Our luck started about 24 hours before the ALDS Game 3 between the Astros and Red Sox.
I had never been to an MLB playoff game, had nothing going on for Sunday, and had been watching ticket prices on re-seller websites for a few days. The lowest prices were generally in the $80 – $90 range, and for standing room only tickets, rather than seats.
I patiently waited until Saturday, when prices started to fall a bit. Early that afternoon, I saw a pair of tickets go up for sale on SeatGeek for $63/each. And they were for actual seats, not standing room only. So I quickly bought the tickets for Sean and me.
It rained steadily for the 2-hour drive to Boston on Sunday morning. We got to Boston around 11:30 am, with gates scheduled to open shortly after Noon, and the game to start at 2:38pm.
We were early enough that we were able to park on the street about a 7-8 minute walk from Fenway. The rain became more of a mist on the walk.
We were among the first hundred people into the stadium. With the rain, there was no batting practice, a major bummer but expected given the weather. Sean had one chance at a warm-up ball used by the Red Sox catchers in the bullpen, but it went to the only other boy in the area. It was not a 2017 Playoff ball, so it was not a huge loss.
We killed time until first pitch by walking around the stadium, visiting the souvenir shop, getting something to eat and taking pictures.
Our seats were in Section 37, essentially under the scoreboard, one row from the top of the stadium.
You’d like to be a little closer to the action, but as small a stadium as Fenway is, the seats were fine.
In the picture above, do you notice the black image in the roof to the left of the home plate facade, almost directly below the “Optum” sign? Here is a close-up:
It is a policeman/sniper. There were four of them, at least that we could see, keeping an eye on nearby buildings. I am sure this was in response to the recent Las Vegas shootings.
There was a nervous energy in the stadium to start before the air was taken out of the stadium with a 3-run Houston top of the first. It nearly became 6-0 in the second if not for Mookie Betts preventing a 3-run homer with a catch at the right field wall.
The Red Sox got one run in the second, and took the lead for good on a Rafael Devers 2-run blast in the third inning. It brought the Red Sox crowd of 38,000 to back to life.
The Sox blew the game open with six runs in the 7th inning, turning the end of the game into a party.
We were enjoying the game, save for the four knuckleheads to our right. In their early 20s, they were on there way to be drunk when they got to their seats just before the game, each double-fisted.
They talked and acted like most drink 20-year olds do, which was less than ideal. If the game hadn’t been packed, I would’ve looked for two seats elsewhere. But that was not really an option with a full house.
Shortly after they came back with two more beers each three innings later, the guy two seats from me passed out. He stayed that way for about an inning, until two security guards came up and made him come to. They told him that if he continued to appear to be passed out, he would be removed. They then left.
So, his friends made him stand up so he wouldn’t get kicked out. He was clearly incapable of standing , and sure enough, he threw up moments later.
Thankfully and somehow miraculously, he didn’t throw up on anyone. But the stench was awful.
I immediately took Sean and headed down to the concession area to get away from the scene. We stayed down there for an inning. When we went back, the guy had been removed. The vomit had been cleaned up, but we still couldn’t sit in our seats due to the residual stench. We had to sit/stand on the top stair between sections 37 and 38 for the rest of the game. It wasn’t ideal, but so it goes.
Before the game, we had scouted the Astros’ bullpen, but didn’t see a lineup card there. We could see one in the Red Sox bullpen.
I had low expectations. One, it was still packed at the end of the game. Two, I didn’t think they would give away the bullpen lineup card, as MLB teams seem to sell anything that is worth something, and I’m sure the Red Sox could sell the bullpen lineup card from an ALDS victory for a few bucks.
But we gave it a shot, getting into a great spot behind the Red Sox bullpen immediately after the final out. I loudly asked bullpen coach Dana LeVangie given the noise in the stadium, and I thought he nodded yes but I wasn’t sure. Half-a-minute or so later, he emerged from the bullpen dugout and handed the lineup card to me. Someone tried to grab it but luckily I got my hands on it first.
Thank you, Dana! Having the Red Sox bullpen lineup card from our first-ever playoff game, and a Red Sox victory, will always be special.
What a way to wrap up the season!
2017: 35 lineup cards (20 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 157 lineup cards (107 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS. MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).
Considering we only made it to five games in May, we did very well to get eight lineup cards.
The highlight was the lineup card from the Boston Red Sox bullpen in a May 27 shutout victory over the Seattle Mariners.
In the four previous games at Fenway in which we had tried for a lineup card, we had always tried the visitors bullpen. The only reason we tried the Boston bullpen in this case was because Mariner bullpen coach Mike Hampton had told me before the game that he keeps his bullpen lineup card.
We also got this interesting “Today’s Lineup” card at the same game.
I was happy to add this Long Island Ducks lineup card with 2003 Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne on it.
The biggest misses of the month? It would have been nice to get Seattle’s bullpen lineup card, but we probably would not have gotten Boston’s in that case, so it’s hard to get upset over that. We had hoped to score a Mariners’ 40th anniversary ball during that game, but never saw any.
I’ll start with the bad news first: Kate and I went to the Mariners at Red Sox game at Fenway yesterday hoping to score a Mariners’ 40th season commemorative baseball. We didn’t get one.
There were reports just a few weeks ago that the Mariners used the commemoratives in BP at Toronto. But earlier this week when Seattle played at the Nationals, none of the ballhawks who posted saw any during BP.
We hoped Seattle would at least have them in their pitchers’ bag. But the half-dozen or so balls we saw come out of the Mariners’ bullpen bag were all ROMLBs, including the ball Kate got after “King Felix” Hernandez finished his bullpen session. So it goes.
Everything else went incredibly well.
One of the neat things about Fenway is that you’ll almost certainly find something you have never seen before if you look closely enough.
Yesterday was no different. While walking through a concourse under the bleachers, I happened to notice a door on it with an 11 x 8.5 removable sign on it in a plastic case next to it. I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, but the door itself said something about only being for authorized personnel such as employees and media. The removable sign next to the door had the schedule for the day, as well as tomorrow’s game. I couldn’t tell if the sign was paper or cardboard because it was inserted into a plastic case.
Long story short, shortly before the game started, we walked back over there and a Red Sox employee came out of the door. I explained that it was Kate’s first Red Sox game at Fenway and if it was OK, we’ve love to have today’s schedule as a souvenir of sorts.
He initially said no, he couldn’t give it to me, so I asked him if there was anyone else I could ask. He said he would check, and went back in the door. After a couple minutes, he emerged with the same version of the schedule that was next to the door.
Here it is, with Fenway in the background:
Very cool, maybe not as cool as a lineup card, but still neat. But what do you call it?
It’s not the first time I have seen one of these. Another ballhawk/blogger has gotten a few at Twins games. He refers to them as Batting Practice Lineup Cards. The Cards he has gotten from the Twins includes the BP hitting groups, so that makes sense to me. But the Red Sox card doesn’t go to that level of detail about BP (for the record, while I like both cards, I like the Twins card better), so I am inclined to call it “Today’s Lineup” card. Whatever the case, it’s cool and we were happy to get one.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and coasted to a 6-0 win. The highlights included Mookie Betts robbing a Mariners player of a home run and Jackie Bradley crushing a two-run homer.
As the game neared it end, we had to decide what we’d try for. Before the game, I had a chance to ask Mariners bullpen coach Mike Hampton for his lineup card after the game. He said that he kept it. So we knew that was out. While we still wanted to try for a Mariners commemorative, we didn’t know if there were any in the bag, and losing the way they were, it was doubtful the Mariners bullpen would be giving away many baseballs.
We thought abut trying for an umpire ball and/or official lineup cards, but it was still so crowded around the dugout area, it was doubtful we could get where we would need to be, and even if we did, there’d likely be several kids with the same idea in mind.
The best option seemed to be to try the Red Sox bullpen for their lineup card. But I have never tried for their card before, nor have I seen it in the bullpen dugout.
Still, it seemed the best bet, even if it might not be a good bet. So we positioned ourselves as close to the Red Sox bullpen as possible for the top of the 9th.
When the game ended, I hustled to the railing behind the Red Sox bullpen dugout. The Red Sox bullpen dugout doesn’t set up nearly as well for seeing into as the visitors bullpen.
I could just about see bullpen Coach Dana LeVangie taking something off the wall, a little ways from where I was, but there was a full line of people along the railing, so I stayed where I was and called out to him. Sure enough, about 15 second later, he appeared out of the bullpen, started walking my way, and handed me his lineup card.
Awesome! It was our first Red Sox lineup card, the fourth MLB team we have gotten one from (Orioles, Rays and Marlins are the others) and seventh overall. We saw in one of the Red Sox souvenir stores that they were selling yesterday’s dugout card for $100. Sure, the MLB dugout cards are much nicer, but I’ll take bullpen one for nothing any day.
2017: 13 lineup cards (5 dugout/bullpen; 7 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 134 lineup cards (92 dugout/bullpen; 39 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)