Tag Archives: Kevin Youkilis

The Youker Files: A trip to the farmer’s market

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

Somebody once told me that my thick, scraggly beard makes me look like I could be one of those trail-mix-eating, Dharma-bum environmentalists. After a Good Samaritan kindly peeled my tightly wrapped fingers, one by one, off of this person’s neck, I realized maybe the guy wasn’t totally wrong.

Thanks to my stupid thumb (and my recent return to bachelorhood), I’ve got plenty of extra time this summer. I could have sat at home feeling sorry for myself these last few weeks, but watching the guys toiling away for a playoff spot from the sidelines is frustrating enough as it is. And fighting off the temptation to swing a bat (doctor’s orders) is a daily challenge.

Luckily, farmer’s markets offer both an earth-friendly alternative to the wastefulness of supermarkets and also a great way to kill off lazy summer days leading up to night games. On top of that, people always say that mass-produced hummus is filled with so many poisonous toxins and preservatives that you’d be better off letting Julio Lugo cook you a post-game dinner without his washing his hands first.

Keeping all that in mind, I figured it was probably time for me to see what all the hype was about. Earlier this week, the depression of both an empty cupboard and an empty bed became too much to bear any longer. I grabbed the keys to my sports utility vehicle and headed toward the sticks.

I was surprised by the massive amount of people already jockeying for positioning in the parking lot when I arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m. (I could have gotten there a lot earlier, but I got caught up watching The Today Show while ironing some newly washed dress shirts. In the summertime, I have to change shirts a few times each day—otherwise I wind up smelling like a freshly diced Bermuda onion.)

It was already a fairly hot and humid day even for late morning, so I left the engine of my sports utility vehicle running in its parking spot with the air conditioning on full blast. (Again, the heat…) I locked the car using the remote button on the keychain and it felt like everyone at the farmer’s market was staring at me like I had just swung at a pitch in the dirt on a 3-and-0 count.

Flustered by the grisly stares, I accidentally threw away my keys along with the Styrofoam coffee cup and crumpled paper wrappers that had encased my Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwich. I practically had to stick my entire arm into the parking lot dumpster to retrieve my keys out of the garbage, which smelled like a dead elephant had been stuffed with rotten vegetables and fed to Godzilla for his final meal before he evacuated all his bowels in the same trash container on the first day of one of those seven-day lemon cleanses. I recoiled and had to hold back several dry heaves.

For some reason, all this reminded me that I was all out of maple syrup, which I like to pour liberally on my challah French Toast. Now, everything would have been fine if they had capped the bottle using a normal twist-off top. But for some reason, the syrup people plugged the top with a flimsy cork-shaped contraption that wound up loosening and allowing most of the syrup to seep out and into my reusable tote bag, which I had originally gotten as part of a free gift package at some Museum of Science exhibit years ago while on a date with my ex-girlfriend.

The bag, which obviously held sentimental value to me, was ruined. Worse yet, when the syrup began dripping down my leg and onto my brand new Nike sneakers, the people at the stand gave me a look like I deserved all that was coming to me.

I could feel a burst of anger rising from deep within. I wanted to pick up a ball of fresh mozzarella and throw it as hard as I could at the large sign advertising farm-raised salmon. The soft, drippy cheese would have made a satisfyingly awesome mess. But, as always, I kept my emotions in check and moved on.

To replace my now ruined Museum of Science tote bag, I purchased a handmade sack that I could tell was at least 75% burlap even though the lady who made it claimed it was only 35%. I wasn’t in the mood to argue by this point, so I paid the lady $25 and moved on.

I had piled no more than 15 organic tomatoes into my new tote when the bottom stitching gave out. I couldn’t believe it. Dirtied and befouled from rolling on the grass, the tomatoes were inedible and I left them on the ground fertilizer to the barren, sun-scorched earth. For good measure, I ripped the remaining burlap stitching apart a la the Incredible Hulk, took a Sharpie out of my pocket, signed my autograph on each of the pieces and handed them to some frightened-looking children. (I think they may have gotten lost looking for the sugar-free candy booth.)

I was quite fed up by this point and it was clearly time for me to leave the farmer’s market. I decided to get some homemade gelato on my way back to my sport utility vehicle. Knowing my luck, I made sure to take a hefty supply of napkins (maybe 25 or 30, tops) with me in case the gelato began to melt down my whole-grain waffle cone. I ate the gelato as quickly as I could as the humidity seemed to instantly turn my cone into a dripping, liquid mess. Luckily, my napkins contained most of the mess and I only got a couple of drips on my white shirt. (Unfortunately, I have since learned that dried raspberry gelato is very difficult to wash out of synthetic cotton.)

I’d rate my overall experience at the farmer’s market as no higher than a C or C-plus. Oh well, I guess all-natural sweeteners, home-made berry jams, hand-churned dairy products and gluten-free pasta aren’t for everybody. I’ll try anything once, but on my way home from the farmer’s market, I bought enough Celeste frozen pizzas to last me until the end of the Mayan calendar. I have a feeling the zesty four cheeses of Mama Celeste will do just fine in providing me all the nutrients I need to come back strong and healthy in 2011.

The Youker Files: 4th of July Fireworks Safety Tips

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

Setting off fireworks is a part of Americana that I’ve always truly enjoyed. The anticipation of a lit fuse, the loud explosions, the high-pitched whistle of a fiery projectile shooting into the evening air en route to illuminating the sky with smokey color. I take a childish delight in the whole scene.

We were lucky enough to have this past Memorial Day off this year–the Monday breaking up our homestand against the Royals and Athletics. So I figured I’d take advantage of this blessing from the scheduling Gods and have a barbecue at my home in a nearby Boston suburb.

Honestly, what BBQ is complete without fireworks? To honor our veterans, I decided to have a buddy go up north to the New Hampshire border and purchase a very large amount of explosives to set off in my backyard once dusk rolled in.

I’ve gotta say, the idea seemed pretty flawless at the time. But I did learn some valuable lessons about the proper usage of fireworks that I hope everyone will keep in mind this weekend as we celebrate the Independence Day of our great nation.

Rule 1: Stay back
I guess we can all learn something from Dustin Pedroia, who got his own foot a bit too close to his own Laser Show for his own good out in San Francisco. In all seriousness, once a firework is lit in your vicinity, get out of the way immediately. Fuses require differing lengths of time to burn through and just because your M-80 doesn’t fire out of its launch pad immediately doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get a closer look to see what’s going on.

Rule 2: Watch your aim
Don’t point your fireworks at other people. Don’t point your fireworks at other houses. Don’t point your fireworks in any direction which might have flammable substances or wooded areas. This might seem like a no-brainer to most people. But I’ve actually been hit in the head by several ill-fated bottle rockets. Those things can come at you quicker than any line drive down the third base line and they can leave more permanent marks than just a baseball-sized bruise.

Rule 3: Wear protective armor
I know, I know. You probably think you’ll look ridiculous wearing a helmet, safety goggles and a non-combustible jumpsuit, but just pretend you’re stepping into the batter’s box against Joba Chamberlain after he’s been drinking heavily. Do you really want to risk a fast-moving projectile speeding at your head so quickly that you only have a split-second to react?

Rule 4: Be patient
I haven’t always exhibited the same amount of patience in my fireworks escapades as I usually do during at-bats. I like buying a lot of different types of fireworks, loading my mortar up with several explosives and setting them off at the same time. But the risks of haywire aren’t always worth the reward. Rather than trying to impress your barbecue guests by lighting 10 projectiles at the same time, set off your M-80s and Roman candles one after another and just enjoy the experience. It’s pretty embarrassing when all your friends leave your house early because you thought it would be cool to try to light your whole arsenal with a blowtorch.

Well, I hope these safety tips are helpful. An amateur fireworks show can be one of the most absolutely awesome forms of entertainment, but unlike baseball, injuries can only be avoided by using common sense. Stay safe on the Fourth, everybody.

MLB Should Consider Eliminating Pitcher Position By Placing Baseballs on Tees

The pitchers have become too good. The hitters have become too patient—all too willing to strike out or take walks in pursuit of the perfect home run pitch. Meanwhile, the fast-paced athleticism required in football continues to present a formidable challenge to baseball’s distinction as the national pastime.

It is high time baseball hit back, so to speak. It is time to increase the action and make the game manlier and more entertaining to a wider range of fans.

It is time to let hitters hit off tees and eliminate the effeminate motions of modern pitchers’ deliveries.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci danced around the solution in a recent essay:

“…we are missing an essential part of the game’s allure and romance: the crack of the bat. You hear it less and less in today’s game. Hitting and pitching have evolved in ways that mean the baseball is put into play less frequently than ever before.”

Sure, the league could legislate that young players must be instructed to be less selective at the plate, thus eliminating what Verducci calls the modern hitter’s maddening “passive/aggressive pursuit” during “a game of attrition.”

Basically, today’s ballplayers are a bunch of contact lens-wearing dandies overly concerned with exercising plate discipline, making pitchers tired and winning a bunch of baseball games.

Verducci points to Red Sox hitters as some of the worst offenders of Mark Bellhorn’s disease:

Some teams, such as the particularly influential Yankees and Red Sox, are especially patient. The Red Sox, for instance, in April chose not to swing at 41 percent of pitches that actually were in the strike zone.

Pitchers could be forbidden from throwing the Devil’s fastballs otherwise known as the “cutter,” a pitch that some of Verducci’s sources (the Yankees hitting coach) have blamed for the decrease in balls put in play and thus the pleasing crack-of-the-bat sound in ballparks. However, the rule would be difficult to police due to the large room for interpretation and potential grip modifications that could be employed to get around any newly implemented rules.

A tee is really the only way to make the game more interesting while also keeping it fair. On top of all that, cumbersome statistics such as pitch counts and pitch F/X data would be a thing of the past.

For their part, players asked about the debate in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park were skeptical.

“I’d stare at it for a few minutes to see if it fell off the tee, but I guess eventually I’d swing at a baseball if it were set on a tee,” said Marco Scutaro, who was 13th in the American League in pitches per plate appearance in 2009 (4.07).

“Other guys on this team might be a bit more stubborn, though. Do you really think J.D. Drew or Kevin Youkilis would swing at a ball just because it happened to be placed on a tee in front of him? Those dudes are so stubborn I bet they wouldn’t swing the bat for a month just on general principle.”

The Youker Files: A Day on the Links

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

I don’t play much golf during the baseball season. I’ve found that angrily impaling an oak tree with the head of a nine iron can have devastating effects on my contact rates at the dish. Plus, I always wind up getting paired with Dustin Pedroia, who has never shared company in a tee box with a back-swing he didn’t want to sabotage by mumbling some off-color vulgarity.

When Dustin told me he was heading out one morning for an early round at a local country club near Fort Myers, my first instinct was to tell him to find somebody else to tolerate the childish taps from his putter on their undercarriage while trying to line up a 35-footer.

But then I got to thinking: The regular season was about a week away and my chances for a leisurely day on the links were about to become almost nonexistent for the next six-plus months.

I really don’t know what got into me, but the next thing I knew Dustin and I were teeing up a 380-yard par 4 with a dog-leg left on a private course near Fort Myers. Well, my first drive off the tee sliced dog-legged right and out of play. I rained blows on the first of many garbage cans that day. In the process, I broke the graphite shaft of my favorite TaylorMade driver, leaving me with just 10 back-up drivers for the remaining 17 holes. I knew I would have to be more careful.

The first few holes went relatively well after that. I was shooting a 39 heading onto the fifth–an elevated par 3 with a small swamp on the left and sandy desert on the right. I lofted what I thought was a brilliant shot with my seven iron. But the ball got caught in the wind and briefly hung onto the edge of the left-side rough before kicking out to the muddy edge of the drink.

I was able to identify my ball (I only play with Nike 2s) amongst several Titleists that some of the less adventurous golfers had abandoned in favor of taking drops on drier land. Maybe I should have done the same. But at that point, I was still on pace for my handicap and didn’t want to waste a stroke by taking a drop. Plus, I was wearing some old baseball cleats from last season (I hate the feel of golf shoes), so I didn’t see much harm in getting them a bit dirty by stepping into the swamp. What I didn’t realize was that a rather large alligator had somehow found his way into the water.

As I was lining up my shot, I caught a glimpse of the ugly gator’s open mouth surging toward my leg. My vain attempts to shoo him away with my wedge only enraged the creature further and it was then that I had regretted tuning out Mike Greenwell a few years ago when he gave the team a primer on alligator wrestling techniques during spring workouts. Back in 2005, his tips seemed overly complicated and pretty unnecessary. But I guess even in this new, rejiggered economic world, subduing alligators is a valuable survival skill.

Anyway, the gator took a pretty good chunk of meat off the back of my leg and I probably woke up some people in the nearby nursing home with my wrenching screams of agony. Its clenched teeth gripped my leg with excruciating force. Luckily, Dustin had a butterfly knife in his golf slacks and he was able to dart the blade between the reptile’s eyes to kill it. The effort was heroic even if rolling to the ground while making the throw seemed a bit unnecessary.

I wrapped my wound with gauze and ate a hot dog as we made the turn to the back nine. I was off my handicap but still shooting a respectable 68. Even better, I had only broken three drivers and thrown a couple of irons into the water. My only concern was that bending my putter shaft over my thigh after five-putting the ninth hole forced me to play the last half of the course using a three iron as a putter.

The back nine wasn’t all that eventful. Some hack’s stray approach shot hit me in the ear as I was lining up a putt on the 10th green, a pelican pooped on my head somewhere on the 12th fairway, I flipped our riding cart over on a sharp turn and saw some things in the 16th hole’s port-a-potty that will haunt my dreams. But that was really about it.

When it was all over, I was happy to wind up shooting a 129. Golf isn’t my best sport, but I think once I retire I could probably get pretty good at it and maybe join the PGA tour. We’ll see what happens, though. It’s tough playing with buffoons like Dustin. Don’t get me wrong, I love him as a teammate on the diamond. But golf is a game that requires a certain amount of social grace that Pedey just doesn’t seem to have. I don’t need someone calling me an “ugly Sally” every time I shank a drive and barely clear the women’s tee box.

Well, that’s all I got for now. I can’t wait to be back in Boston to start the regular season. In some strange way, I think the round of golf may serve as a good omen for 2010. After Dustin killed that alligator on the 5th hole, I pulled out one of its teeth and will wear it around my neck for luck. That bastard didn’t know who he was messing with.

The Youker Files: An Evening at The Nutcracker

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

Going to a ballet probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for celebrating being recently named the 2009 winner of the Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award as Red Sox Most Valuable Player.

For one, as much as I appreciate the recognition, the tired postseason routine of doling out awards like Gold Gloves and MVPs seems so arbitrary and trite. Secondly, I’ve found that ballets and other dramatic performances of the arts often take place in old, musty theaters with cramped seating plans designed to accommodate smaller-framed folks of centuries long past. (This is especially true in an older city like Boston, but I’ll get to that in a few minutes.)

Anyway, when my wife Enza surprised me with tickets to a matinee performance of Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Opera House this past Sunday, I stoically took my ticket and hid my pained facial expressions like any slugger would after taking a hard fastball off the shoulder blade.

The day started off innocently enough. The foul weather made it especially easy to find a parking spot just off the Common right near the Opera House on Washington Street. It took us only a few minutes to walk from the car to the building.

The first sign of trouble came as we approached the large group of people bottle-necked into a chaotic hoard, awaiting entrance into the theater. Back at home, Enza had told me I should dress up since we were going to the ballet, but I took a look around and realized I was comically overdressed. I tugged at my tight, constraining bowtie and tried not to look too enviously at the other men around me who were outfitted in loose-fitting V-neck sweaters.

The line was impossibly slow-moving and the early afternoon drizzle peppered my naked scalp with cold winter rain. Having forgotten my hat, I attempted to cover my head with a Sunday edition of the Boston Herald, which did a surprisingly good job of keeping me dry while we waited. Unfortunately, holding the paper over my head exposed the right side of my body to the pointy elbow of a fur-coated socialite who clearly had no regard for anyone around her. She pegged the side of my gut so hard that she knocked the wind out of me and left me gasping for air.

This was a minor inconvenience compared to when my wife and I got to our row and I realized that I would have to sit with my knees together and angled to one side just to fit into the seat. I overheard someone beside us mention that the Opera House had recently been refurbished, but whoever was in charge of modernizing the seating plan ought to be fired. My back has been freaking killing me since Sunday and I know it was because of those seats.

Perhaps worst of all, though, was that my finely knit, specially-fitted white collared shirt was ruined after being drenched in the blood that gushed from my nose after it was hit with a slipper that one of the Sugar Plum Fairies somehow kicked off her feet amidst one of the show’s more elaborate dance numbers at the beginning of Act 2. It was at that point that I rued Enza’s propensity to seemingly always get her hands on the choicest seats for such events. This is one time when I would have gladly traded our front center orchestra seats for a spot in the second-level mezzanine.

My nosebleed did not fully subside until the end of the Russian dance–by which time I was thoroughly flustered by the commotion of having to rush up the aisle and into the men’s room in search of paper towels. The choke-hold of my double-knotted bowtie only made matters worse. Dizzied from a shortage of blood circulation to my head, I returned to my seat and did my best to ignore the subtle instrumental flaws that were evident in the orchestration of the Waltz of the Flowers. On the plus side, the footwork of the kids who played Fritz and Clara would have made Mike Lowell and Adrian Beltre blush.

Getting out of the Opera House at the end of the performance was a predictable nightmare. The heelprint marks left by the scurrying patrons will need to be buffed out of my wing tips before I can ever wear them again and I eventually wound up cutting the bowtie off my neck with a pair of scissors after trying to undo the knot for 15 minutes.

All in all, I must say I enjoyed taking a break from my offseason workout routine to do something with both seasonal and cultural relevance with my wife. This time of year, you’ll do just about anything you can think of to break the monotony of winter–even if it means getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker did a great job of taking my mind off baseball for a few hours. Then again, I do remember wondering whether Adrian Beltre would have caught that ballet slipper in his soft, soft hands before it had a chance to hit him in the nose.

The Youker Files: My visit to Disneyland

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

For starters, let me just say that I’m not much of a theme park guy. But we had a couple of days to kill in Anaheim before Thursday’s opening game of the ALDS against the Angels. The baseball playoffs are always nerve-wracking and as a player you’ll do anything to keep yourself on an even keel.

Under normal circumstances, I’d just blow off some steam and hit a few buckets of balls at a local driving range. But a couple weeks ago, someone lost grip of their driver and the club boomeranged out and flew into my post, striking me in the side and bruising my ribs. Ever since then, I’ve been reluctant to return to the links.

At any rate, October isn’t one of Disneyland’s peak seasons, but for whatever reason the park was packed the day I decided to visit. Little, punk kids were running around everywhere and I had to swat them away like gnats buzzing around my head during a humid summer night in the Fens.

The entryways to all the popular rides (Matterhorn Bobsleds, Big Thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean) were more crowded than South Station on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was horrible.

At one particularly vexing point as I first entered the gates, a herd of truant second graders damn near trampled me to the ground as I tried to make my way toward a concession stand to purchase a sno cone. The stream of bodies collided with me with such force that I was pinned back against a brick wall and the ham sandwich in the front pouch of my Camelhump backpack was irreparably destroyed, crushed.

Already hungry and distraught, I was able to summon the patience to line up for the Space Mountain roller coaster. I waited about an hour and ten minutes only to be disappointed by the ride’s relative lack of speed and imagination as compared to Disney World’s version.

Making matters worse, I was forced to sit next to a heavy-set woman who repeatedly hit me in the face with her chunky left elbow as she raised and lowered her arms in delight. As I exited the ride, I hit my forehead on the restraint bar that did not rise to the proper height to let me safely get out of my seat.

Determined to salvage the afternoon, I bought an ice cream sandwich to hold to my head to reduce any swelling and ate some fried dough and a jambalaya chicken sandwich. Feeling better, I decided to wait in a short line for the tea cups.

I learned the hard way why the line was so short for the tea cups. After exiting the heinous five-minute spinfest, I threw up the entire contents of my stomach all over a nice family of Canadian tourists. It was truly awful and I promised to mail Jason Bay autographed jerseys to all six members of the family.

After the puking incident, I decided it would probably be best to stay off roller coasters for the rest of the day. I found what appeared to be a lovely garden-themed retreat that was reasonably empty and free of long lines and screaming children.

I sat myself down on a bench and enjoyed a brief moment of relaxation before feeling a sharp, stinging pain at the back of my neck. A bumblebee had apparently flown out of a nearby flower bud and caught me at a moment of vulnerability. Irritated, I swatted at the bee, which was a mistake. The vengeful bee circled around and gave me a second sting on the inside of my elbow.

Suppressing groans of agony, I kicked at a nearby trash can in frustration at the immense feeling of pain. Still flailing around, I somehow managed to slam my funny bone into the wooden corner of the bench and a numb shot of pain reverberated up and then down my arm.

At this point, I was in an excruciating amount of distress and decided it would be best to leave Disneyland. I was able to make my way back to the team hotel with minimal additional damage. (I rolled my ankle getting out of the cab and my pant leg briefly got caught in the hotel’s automatic doors, but I took full BP the next morning and felt good as new.)

Frankly, I’m not sure if I’ll be going back to Disneyland any time soon. The rides are outdated, the food was subpar and the facility’s infrastructure does not seem to be able to accommodate the high volume of visitors. Needless to say, Disneyland certainly proved a righteous test of patience and self-restraint.

As for this playoff series against the Angels, everyone in the league knows I don’t hit sliders too well. But John Lackey and Jered Weaver are loathe to throw theirs for strikes consistently and I plan to inflict enough damage on offense over the next couple of games to assure we don’t have to come back to this godforsaken hellhole again until next season.

Local man would sleep with Heidi Watney

CARVER, Mass. — In a small, working class town known mainly as the pimple on the hindquarters of Plymouth county, the early morning sun beats down onto the pale green vines that lay flat over one of Francis Flynn’s many cranberry bogs.

Sheared wooden stems protrude from the green expanse, top-layered with vines cut dead under one of Flynn’s tractors last fall—days after the final out was recorded in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in Tampa Bay.

After a brutal winter of ice, snow and sleet pelted, submerged and suffocated Flynn’s precious beds—on which cranberries will soon sleep—weeks of work are in store in order to prepare the fickle peat at the bottom of these marshy bogs before they are ready to reap a harvest of oblong diuretic red pellets. Tractors need to be serviced; weeds must be removed; beds must be fertilized. With his main assistant in court this morning after picking up a DUI early Saturday morning, Flynn, 38, is left to fend for himself on this chilly Monday morning.

Yet, gazing out over his bog while taking a long, deliberate swig of his 32-ounce Honey Dew coffee, Flynn only wants to talk about one thing.

“I would do Heidi Watney,” he says of NESN’s on-field reporter, when asked about the Boston nine’s prospects for the upcoming season. “I just want to get that outta the way right now. Anybody who the Captain would do, I would do. It’s as simple as that.”

After falling one game short of the World Series last fall, it appears Watney’s second year as team reporter will be a major storyline this spring and perhaps beyond as fans increasingly embrace her presence and impact on the team. Yet with the season opener closing in fast, it is a storyline that has fallen by the wayside.

“I was down at Sullivan’s Tap before the B’s game the other night. All anyone could talk about was ‘Tek’s ballpark adjusted OPP (sic), negative age 35-plus career arcs and batting average on balls put in play. I’m sick of talking about last year,” says Flynn. “The handwringing over offensive production? I don’t know, that ship sailed for me a long time ago.”

When Baseball Prospectus came out with its annual season projections in early February, Flynn admits being surprised there was no projection of “games worked” for Watney similar to the plate appearance forecasts BP provides for individual players. Once he took a closer look at the BP projections, however, Flynn put the omission into context.

“They (BP) got Youk batting .270 and Ortiz driving in only 89 ribs?,” he says. “Obviously anybody who thinks Lowell’s only gonna hit 15 dongs isn’t too much of an expert.”

He defers when asked to give his take on the durability questions about David Ortiz and Mike Lowell heading into the season. Indeed, other than his cranberry bogs, only one thing seemed to be on Flynn’s mind as spring training nears its conclusion.

“That kind of dirty blond hair and blue eyes? The sleeveless tops she wears on those hot, humid days at the park…Yeah, I’d say I’m a fan.”

The start of a Red Sox season is always exciting, especially for fans curious about the assimilation of key figures in the clubhouse. For younger prospects and rising stars, the sophomore season’s success or failure has become a cliché in itself.

“You look at a guy like Youk in 2005 or Dustin last year…the second full year in the league is always a big leap,” Flynn asserts. “I’m worried she may get a little too comfortable after last year. I hope she got some new outfits…”

Because of Watney’s late start last season (she did not begin reporting on games until May), the case can be made that this year will be more challenging as she attempts to prove she can survive a full season’s workload.

“She’s kind of like the guy who’s only had a few hundred at bats,” Flynn says. “The sample size may not be big enough yet to prove she’s the real deal. Like I said, though, I would do her. I’m a big fan.”

For lifelong Red Sox fans like Flynn, staying power is an important attribute for the on-field reporter position. The organization has become increasingly frustrated at what has become, in recent years, a turn-style spot in the order akin to shortstop. While the able-bodied Tina Cervasio was a solid temporary solution, her advanced age and fleeting dedication to the job motivated the Red Sox to find a younger, rising star who they could groom in their own image.

And for salt-of-the-earth fans like Flynn, Cervasio’s married status was somewhat unbecoming of an on-field reporter.

“Watching baseball has to be about more than just pitching, hitting and defense. I like seeing women on TV who I have a chance with,” says Flynn. “If I want to look at a girl I can’t sleep with, I’ll flip over to one of those MTV reality shows and pretend the flicker is acting up if my wife comes into the den.”

Count Flynn among the many Red Sox fans who believe NESN should televise more spring training contests in Florida. The station will air a total of nine games over the course of six weeks as the team prepares for the regular season.

“It’s really not enough for fans like me. I’m a diehard and after a 12-hour day out on the cranberry bog, all I want to do is crack a cold one and watch Heidi.”

Flynn also raised his concern that less televised games in March means Watney will be shaking off any residual rust at the beginning of April.

“If she’s bumbling around out there like Dustin in April 2007, they’re going to regret it.”

With this warning, Flynn reinserts his new camouflage Red Sox ‘hanging sox’ logo cap onto his head and excuses himself, heading back to his toolshed. He has fields to sow and his musings have left him behind on the day already as the 7 a.m. sunbeams have risen their way over the oak trees that surround Flynn’s bogs. If the weather cooperates and Flynn does his job right, his plants will yield red, pick-able berries in early October. The Red Sox may very well be in the playoffs by then. But all that is a long away for Flynn. The early spring preparation process must go on and the tail end of winter just got a little warmer for Flynn as he returns to work, thinking of easy-going summer nights.