NEW YORK -- After Boston's 5-3 loss at Texas the night before, Adrian Gonzalez got into New York at 5 a.m. ET on Thursday. He had the day off before the next big installment of Red Sox vs. Yankees begins Friday at Yankee Stadium, and at 10 a.m. ET, he walked into the MLB Fan Cave.
By the time he left two hours later, the Red Sox first baseman -- while wearing his jersey -- had hit Wiffle Ball grounders and fly balls to bystanders on Fourth Street outside the Cave, won a game of pool using a rack of Red Sox cue balls, played the four remaining Cave Dwellers in a game of Sony's MLB 12: The Show Home Run Derby using a PlayStation Vita handheld, done planks, put in a word for Red Sox Nation as "great fans" and had more fun than the average sleepy person.
"I try and get a little bit of time in here at the Cave," Gonzalez said. "It's awesome. First time here, it's a lot of fun. Everybody that's here always has a good time."
This is the not-always-routine life of a Major League Baseball star, or at least one who is a cover boy for a major video game. MLB 12: The Show tents were set up out front as fans tested out the game all day, and Gonzalez handed out free copies to many of them.
"Absolutely," he said of the strange schedule he sometimes keeps. "Late nights, try to rest, good thing is that we have an off day, so we have a day to rest."
On Thursday, it was all about beating the Cave Dwellers. Ashley Chavez (Giants), Gordon Mack (Phillies), Ricardo Marquez (Angels) and Kyle Thompson (Cardinals) are the last ones left after Ricky Mast was cut a day earlier, and Gonzalez sat on a couch with the quartet and played them for the right to take over the other person's Twitter. Chavez, Marquez and Thompson got to take over @adriangon28, while Gonzalez got to take over Mack's account, forcing the fan to make an "L" sign on his forehead for the tweeted pic .
On Friday, of course, it will be all about beating the Yankees -- beating anyone, really. The Red Sox are five games out of the second American League Wild Card slot, having lost two of three at Texas to begin this six-game trip. Boston is 1-5 against its rival this season.
"Being here in New York, it's always a fun series, a great atmosphere," said Gonzalez, who came into this rivalry just last year. "Just the rivalry, and every game is a playoff atmosphere."
After a rugged first half in which he mustered six home runs, Gonzalez has looked more like his old self lately. He was named the AL's most recent Player of the Week, after batting .429 (12-for-28) with three homers, 12 RBIs and five runs scored in seven games. That week, he was first in RBIs, tied for first in homers, tied for second in hits, tied for third in total bases (21) and tied for sixth in batting average.
Gonzalez went 1-for-11 in the three games at Texas, but he said it feels more like normalcy now.
"Things are getting better," Gonzalez said. "My swing's feeling really good lately, and I'm just trying to continue going. It's a long season, and I'm just trying to finish the last two months on a high note."
He smashed plenty of balls on a cramped Manhattan street. One Yankees fan walked by and said with astonishment: "That's A-Gone!" Meanwhile, Michael Maccarone, 15, was living a dream. He came in from Darien, Conn., wearing a red Gonzalez No. 28 Red Sox T-shirt. Gonzalez was happy to see that and posed with him, then the boy got to hang inside the Cave.
"It was so cool," Maccarone said. "I never expected to see him and I shook his hand -- it was amazing. It was pretty scary being around so many Yankee fans, but he was here so it's OK. I'm surprised that people aren't booing him or anything."
"The people here, everything about it is great, and it was a lot of fun hitting those Wiffle balls on the street and hitting those ground balls to the fans so they were able to win a copy of MLB 12: The Show," Gonzalez said. "It was great. They have plenty of games here, an arcade, fun things to do around here. And on top of it, you get to watch all the games. It's always great."
During the game of pool with the Cave Dwellers, Gonzalez conducted a mini-interview, and they grilled him as well between shots.
Gonzalez: "What are your rules around here?"
Everyone: "Don't break anything, watch baseball, tweet, don't embarrass us, don't fall asleep."
Marquez: "How do you like Boston?"
Gonzalez: "It's a pretty city. Great fans."
Marquez: "Ready for the Yankee series?"
Gonzalez: "Yeah, the Yankee series are always fun."
Thompson: "Who's the best pool player on the team?"
Gonzalez: "Clay Buchholz. Pitchers have a lot of time on their hands."
Gonzalez: "How did you sign up for this?"
Marquez: "We all pretty much entered this contest ..." Then he explained it all.
Gonzalez: "Who's the most homesick?"
Marquez: "Well, if you keep destroying us in pool, maybe I'll be homesick."
At that point, needing only to drop the 8-ball, Gonzalez handed Chavez his cue stick.
"The pressure's on!" she said.
"If she makes this shot, everybody knows that the three of you are the next ones to go," Gonzalez said. Then looking at her, he added: "If you don't make this shot, you're the next one out."
Chavez missed, then squeaked. But she then proceeded to win for Gonzalez. He high-fived Chavez, whose watch-bracelet proceeded to crash to the floor in parts. They went to a back room where Mack balanced the giant bat on his chin, as he often does. Most players just watch, but Gonzalez took the bat and tried it himself. Not a bad rendition.
This was the morning after, or the day before, depending on how you look at it. It remains to be seen if Gonzalez can have this much fun uptown in the Bronx.