It was a winter weekend

Notice anything missing from the official logo for the Winter Weekend? No mention of the Red Sox.

Notice anything missing from the official Winter Weekend sign? No mention of the Red Sox. What’s up with that?

So last weekend was the second annual Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. I was at last year’s event and noticed that I didn’t write about it at the time. (I even brought a recorder for the good stuff and still have audio files from that weekend that I’ve done nothing with but listen to them myself.)  I am a pathetic excuse for a blogger these days.

Anyway, this year’s weekend was loads of fun. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t panels for the minor leagues as there were last year (last year, Kelly O’Connor and I attended almost exclusively panels that covered the minor league players and operations) but the panels we attended this year were informative and entertaining.

If I had any doubts about Dave Dombrowski, last weekend erased them for me. (Sure you could argue the team acquiring David Price should have erased them for me but I’m nothing if not stubborn.) The first panel we attended on Saturday was the Baseball Operations update with Dombrowski and Mike Hazen. Two people more eager to discuss baseball operations with the lowly fans you will not find, I promise you. It was less of an update and more of a casual Q&A about the team peppered with some interesting stories from the vault of Dave Dombrowski.

Best Hair in Baseball Operations

Best Hair in Baseball Operations (Photo courtesy of my iPhone)

I had conveniently forgotten that Dombrowski was the GM of the Florida Marlins when Kevin Millar was getting his start in baseball and last weekend he shared the story about how Millar ended up as a replacement player in 1995. It came up as Dombrowski and Hazen were making that point that regardless of what Baseball Operations folks see in a player, it’s not an exact science and every so often a player comes around that surprises them. Dombrowski was also making the point that some players, the prospects, get special treatment. Kevin Millar was not one of those special players; they didn’t expect him to go anywhere.

“We also had players in our minor league system at that point and we invited some of them to come play exhibition games, pre-season games at the big league level. We broke those players down, we would not invite prospects to play in those replacement spring training games because we knew that the Player’s Association would frown on them being part of the Association in the future so we really spent a long time – Kevin Millar played in those spring training games for us so we did not think Kevin was a prospect at all at that time. And he worked hard continued to hit basically and he went on to have a very fine big league career and now he’s a top broadcaster with his personality, so we were really surprised. There’s an example of somebody that completely caught us off guard unfortunately for Kevin because we never would have done that if we would have thought he had that type of ability. To this day he’s not part of the Player’s Association; they don’t allow him in because he played in those Spring Training games and they’re not forgiving in that regard.” – Dave Dombrowski

If I need a specific reason to encourage people to go to the Winter Weekend if the Red Sox offer it next year, sound bites like this one would be my first example. It also doesn’t hurt that Dombrowski speaks relaxed and freely – and is personable enough that you want him to keep speaking. The only disappointment from this panel was that it only lasted an hour.

We also sat in on a panel called Covering Ground where we were entertained by Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans along with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Sure it was fun to hear Rice, Lynn and Evans recall the good old days – (and I promise you not one of them has forgotten those days and they all seem to be in agreement that they were pretty much the best. Not age nor the fact that none of them brought the team a World Series win has affected their egos – it was glorious!) – but the interactions between the old guard and the new was what made this panel a must see. If NESN wanted to take the sting out of Don Orsillo not being on our tvs anymore they would give Jim Rice and Mookie Betts a reality show. Mookie’s incessant teasing (among other things, telling the three veterans that he didn’t know who they were) finally culminated in Jim Rice telling him to talk to the hand. (Okay, so Jim Ed is a decade behind the rest of us…it was still adorable.)

There were other highlights, I got to meet John Farrell and welcome him back, got a picture with Jerry Remy (and my second picture in as many years with my honey Fred LynN!), we saw Brock Holt giving up his #26 jersey to Wade Boggs at the Friday night town hall meeting, Wally’s little sister Tessie being the belle of the ball all weekend (if I heard one kid scream “THERE’S TESSIE!” I hear ten) and we almost shared an elevator with Roger Clemens (the baseball gods helped me out there and the Rocket ended up not taking the elevator) but they really did save the best for last. The two final panels on Saturday were the Kid’s Press Conference and Red Sox Game Show.

The press conference was what you would expect – kids asking the players questions (“What kind of car do you drive? Where is the best burger?”) but the true highlight of the entire weekend was the game show. Three teams (the alumni, the coaches and the players) competed in adorableness like Lip Sync Battle, Celebrity Name Games, Lil Picassos and the Doo Doo game (where you have to sing a song only singing “doo-doo”.  It was a ridiculously entertaining way to end the day and it gave us the chance to see these guys more relaxed than we’re used to seeing them. Fred Lynn especially stood out as being a bit more silly than I would have expected. Steve Lyons was exactly as you would think he’d be and Hanley Ramirez completely won over the room with his huge smile, infectious laugh and the fact that at one point he jumped into the audience and sat with the fans so that he could applaud his own team.

Steve Lyons and Bruce Hurst eyeing the competition

Steve Lyons and Bruce Hurst eyeing the competition

As an aside, Hanley Ramirez is my binky this season. He completely seduced me last weekend and he has my support because I can’t believe someone with that much life and happiness in him can be bad.

The biggest surprise of the game show was Carl Willis, Red Sox pitching coach and guy you want at your party to keep things lively. I can’t do his personality justice, so I offer you the below shaky, blurry at times, video that I took of Carl and the rest of the coaches lip syncing “Uptown Girl” with the alumni at the end giving their props. I honestly walked out of that room in physical pain from laughing so much. (And the coaches got hosed…they should have won!)

 

Red Sox Coaches, led by pitching coach Carl Willis, lip sync t…

One of the highlights of the Red Sox Winter Weekend was the Red Sox Game Show ending with a Lip Sync Battle among three teams: the coaches, the alumni, and the players. This is the coaches and man they should have won the entire thing. I have a whole new appreciation for Carl Willis as do the alumni (as witnessed at the end of this video).

Posted by Toeing the Rubber on Sunday, January 24, 2016


 
Truck Day is February 10th – my plan is to be there because if I know anything it’s that I’m itching for some baseball and this weekend taste has me hungry for more. The entire weekend was a great way to get excited for the upcoming season but now I just want more!

Posted in 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Remembering Hell

Note from Cyn: I wrote this on July 3, 2011.  It’s archived in the old posts but figured it couldn’t hurt to bring it out since the Cubs are finally in the NLCS again.

I reviewed the documentary “Catching Hell” without intending to. I wrote the below because while watching the documentary I started yelling at the television and then remembered I wrote a blog where I could vent my frustrations.  So here it is.

July 3, 2011: So I’m home and going through the On Demand listings and I come across “Catching Hell“, a documentary described as exploring “the phenomenon of scapegoating by examining what the fateful deflected foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS did to Cubs fans and Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series did to Boston fans”.  Sounds like 104 minutes of fun, right?  This was made for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and I almost didn’t watch it.  I really go out of my way, even now, to avoid watching anything from Game 6 but in buying this On Demand I made the decision to watch it.  No sense in paying to watch the documentary and skip through the painful parts, right?

I know that it is completely insane that after 2004 and 2007, watching the end of that game is still painful, but it is.  It hurt me physically to watch it.  Really made my heart and body ache.  There was never, ever, a time when I “blamed” Bill Buckner for what happened, never, but there is no denying that there were many who did (truth be told, more in the media and around the country than locally.  I’ve honestly never met anyone who held hatred or anger toward Buckner who lived in the area.  Hell, he got cheered when he came back to Boston as a player…that bit of information always gets left out of any discussions about Bill Buckner).

So I expected to watch this and be annoyed by comparing something that happened in the LCS to something that happened in the World Series (as far as the pain of the fans) but I wasn’t.  Alex Gibney, the filmmaker (and Boston Red Sox fan) did a wonderful job of showing in painful detail how scapegoating both Bartman and Buckner was so ridiculous and unfair that the personal pain kind of went away.  I’ll say this about the Cubs fans, I have a different view of them now.  I will never get over hearing the fans not only chanting “asshole”at him but yelling things like “we’re going to kill you!” and  “Put a twelve gauge in his mouth and pull the trigger” and throwing things at him.  Definitely not a high point for baseball fans.  I did NOT expect to be more upset by the Bartman incident than the Buckner one but the filmmakers really covered it in such detail that I couldn’t help getting upset for Steve Bartman (not the Cubs fans.  Definitely not the Cubs fans) like it just happened.  I was genuinely yelling “Oh my God!” at some of what was shown. How Fox and Steve Lyons hammered the visual of Bartman over and over and how the fans fed off of Moises Alou and instead of supporting the team after that, spent the rest of the game torturing Bartman.  (And, really, based on the audio and video, Lyons and Fox are as responsible for what happened to him as the Cubs fans are. )  Friendly Confines, my ass.

Ironically, anyone who blamed Buckner or Bartman seemed to forget that both games were game sixes.  Each team had an entire game to finish things off and couldn’t seal the deal.  I guess it’s more fun to blame folks than it is to accept that your team failed.

I have to tell you, too, that after watching the replay of Moises Alou’s reaction over and over, I take issue with how he acted.  His actions (or REactions) helped fuel the fire that changed Steve Bartman’s life forever.  It pleased me that Gibney says in a voice over “Moises Alou was NOT a great fielder.  Would he have made the catch [had Bartman not been there]?”  To this day, Alou is “…convinced 100 percent” that he would have made the catch.  Using technology where they erased the crowd from the shot, it does look like Alou would have made the catch.  But we’ll never know.  Is ruining a man’s life a good trade off for your favorite team losing?

The filmmaker wants to get your blood boiling and  he does.  Not only showing us Buckner and Bartman, but reminding us about Jeffrey Maier.  (Interesting that Maier gets treated like a God for legitimate fan interference while Steve Bartman is forever reviled for doing something all the fans around him were also doing.)

All in all an interesting, but also sad look at how fans protect their own feelings by picking a scapegoat so they can continue to root for the laundry.

The majority of the documentary covers Bartman and what happened surrounding what happened in game 6 but it is bookended by Bill Buckner and the Red Sox.  Fascinating to hear him talking about how he really didn’t know how he missed the ball and never watched the replay until recently where he studied in slow motion what happened.  (According to him, the ball went by his glove not between his legs. Not sure what he means specifically by that)  Buckner didn’t watch the 2004 World Series because Fox kept showing his error video.  (Yes, this film is full of more reasons to hate Fox.)

The Boston segment ends with Bill Buckner’s trip back to Fenway in 2008 for Opening Day.  A quote from him at the pre-game presser that I had almost forgotten about gives us more proof of where the whole vilification of Bill Buckner came from.

“I had to forgive, not the fans of Boston per se, but in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through”

On the record for the film he says that he felt the crowd “wanted me to feel better”. We sure did, Bill.

It also gets pointed out that Bill Buckner, in becoming a professional baseball player, asked for the limelight and the good and bad that came with it and Steve Bartman didn’t ask for any of it.  I do agree with this in a sense. I can’t imagine having your entire life change over something you didn’t even realize was happening at the time.

To this day, Steve Bartman is in hiding from Cubs fans.  The stories are that he doesn’t even use credit cards because he doesn’t want to risk anyone recognizing his name.  In a sense, he’s lost his identity because people don’t know where to draw the line.

“There are many who say the city should forgive Bartman but it’s really up to Bartman to forgive Chicago.”  Can’t really say I would blame him if he never did.

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