Boston College players work out at the Boston Red Sox training facility in Ft. Myers, Fla., prior to their exhibition game with the Sox earlier this month. (Photos by Brita Meng Outzen)
A 'Great Game' for BC's Boys of Spring
The score doesn't matter at the Eagles' annual exhibition match against the Red Sox
By Reid Oslin
An annual rite of spring at Boston College, the Eagles' exhibition baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Florida, is a popular event for alumni and an unforgettable experience for BC's student-athletes.
More than 300 Boston College alumni - most of whom spend the winter months in Florida - attended this year's game on March 3 at the Red Sox' venerable spring training stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., where swaying palm trees line the outfield fence.
The Sox, as expected, won the game 10-0, but the scoreboard numbers failed to convey the enthusiasm of the BC followers or the excitement among the Eagle players that was generated by this special game on the Boston College schedule.
"This has proved to be one of our signature events," said Acting Alumni Association Executive Director Peter McLaughlin '59, who presided over a pre-game barbecue for graduates and their families. "It's a tradition that was started about 10 years ago by John Harrington [a 1957 BC grad who served as CEO of the Red Sox] and the Yawkey Foundation, and it sets a very nice tone for the great number of alumni that we have here in Florida. This is just a great event for us."
McLaughlin, a former player for the baseball Eagles of the late 1950s, threw out the first pitch of the game, a low floater that was scooped up by Red Sox catcher Josh Bard.
Chris Heaslip '86, president of the Southwest Florida alumni club, agrees with McLaughlin's assessment of the event. "For those of us in South Florida, this is our 'opening day,'" he said. "BC people in Florida just bristle with anticipation for this event every year. It's fantastic," Heaslip said, as he watched the game from the sun-splashed Boston College cheering section behind the first base line.
"I hope that we will keep doing this every year."
Boston College head coach Peter Hughes and Red Sox manager Terry Francona go over the ground rules. Hughes' son Dominic, 4, is just visible below his father.
The Eagles did not find their welcome on the diamond quite as warm as the 80-degree temperature at game time. The BC batters faced Red Sox ace pitcher Curt Schilling, who is attempting to work his way back from an injury-riddled season in 2005.
Schilling struck out the first two BC batters that he faced and allowed only a single base hit in his four innings of work.
BC captain and first baseman Dave Preziosi drew the dubious honor of leading off against Schilling, a hard-throwing righthander. The Sox' ace fired a fastball past him for the first strike, a nasty changeup for the second, and then fanned Preziosi with his trademark high inside heater.
"He was just unbelievable," the graduate student in the Lynch School of Education admitted after the game. "I guess I was trying to hit a home run on that last pitch," he laughed.
BC catcher Jett Ruiz fared a little better at the plate, driving a single to left field in the fourth inning - the only base hit the Eagles managed against Schilling. "He threw me a cutter on the first pitch and I hit it," said Ruiz, a sophomore economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences. "It was really exciting. I'm going to keep that bat forever."
Ruiz, whose parents flew in from the San Diego area to watch him play, also stroked a double late in the game for BC's only other hit against Red Sox pitching.
While the on-field competition might have been intense at times, players and coaches from both teams had an opportunity to swap stories and discuss the finer points of their favorite sport.
"We just wanted to let everyone have a good time," said Boston College head coach Peter Hughes, whose team spent the remainder of spring break playing a series of games in Florida and North Carolina. "A lot of times we can jump start guys for the season when they have some success in this game. We have been able to do that in the past.
"It's a great game for us," Hughes said. "We are lucky to have the Red Sox make it possible."