Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dice-K: Up Close And Personal

A group of about 40 of us travelled by bus to Philadelphia yesterday to check out the final Red Sox exhibition game, at Citizens Bank Park. The group was a mixture of mostly Red Sox fans, but also a few Phillies and Yankees ("Ersatz Phillies" fans I was calling them) fans as well.

It was a fun trip down, with lots of trash talk from the non-Sox fans who were in the back of the bus, and LOTS of beer flowing as well. (I was NOT indulging, as I can't drink alcohol in the late morning!)

The bus left professor Thom's at about 10:20 AM, and we arrived at Citizens Bank just before the first pitch was thrown. Traffic was murder, especially getting on to the New Jersey Turnpike because of construction.

We were all psyched because Daisuke Matsuzaka was making the start. We got into the park just as Julio Lugo was taking the first pitch for a called strike. Just as we got to our seats in section 302, which is in the top deck above the right field bleachers, David Ortiz hit a mammoth shot thought I thought might reach us, but it landed just below us to give the Sox the early lead. Daisuke looked shaky at the start, walked the first two, but settled in to get out of the jam with no runs scoring.

As the trash talk continued among the Ersatz Phillies fans, the Sox tacked on five more runs over the next two innings, including a blast to right by Jason Varitek. Dice-K would up pitching four innings, struck out 7, walked 4, and gave up just two hits, including a two-run shot by Pat Burrell. He was a bit shaky at times, but looked impressive striking out Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The regulars left the game early for the Sox, starting in the second inning, and by the fifth, it was a lineup of guys with numbers in the 70s and 80s who aren't on tomorrow's Opening Day roster. The most interesting thing at the end of the game was a raging fire going on in New Jersey that we could see behind the park (as well as smell).

The Red Sox won, 7-5, to wrap up Spring Training. The trip back to Mahattan was even longer (but quieter as the Ersatz Phillie fans were exhausted from the trip and all the alcohol), as we crawled to the Holland Tunnel and through Lower Manhattan to get back to PT's.

But we all enjoyed the day and loved Citizens Bank Park, which is a tremendous ballpark. (Phillies fans should really enjoy it, after years of suffering with that toilet bowl called The Vet.) But most of all, we were glad to see The $103 Million Dollar Man pitch, live and in person.

The rehearsal is over. Time to play for real.

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