Keith Olbermann and Terry Francona. Even on his way off the field he was talking, in this case, to Sox lefty Andrew Miller.

Boston Red Sox pitchers Junichi Tazawa, Itsuki Shoda, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima collected donations for American Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in Japan prior to Saturday’s game against the Yankees. The four Japanese pitchers, who have already made personal donations, will also accept donations outside City of Palms Park before Thursday’s game.

This is Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, who has to be one of the nicest and funniest guys in baseball. One of RJ’s duties is to hold all the protective guards Sox batters wear at the plate when they reach base.

In the first inning of Saturday’s game, the first three batters — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez — all got on base. RJ ended up using both arms and legs to hold their guards. Which got me thinking… What would RJ look like if the Sox bat around in an inning. And would he have to take stuff off when each batter came back up to the plate?

A tip of the cap to Alfredo Aceves, who pointed RJ out to me. 

The Red Sox had a moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan before Saturday’s game between the Red Sox and Marlins.

Four pitchers from Japan are currently members of the Red Sox organization, and there are multiple staff members — a trainer, massage therapist, interpreters and media liaison — from Japan. All were present on the field at City of Palms Park for the moment of silence.

Expect the team to announce some type of fundraising relief effort for Japan in the next day or so.

Above, from left, Boston Red Sox pitchers Hideki Okajima, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Itsuki Shoda and Junichi Tazawa bow their heads during the moment of silence.