Double-A Portland soaks up Fenway experience
Red Sox No. 7 prospect Cecchini calls Futures game 'appetizing taste'
BOSTON -- Under Fenway Park's famous towering green wall in left field, a crowd gathered near the narrow opening that leads behind the barrier.
Inside the gathering were members of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox's Double-A affiliate, each anxiously scribbling their name among the thousands of signatures that came before, including some from baseball's all-time greats.
The chance to sign the inside of the Green Monster was one of the perks the Sea Dogs enjoyed as part of the eighth annual Futures at Fenway game, in which the Red Sox give their Minor League affiliates a chance to play in the ballpark the players strive to call home one day.
"That's like one of the things you dream of doing," Portland pitcher Keith Couch said of signing the wall. "I saw Ted Williams there keeping track of his home runs there from back in the '50s. I mean a bunch of guys, everyone who has played there. Just to have my name out there now, even if I don't make it I can come to Fenway and hopefully have kids and be like, 'Hey, my name's out there.' It's a cool thing to say."
Behind seven strong innings from Couch, the Sea Dogs played like they belonged in the big league park, cruising to a 5-2 victory over the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
This victory won't likely be one the Sea Dogs forget any time soon. It was many players' first time playing in a Major League park and they made sure to take in the experience. They posed for pictures, savored the feeling of the grass and marveled at the Green Monster.
"This is an exciting atmosphere for these guys and obviously it's where they eventually want to be when it's all said and done," said Portland manager Kevin Boles. "So it's good to get them out in a place where hopefully some of them will end up playing down the road."
Travis Shaw, the Sea Dogs' first baseman, was the offensive star. He totaled three hits in the win, including a home run and a double. Shaw's dad, Jeff, made a habit of playing in Major League stadiums as a reliever for five different teams, and Travis hopes to follow in his father's footsteps.
"This was the first time I've ever played in a big league park and that was just step one," he said. "I got to continue to build off my success and hopefully one day be able to play in the Major Leagues like he did."
But the player who figures to have the best chance to be a regular at Fenway is Garin Cecchini. Ranked the No. 7 Red Sox prospect by MLB.com, the third baseman is batting .331 for Portland and has knocked in 14 runs.
Saturday wasn't a banner day for him -- he went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run -- but he called the game an "appetizing taste" of the big leagues.
"It gave me goose bumps," he said of playing at Fenway. "When I walked up to the plate I looked out at Fenway Park, the press box and see all the World Series champion pennant things and the American League champion pennants and you're playing for something more than yourself when you look at that."
Cecchini was noticeably absent from one activity though. He stayed behind while most of his teammates signed the Green Monster.
"Once I make my big league debut, I'll sign the wall," he said.
Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael Periatt. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.