A Night at McCoy Stadium

terrynever

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Wednesday was a great evening for baseball at McCoy Stadium. Rehabbing big leaguers were all over the field, led by Boston's Dustin Pedroia and New York's Greg Bird.
We had tickets right behind home plate, three rows up. You really get into the pitcher-hitter matchup from this vantage point. We keep hearing about how Pedroia or Bird won't be ready for the big leagues until they get their "timing" down, and from these seats it was easy to see what that means.
Pedroia hit third in the first inning. Scranton starter Justus Sheffield, a compact lefty, was already throwing good heat, 95 and 96 mph, along with a great off-speed curveball, around 84-87. Sheffield struck out Tzu-Wei Lin and Aneury Tavarez, then opened with 96 for Pedey, then 87, then 96. Pedey took one heater, swung through another, finally grounded out to second base.
Next time up, Pedey worked a walk, fouling off some tough pitches, making Sheffield work. Sheffield is nasty but 96 is nothing these days. He had thrown 76 pitches through four scoreless innings, surviving back-to-back doubles with one out in the second when Sam Travis could not score on Mike Olt's liner to the wall in left that Tyler Wade raced back for with his glove up, then played a quick carom. Travis had to hold up. Just a freak play.
Sheffield left after four innings of three-hit ball (5 K's, 1 BB). On came rehabbing Tommy Kahnle, throwing 98, just in time for Pedroia's third AB. Kahnle got a quick strike with his best fast ball as Pedey watched.
A fan in the stands near us saw the 98 appear on the scoreboard and bellowed, "98! Not impressed. Everyone throws 98."
Pedey grounded to short off Kahnle, pulling the ball this time. He is running fine, not pushing things, but I did notice he is back to doing that little jump at second base when a pitch is thrown. Not all the time. Pedroia seems thinner in the baggy PawSox uniform. Maybe he has dropped five pounds to take stress off his knees?
For Pedey's final AB in the 7th, Scranton produced minor league vet Joe Harvey, who throws 97 with a funky 3/4 release point that scared the shit out of me from the third row. Remember how when we were kids and a side-arming righty was one of our biggest nightmares? You get the same flinching feeling from the third row as Harvey twists and turns in his windup.
Pedey had another long AB, spoiling a couple good pitches by slapping them into the stands down the first base line. You could tell he was into the challenge but in the end, Harvey got him swinging. That was it for Pedroia, who saw 21 pitches in his four ABs. He also made two routine plays in the field.
As for Greg Bird, his timing is almost there. Struck out in the first, then pulled a hard single to right in the third off PawSox starter Chandler Shepherd. Flew out to left in the seventh off righty reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who has a funky curveball.
In the ninth, Bird faced 6-foot-4 southpaw Williams Jerez, who routinely throws 97 and 98 but still hadn't mastered an off-speed pitch.
After striking out the No. 9 and leadoff batters, just blowing them away, Jerez walked rehabbing Clint Frazier, giving us fans one more look at Bird. The tall lefty with the sweet stroke timed up a fast ball and drove it high and deep into the night sky. It crashed loudly on the aluminum bleachers in right-center, marking the exclamation point in a 7-1 Scranton win (PawSox won the first two games of the series, which ends with an 11 a.m. getaway game Thursday morning.)
On a personal note, this is a tough season for PawSox fans who value the attraction of professional baseball in our town. The PawSox are more proactive than ever in their commitment to the fans. They must have introduced 100 local school children before the game, flashing their faces on the scoreboard video screen, letting them walk across the hallowed field.
The PawSox also introduce military veterans between one inning each night. This program is called "In Debt to a Vet" and is quite moving. At least two World War Two veterans were among the group of five vets introduced last night.
The politicians can quibble about the money involved in keeping the PawSox in Rhode Island but one wonders what is the true cost to the state if this team goes away? The community commitment to kids and vets? Seasonal jobs for a couple hundred people on the game day staff? Or how about the bar outside the park that sells about 20 parking spots for $10 a game? Do the math. $200 a night times 70 games. Maybe they only sell 10 spots on some nights. Anyway, that is gone if the PawSox get a better offer, or just become tired of waiting on R.I. politicians.
I'll miss the baseball most of all. We get a sneak peak down here every season of future big leaguers, or rehabbing big leaguers. I noticed Phil Plantier is the Scranton hitting coach and my mind flashed back 27 years to when Plantier and Mo Vaughn terrorized pitchers at McCoy.
Memories last forever, until you stop getting the chance to make them.
 
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Bergs

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Great, great, great post. Thanks for sharing.
 

terrynever

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Pedroia played 7 innings of today's 11 a.m. game, proving how badly he wants to be in Boston on Friday night. He went 0-for-3, hitting three grounders to the infield; one turned into a DP and apparently Pedroia ran hard to avoid a DP in his third trip to the plate.
Scranton prevailed, 3-1. Greg Bird just one hit in five trips with three K's for Scranton.
 

Deathofthebambino

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Great posts (and thread) Terry. Keep this one going. Haven't made it down to McCoy in a long time, but love hearing the stories from there.
 

terrynever

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Well, since you asked, we just got back from the Fred Lynn induction into the PawSox HOF. Fred went in with the face of the franchise, Mike Tamburro. Fred is 66 and looks good. Threw an effortless strike to home plate during the first pitch ceremony. PawSox played video highlights of Lynn's many acrobatic catches and home runs to John Fogerty's song, Centerfield. I am a Yankee fan and still had a lump in my throat. You get to be a certain age and it is hard to watch video of the athletes from your youth and then see them up close at age 66. I don't mind getting old but Fred Lynn should stay young forever.
Mike Tamburro spoke from the heart about the things he cares about: Serving the fans, helping out in the community, and keeping the PawSox in Pawtucket. Like Fred Lynn, Mike is 66 years young. He first came to the team as an intern in 1974, and saw Fred Lynn and Jim Rice tear up the International League. Two years later, Ben Mondor bought the bankrupt franchise from the league. He hired Mike Tamburro and they started cleaning up the dilapidated stadium with their own bare hands.
Dr. Charles Steinberg introduced both Lynn and Tamburro to the crowd. He first met Fred when the Orioles signed him in 1985. I'm guessing Larry Lucchino was in Baltimore by then, too. Dr. Charles gave a personal recollection of Lynn falling in love that year and getting married that was especially poignant since Fred's wife was standing right next to her man of 32 years.
After the ceremony ended, Lucchino sat with his family in the stands behind home plate. He's an old athlete himself who still loves sports.
I have been around Larry a few times since ownership gave up on the Providence stadium proposal and refocused on keeping the franchise in Pawtucket. My perception is that Larry and Dr. Charles have been totally sincere and dedicated to the PawSox and their fans.
On a side note, the PawSox backed my 21 Heroes monument campaign to honor the city's Vietnam War casualties. Mike Tamburro initiated the support and Dr. Charles connected immediately to the cause. They came to our monument dedication last spring, which meant a lot to me.
The PawSox dropped both ends of a doubleheader to Lehigh Valley. They are out of prospects right now but on a night when Fred Lynn came back to McCoy, hardly anyone noticed.
 
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terrynever

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Mike Tamburro and Fred Lynn throw ceremonial pitches following their induction into the Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of PawSox.com
 

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terrynever

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i think the poetry was in Fred Lynn's effortless pursuit of fly balls. Paul Blair had the same knack, and now it's true of JBJ, who I first saw in Pawtucket. What is it about certain outfielders that one look tells you they have everything under control?