The Boston Red Sox first realized they could have a problem on their hands during spring training, when Jed Lowrie had to be disciplined for being late for a team bus after temporarily losing his custom-fit, double-earflap batting helmet.
“Turned out,” says a front-office source speaking on condition of anonymity, “Jed was letting people wear his helmet as they posed for photos and some overzealous fan made off with it. We got it back, eventually, but the damage was done…”
Indeed, that day set a tone that has resonated like a six-game losing streak.
Twitter hashtagging weirdos and traditional plant-crouching stalkers alike have taken to Lowrie Mania over the first two weeks of the season, prompting the team to hire a team of private security guards to monitor his well-being around the clock.
Team officials believe his torrid start to the 2011 season has effectively fanned what were once mere embers of admiration from a small subset of fans to the present forest fire of obsession that is tearing its way through Red Sox Nation.
While numerous Red Sox have stumbled out of the gate, Lowrie’s batting average is nearly 250 percentage points higher than his career rate. Meanwhile, his slugging percentage is similarly through the roof, particularly for a utility infielder.
Add it all up and the recipe is set for disaster.
The team had initially dealt with the crisis by forbidding Terry Francona from starting Lowrie more than twice per week. But with the team reeling out of the gate, it needs Jed Lowrie more than ever.
“It’s such a large fanbase so the odds are against collective sanity,” said the front-office source. “I know this sounds terrible, but we always root against a guy getting off to a start like this because it really can be pretty dangerous.”
Meanwhile, even the small-time, proverbial “fanboy” blogs seem to be inexplicably entranced by Lowrie’s gravitational pull, employing even the minutest development in the man’s life as occasion to write about their hero.
“You know, there’s such a thing as being too polite,” says one club source. “Jed needs to learn how to say no to people…or to at least stop giving out his home address and phone number just because some drunk guy in the third row asks him for it. He thinks everyone wants to be his friend, but some of them just want to say they were the one who locked Jed Lowrie in their wine cellar for a week during his breakout 2011 season.”
As the Red Sox prepare for their second road trip of the season, security officials plan on providing Jed with what they describe as “early 90s New Kids on the Block-level protection.”
Defined, the “New Kids” protection plan includes a special helmet similar to the one Lowrie uses at the plate, only reinforced with barbed wire to protect his scalp from being ripped by fawning hands. (Unlike Adrian Beltre, Lowrie shows no aversion to being patted on the head.)
“Jed Lowrie’s safety is currently our number one priority,” said one security spokesperson. “We are on triple scarlet alert…We’ve stopped wasting our time checking fanny packs on 50-year-old women. We’re just giving them security clearance bracelets and moving on.”
The road trip begins Tuesday in Oakland before moving to Anaheim over the weekend and closing in Baltimore early next week. Red Sox officials are working tirelessly to notify the thousands of fans who had been promised time with Lowrie that their plans cannot be accommodated.
Local artists who are painting portraits of Jed Lowrie, sculpting models of Jed Lowrie, constructing life-size papier-mâché statues of Jed Lowrie or creating so-called “sound wave art” by shouting Jed Lowrie’s name out their windows repeatedly are being asked kindly to cease and desist.