A night to remember at Fenway ParkTom Brady does it again — and then 'Big Papi' provides the encore
Boston, Mass. — Editor's note: Reade Brower of Camden attended game two of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers Oct. 13 at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass. with his sons, Jesse and Lucas, as well as his sons' friends Noah Burke, Matt Cavanaugh and Miles Davee, all Midcoast natives. The Sox won the game 6-5 in dramatic fashion, and, following a 1-0 victory in game three Oct. 15 in Detroit, lead the seven-game series 2-1.
I suppose the story starts 25 years ago when my middle son, Lucas, was born, but I digress. The past couple of years have been spent saving up Bank of America credit card points and looking for just the right opportunity to use them. When the Red Sox went from “worst to first” this year, that opportunity presented itself.
Taking my boys to a ballgame for their birthday is easy when their birthday falls in early May for my youngest, Isaac, and early June for my oldest, Jesse; but a mid-October birthday game for my middle son, Lucas, can mean only one thing — playoffs!
With that in mind, I was able to get six tickets for game two of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers and an on-field experience for me and the birthday boy.
The “on-field” was pretty cool; watching "Big Papi" David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and the rest of their bearded teammates take batting practice was pretty unique. We were instructed to “stay behind the roped area, not bother the players, and not to put any of the field's dirt in our pockets."
After watching batting practice for a half-hour they hustled us off the field and we were left looking for a place to watch the second half of the New England Patriots game. We found a restaurant in the enclosed area of Lansdowne Street where we began the evening with a burger and a beer.
The place was packed with Red Sox hopefuls and it looked like a disappointing ending in Foxborough for the Patriots until quarterback Tom Brady led them back to an improbable game-winning score against the New Orleans Saints — getting three chances in the final three minutes of the game. The touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins ignited the fans and high-fives. Lots of jumping up and down like kangaroos, and hooting ensued. I later read that sportscaster Lou Merloni, a former Sox player, was watching in the concourse with Red Sox fans and had to cover his head with his briefcase to protect himself and his fancy suit from the flying beer!
That football game ending would provide a great appetizer to the Sox game. We found our seats in right field and were astounded with their proximity to the Tigers' bullpen. The Tigers' relief corps was right there and was literally high-fiving fans willing to talk to them. Of note, most of the fans in Section 1, Rows 3 and 4 were more into a little (somewhat) good-natured razzing. The poor Tiger bullpen catcher, Jeff Kunkell, can attest to that.
As for the game, the first six innings were dreadful; the Sox managed just one hit and 13 more strikeouts, which made the line for games one and two something like 15 innings, one hit, and 30 strikeouts for the Beantown boys. The ineptitude was compounding and a 5-0 Tiger lead looked insurmountable when the visitors scored again in the seventh.
Still, the Fenway faithful around us continued to heckle the bullpen and drink beer to keep in good cheer and hope was still a faint whiff in the air. A Pedroia double produced a run in the seventh and a spark of life. Then "Big Papi" struck out to end the seventh as the Tiger bullpen heated up, getting ready to finish off our Sox and put the local team into a 2-0 deficit going to Detroit — not an enviable position.
Then, before the lightning struck, little thunder claps began to echo through the stadium as the bottom of the eighth inning played out. The Sox scratched their way to a bases-loaded, two-out situation with "Big Papi" ready to hit. The Tigers countered with their right-handed closer Joaquín Benoit, instead of Phil Coke, their lefty specialist, who had handled Ortiz in the past.
As Benoit raced out of the bullpen, my son Jesse hollered, “Blow the save." One pitch later, the save was blown as Benoit served up a grand slam into the Sox bullpen, on a play which saw Tiger right fielder Torii Hunter tumble head-over-heels into the pen, which again ignited the Boston crowd into absolute frenzy.
The walk-off single that scored Jonny Gomes, by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the next inning was the icing on the cake as the crowd went berserk, once again, to end a memorable 25th birthday party.
Jesse Brower's thoughts
I've sat just about everywhere short of a toilet at Fenway Park in my years as a fan, however, my seat for Sunday’s game was more unique than I've ever experienced.
We were ticketed for right field Box 1 in the first six seats, which just so happened to be separated from the visiting bullpen by a 100-year-old green metal grate. My dad originally sat down next to it, but he's short and it was obstructing his view so I offered to trade so he could see better. The six inches I have on him made it fine for me, and sat me between the two pitching rubbers and in the ears of the relief pitching staff.
For the first few innings the Tiger bullpen pitchers seemed loose; one made fun of my neighbor's flip-phone, while another saw nothing wrong with chatting with a lovely lady about his facial hair. I was able to engage in brief conversation with the so-called closer, which was incredibly surprising to see him focus on things outside of the game ... but you could tell they were way too comfortable with their five runs and Cy Young pitcher [Max Scherzer] on the hill.
Since I was so close, I kept yelling in things like, "Stay ready, boys!," "Feeling the heat yet?!" and "Pressures on!" as our hopes increased. I even had the opportunity to yell, "YOURE GONNA BLOW IT" to Joaquín Benoit as he entered the game, only to immediately witness him give up a grand slam to "Big Papi" to tie the game in an instant.
The icing on the cake was me calmly repeating, "No pressure, no pressure," to Tiger relief pitcher Rick Porcello as he warmed up to come into the game and give up the walk-off base hit to Salty in the bottom of the ninth inning.