'Futures at Fenway' players scout park
Minor Leaguers get a sneak peek at field before Aug. 11 game
BOSTON -- Justin Masterson was watching from the sidelines at last year's "Futures at Fenway" game when his Lowell teammates caught an opposing Oneonta Tiger in a rundown.
Fenway Park was nearly packed. Masterson, an imposing 6-foot-6 righty with a big sinker -- but at 21, a veteran of nothing more than small-town ball -- listened to the play unfold.
Every time a ball-toting defender closed in on the enemy, 33,394 fans screamed.
"Wooooooooooooo," they droned.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaah," they yelled.
"It was amazing ... everyone in unison," Masterson says. "They did that about three times, and you just kind of looked around like, 'Wow.'"
A Lowell player tagged the offending Tiger.
"And there was just this huge uproar," says Masterson.
If the inaugural 2006 "Futures at Fenway" doubleheader was disorienting for members of the Lowell Spinners and Pawtucket Red Sox, who played separate games of a late-August twin bill, veterans like Masterson, a recent callup for Double-A Portland, can expect more of the same this August.
Fenway is nothing if not visibly imposing. On Monday, three players each from the Portland Sea Dogs and the Spinners, the two teams that will play in this year's "Futures at Fenway" doubleheader on Aug. 11, stood and gawked from the infield as they were introduced to the media in a press conference.
"When you see that big wall in left field, that kind of sticks out to you," says Masterson. "[And] once you step in, and you of course see the enormous amounts of seats that are around -- of course they're empty right now, but just imagine them being filled -- and everything going on, [it's] just a great atmosphere."
Another top pitching prospect in attendance on Monday was the Red Sox first pick in the 2007 Draft, the No. 55 pick overall, left-hander Nick Hagadone, who has not yet seen action in Lowell. His scheduled debut on Sunday was postponed due to rain.
That did not prevent Hagadone from making the meet-and-greet at Fenway on Monday. Any nerves about playing in front of 30,000-plus at Fenway this August?
"I've never really played in front of that many people before," Hagadone says. "But I'm sure once the game gets going, it'll be fine."
Hagadone, a former Washington Huskie who once pitched in front of 10,000 people against Oregon State at Seattle's Safeco Field, told reporters in June that he had never visited the East Coast.
After signing and settling in at Lowell two weeks ago, Hagadone watched a game from the Red Sox owner's box. The only thing that caught him off guard about Fenway: "The size of it."
"Just seeing Fenway up close and seeing how actually small it is," Hagadone says, "I was surprised by that. TV makes it look huge. But I like it, how small this place is. The fans are right on top of the field."
Shortstop prospect Jed Lowrie, a 23-year-old Stanford University product whose grind-it-out hitting approach has earned him comparisons to big leaguers Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar, relished the chance to play at Fenway in August.
"It's such a rich tradition, the history here," Lowrie says. "Even when you just step in the ballpark, you can feel it."
Others in attendance were Lowell outfield prospect Ryan Kalish, an 18-year-old 2006 draftee who has been compared by Lowell manager Gary DiSarcina to his former big-league teammate, Darin Erstad; top pitching prospects and strikeout artists Jose Capellan of Lowell and Michael Bowden of Portland; a medley of Minor League managers and organizational executives; and Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen.
"Here in New England, we do have the luxury of having three teams within pretty easy driving distance," Hazen said. "So I think fans do get a chance to go see some of our affiliates. They get to go see them in Pawtucket. They get to go see them in Portland. They get to go see them in Lowell."
"I think the important part," said Hazen, referencing August's "Futures at Fenway" doubleheader, "is that it's for the players."
"You know, the Minor Leagues can be long," Hazen said. "There's a lot of ups and downs. There's a lot of distractions. There's a lot of obstacles to getting to the big leagues."
"I think this -- walking in here -- puts in perspective why exactly you're doing everything you're doing on a daily basis."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.