Lowell Spinners Host Mahoning Valley This Afternoon At Fenway Park

By NoontimeSports.com 

Looking for a way to cap the weekend? Then head over to Fenway Park this afternoon as the historic ballpark hosts the Lowell Spinners, the Boston Red Sox’ Class A Affiliate, who’ll host the Mahoning Valley Scrappers at 3:30 p.m.

According to the Spinners’ website, this will be the ninth time Lowell will be participating in the annual “Futures at Fenway.” The Scrappers, who have also competed in this yearly ritual, will be making their sixth appearance in this particular game.

Admission is $15, which includes the game, as well as post-game screening of “Field of Dreams.” Fans are also welcome to bring their dogs to the ballpark, too.

For more information on the Lowell Spinners, hop here!

Frozen Fenway: Babson Is Primed For ECAC East Tilt With Norwich

By Matt Noonan 

For the second time in two seasons, Jamie Rice will lead Babson’s men’s ice hockey team into Fenway Park on Thursday evening to face-off against ECAC East rival Norwich University.

The Beavers and Cadets met two years ago at Frozen Fenway with Norwich claiming a 4-1 victory.

This time around, both squads will take the ice as ranked units, according to the latest D3Hockey.com poll. Norwich is currently the fifth best team in the country, while Babson is ranked sixth.

Yet, rankings and records aside, Rice is just excited to return to the hallowed grounds where he attended a few Red Sox playoff games last fall.

“We’re just really thankful to the Red Sox and sports management and all the people that made this a reality for us and Norwich,” said Rice. “Coming off a World Series championship, I think the stage is a little bigger.

“Our kids are excited, the families (are getting) excited, but as a program, as a college and as an athletic department, people are talking about it and that’s a good thing.”

Frozen Fenway, which returned for the second time in two years, commenced at the end of December with an Atlantic Hockey matchup between Bentley University and Holy Cross. Since then, the historic ballpark has hosted a variety of college and high school contests over the past few days, including a Hockey East double-header, which featured Merrimack vs. Providence and Boston College vs. Notre Dame.

This year’s Frozen Fenway, though, does features two additional Division 3 matches with UMass Boston taking on Salem State and Williams battling Trinity.

“It’s tremendous,” Rice said when asked about having a few Division 3 contests at Fenway. “I think it’s great for Division 3 hockey and I think it’s great exposure. It does give us an opportunity to kind of be the big boys.”

The Beavers enter Thursday’s contest having won back-to-back games last week over Colby College and Salem State. Babson is currently in second place in their conference and has won 11 of 13 contests this season, including five ECAC East tilts.

Last season, Babson defeated Norwich twice. The Beavers edged the Cadets in their first meeting, 4-1, before earning their second win in the conference championship. Norwich, however, did defeat Babson in the NCAA quarterfinals, 4-0.

On Monday, sophomore netminder Jamie Murray was named the ECAC East ice hockey goalie of the week for stopping 45 of 48 shots in two contests. Senior co-captain Troy Starrett was also honored by being named to the Weekly Honor Roll, and since returning to the lineup, the Bellingham native has notched two goals and three assists.

While Thursday’s game will indeed count in the conference and overall standings, Rice expects his team to not only continue their solid play, but also embrace the opportunity.

“For our kids to be able to play in this game (is) a lifetime memory,” said Rice. “(My players) will go to Fenway for the rest of their lives and say, ‘I played there.’”

Wheaton College To The Texas Rangers: Jared Barnes’ Baseball Journey

Photo Credit: NewEraMLB.blogspot.com

By NoontimeSports.com 

Jared Barnes loves baseball, and like many, he’s pursuing a dream of working in the sport he’s always loved.

Noontime Sports caught up with the former Wheaton College alum recently to talk about his love for the sport, as well as his current journey, which has landed him in Texas with the Rangers as baseball operations intern. Jared was so kind to share his story, along with provide insight on what it’s like to work in baseball, too.

1.) Going way back, way before Wheaton College, what was one of your first and fondest memories about the sport of baseball? Was there a moment from your youth that sticks out?

The first baseball memory that comes to mind for me is always my first trip to Fenway Park with my Dad in July of 1994. We sat five rows directly behind the Red Sox on-deck circle and it was my first real exposure to the game at the highest level. Ever since I think anyone who knows me can attest that baseball has been a pretty big part of my life.

It had always been my hope while growing up to play professionally, but unfortunately for many of us the game ends before reaching that point. Yet, a lot of my family memories are focused around the game of baseball. Family vacations were always spent at my baseball tournaments, and my Dad always devoted a lot of time to helping me workout and get better in the offseason. I had a lot of great experiences playing the game and was able to do so thanks to many sacrifices my parents made.

2.) What are some of your favorite memories about playing baseball for Wheaton College? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were on the team that made it to the World Series in ’06, right?

I was a freshman on the 2006 team that went to the Division III World Series, and baseball-wise it’s tough to top that week. It’s an experience I will never forget and I was really fortunate to come in as a freshman and be a part of that team’s success. That’s something I will always be able to say I was a part of and is pretty special to me. It brought back a lot of memories watching Wheaton’s run to the national title game again this season, and was a really proud moment for a lot of the alums of the program.

Looking back though a lot of my favorite memories are the day-to-day occurrences that are a part of building a team and an identity each year. The bus rides, early morning sprint workouts, and lifelong friendships I formed with teammates are the special aspects of being a student-athlete, and I think anyone that played a collegiate sport misses some of that every day once it’s over.

Continue reading “Wheaton College To The Texas Rangers: Jared Barnes’ Baseball Journey”

Terry Francona: ‘They’re All In For This Year’

Terry Francona still believes the Boston Red Sox have a chance, despite their 52-51 record! (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan for NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Following Monday’s contest against the Detroit Tigers, ESPN analyst and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed his outlook toward the local nine.

“They’re all in for this year,” exclaimed Francona on ESPNBoston.com. “With the payroll they have, the players they have, they have to try and win. That’s the way they’re geared, [and] their fans won’t let them do anything different.”

The Sox have won three consecutive contests, but remain locked in fourth place in the American League East. They’re eight and a half games behind the New York Yankees, as well as four games behind Oakland for the Wild Card.

However, despite the distance between them and New York and Oakland, Francona believes that their current winning streak may be exactly what Boston needs to propel them toward the playoffs.

“This is the timing. They’ve got nine more games left at home, they’ve finally fought their way over .500, they need to stay there and gain some ground,” added Francona.

Boston is 26-28 at Fenway Park this season, and will attempt to continue their current trend for the next few days against Detroit, Minnesota and Texas.

Question of the Day: Do You Believe In The Red Sox?

By Matt Noonan 

OK… OK…OK… After Friday’s awful performance against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox currently reside in the American League East basement. They’re 49-51 overall, and have lost seven of their last 10 games.

If they’re going to make a so-called, “run,” they’ll need to win at least 42 games to conclude the season with 91 wins. Yet, can they do it? Do you believe in this team? Does this team have what it takes to earn a Wild Card spot in the American League?

Post your thoughts below or continue the conversation on Twitter (@NoonSportsBlog) or Facebook (Facebook.com/NoonSports).

The Grass Really is Greener on the other Side…

By Andy Lindberg

I love adventures, and any time I can couple an adventure with sports, it is the peak of the mountain for me.  This past week I decided to take an adventure to the West Coast, a place I had never even been close to.  From Sunday night, July 15 through Saturday night, July 21, I was in Oakland, CA devoting my time to rolling through the ‘hood and going to Oakland Athletics games.  I went to five A’s games, to be exact.

It didn’t take long for me to become enthralled with the atmosphere in the concrete monolith known as O.co Coliseum.  Never drawing large crowds, the passion for A’s baseball in Oakland is surprisingly palpable, made all the more entertaining for me by the fact that three ex-Red Sox make up the heart of the batting order.  Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and a resurgent Brandon Moss have become starting-nine staples on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

Brandon Moss has hit a single season high 11 home runs since joining Oakland

I was not once bored with watching the 2012 Athletics.  They’re exciting, likable, and can they ever come up with timely hits.  To this point in the season, the Oakland A’s have 11 walk-off hits.  Brandon Hicks and Brandon Moss both had walk-off hits (a home run and a single, respectively) while I was in O-Town.  For a team that is 51-44 on July 24, tied with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim (STILL the most absurd name in baseball) for the second AL Wild Card spot, the A’s sport a league-worst .228 batting average.  They are 27th in RBI with 344 and their batters have struck out 764 times, ninth most in baseball.

So why, pray tell, are the A’s a winning baseball team tied for a playoff spot in late July with a total payroll of  $54.5M?  The Red Sox are four games out of a wild card spot, yet have committed $173.2M to a team with a losing record (48-49) on July 24.

Along with timely hitting, the A’s have shown they can pitch, and pitch very well with young arms and an established bullpen.  Pitching wins, and it shows in Oakland and allows the A’s lineup to come up with timely hits and ease the pressure off of struggling hitters.  The A’s are fourth in baseball with a 3.37 ERA.  They have only allowed 769 hits (good for 4th in baseball), have only allowed 321 earned runs (also tied for 4th), have only allowed 77 home runs (good for sole possession of 4th), and have a WHIP of 1.23 (good for 3rd in baseball).  The A’s once again have a stockpile of young talent at the starting pitching position.

Twenty-five-year-old Tommy Milone is 9-6 with a 3.34 ERA and a 120 ERA+ (an ERA+ above 100 is considered above average).  Twenty-three-year-old Jarrod Parker is 7-4 with a 3.00 ERA and 133 ERA+.  Brandon McCarthy and Travis Blackley are both having exceptional years and 25-year-old Ryan Cook is enjoying his first All-Star season in the bullpen.

So what have the A’s done differently than Boston in order to win so much with a payroll roughly $120M LESS than the Red Sox’?  First and foremost, even with limited funding, the A’s have not pursued overhyped free agents nor have they committed to trading away young talent under team control for “win-now” rental players.

I think back on Theo Epstein’s tenure in Boston and yes, the man helped build a two-time World Championship team, but many of the moves he made were, for lack of a better word, atrocious.  Free agent pickups like Julio Lugo and John Lackey were and have been miserable.  One of the worst trades I can remember was trading outfielder David Murphy for Eric “Going, Going” Gagne in 2007.  Since 2007, Murphy has hit .280 in six years with Texas along with a .343 OBP and 106 OPS+ (again, above 100 is above average).  He has 66 home runs and 48 stolen bases.  After the trade, Murphy batted .343 for Texas for the rest of 2007.  Eric Gagne, however, went 2-2 for Boston with a 6.75 ERA in 20 games and was, mercifully, not a postseason-ender that year.  Carl Crawford is yet to be determined, but with how this season has gone and with rumors of Crawford being shopped for Hanley Ramirez, we can chalk that up to another poor Epstein move.

This offseason the A’s swapped outfielder Ryan Sweeney and closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox for outfielder Josh Reddick, a player I was screaming to keep knowing Crawford might not be 100% and also having that right-filed slot open.  To this point in the season Andrew Bailey hasn’t pitched in the big leagues due to a thumb injury and Ryan Sweeney has batted .267 with no home runs and 14 RBI.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, Josh Reddick has been taking baseballs to Pound Town.  While batting .271, Reddick has super-smashed 21 home runs and 19 doubles to go with 46 RBI.  Hmm, I see a discrepancy in production from Sweeney and Bailey in that trade…

Josh Reddick stares down a Roy Oswalt offering on Tuesday, July 17.

Let us not forget how the 2004 Red Sox came together as a team and gelled.  Their clubhouse chemistry was amazing.  This year, it is looking more like 25 players and 25 cabs.  In Oakland, the clubhouse chemistry could not be better.  Walk off’s are met with Reddick pies to the face and Gatorade baths.  The team fights for every run they can scrap.  The A’s are fun.  The Red Sox are likely done.

Maybe it’s time Goliath took a lesson from David…

POLL: Will You Cheer For Kevin Youkilis?

Will you be cheering or booing Kevin Youkilis on Monday at Fenway Park? (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan for Noontime Sports)

By NoontimeSports.com 

The Boston Red Sox return home to Fenway Park on Monday, and will begin a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.

Don’t consider this a regular season series because Bostonians and New Englanders will be forced to watch their team’s former first and third basemen, Kevin Youkilis, sporting black and white instead of red and white.

So, we’re curious… will you be cheering for Youk or booing him?

Don’t worry… we won’t share this with Mr. Bobby Valentine, we promise, but we’d like to know how you’ll react to Mr. Youkilis once his name is announced over the public address system.

Answer our poll questions below and feel free to leave comments, too!