There really is nothing like March in Ft Myers, Florida. My yearly trek to Spring Training is always one of the highlights of the year for Sox Signatures, and this year did not disappoint.
Day 1 One of my favorite parts of htting the minor league fields is when the major league guys come over to get some extra at bats or innings in. Today Junichi Tazawa decided to throw some extra inning and some guy named David Ortiz decided to take some extra at bats. Obviously Papi being there drew a pretty big crowd, not just of fans but almost all the players wanted to see the big guy up close as well. Unfortunately I was not able to get Ortiz, but I did get Tazawa on a 2013 World Series 8×10, as well asChris Young and Sandy Leon as well as a few top prospects such as Anderson Espinoza and Rafael Devers. Hopefully be seeing a lot more from those 2 later in the week. Also got a chance to have a quick chat with Alex Speier from the Boston Globe. Alex was around to watch and evaluate a couple minor leaguers. Have to remember to start bringing stuff with me for my favorite writers/reporters to sign.
Day 2 When I showed up to the field today, all the players were gathered around to see a couple players get their Arizona Fall League Championship rings. Always nice to see these guys have some fun before they are all business out on the fields. Today Ryan Hanigan was down on the minor league side to get some extra at bats in. Was happy to grab him on the game used jersey I brought with me. Have to say he never really seems happy to sign, but he does stop for people so at least he’s nice enough to take the time. I was also able to get another game used jersey signed, this one from relief pitcher Edwin Escobar. The Sox bullpen could always use lefties so hopefully he gets a shot this year. On the field, I got my first chance to see Anderson Espinoza pitch up close and all I have to say is “Wow”. This kid generates all kinds of velocity and is going to be special. Can’t wait to follow along this season. Finally I eventually was able to find Yoan Moncada walking around the fields. He wasn’t in full uniform, so I’m not sure if he’s injured or something, but I was able to get him to sign a ball.
Day 3 Today started off great as in the morning I was able to meet up with pitcher Kevin McAvoy and he had a game used glove and pair of cleats for me. Always love meeting new players and look forward to working with Kevin in the future. Looks like he’ll start in Salem but I’m hoping for a mid-season promotion to Portland. Getting some work on the minor league fields today was Christian Vazquez and Rick Porcello, and John Farrell and Dave Dombrowski were on hand as well to watch the big guys perform. I was able to get Farrell on a 2013 World Series ball and Dombrowski on an 8×10, but Porcello and Vazquez had a cart waiting for them when they were done so they made a quick escape. The day finished with our autograph signing with Mauricio Dubon, but you can read more about that here.
Day 4 BENINTENDI. Sorry, got a little excited there. You may have noticed I hadn’t mentioned the Red Sox #1 draft pick from last year. From day 1 I heard a lot of not too flattering rumors about him. He side paneled all baseballs, wouldn’t sign cards or 8×10’s, and would only sign bigger items (bats, jerseys, etc) if someone else had already signed it and it was going to be a “team item”. From what I’ve seen, most of that is true, but he did sign an 8×10 for me today. Not sure if it was because another player stopped as well and commented on what a great action shot it was, but he signed it! I also got him on a ball as well (and yes, he did side panel). Today was the first day of cuts so a few extra faces were on the minor league side. I was able to get old friend Brian Johnson on a #61 jersey (his rookie number last year), as well as Sam Travis and Henry Owens on baseballs. Tazawa was back on the minor league side so I got a 2013 World Series ball signed by him.
Day 5 Today was a shorter day as I have a plane to catch, but I got a few more Benintendi’s, a few more Espinoza’s, Swihart, Travis and Longhi. Also finally found the Sox new Player Development Consultant Keith Foulke. I got him to sign an 8×10 of the 2004 World Series Sports Illustrated Cover. Hopefully get a chance to run into him a few times this year in Portland and Pawtucket (maybe a signing?!?). Had to cut the day short to make my flight, but if you only read this far to see the grand totals of the week, here you go. Autograph Totals: 15 baseballs, 88 8×10’s, 109 cards, 3 jersey (2 game used), a game used pair of cleats, and a game used glove. And that’s not even including our signing with Dubon! I’d call that a pretty successful week, can’t wait til next year!