Don't ever say politicians never come up with good ideas.
Skeptics need look no further than Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino for proof. It was his idea to host Minor League games at Fenway Park.
The end result: Futures at Fenway, a Minor League doubleheader featuring two Red Sox affiliates scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday. Can't make it to Boston for this unique twinbill? MLB.com is providing fans with a special, free broadcast of both games. Catch all the action live on MLB.com.
For starters, fans can take in the Lowell Spinners, Boston's short-season affiliate, against the Oneonta Tigers in a New York-Penn League contest. The "nightcap" is a Triple-A International League affair, with the Sox affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox hosting the Rochester Red Wings.
"We hope that these games and these family-friendly ticket prices will open the doors of Fenway Park on a summer Saturday to thousands of fans from across the city and throughout New England who may not otherwise be able to attend a Red Sox game," Menino said about the idea. "With Red Sox tickets so tough to come by, this event is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the City of Boston and America's most beloved ballpark for thousands of families and especially the children for whom this opportunity will mean so much."
The tickets for this doubleheader, which were very family- and Minor League-friendly in terms of price ($5 up to $30) are hard to come by as well. The twinbill, split up by entertainment and some fan-player interaction, is expected to be a sellout. Needless to say, there's some excitement brewing among the teams involved.
"When I met the team back in June, you should've seen the jaws drop when I told them, 'Oh, by the way, on August 26, we're going to be playing in Fenway Park,'" Lowell Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann said. "It's going to be fun, not just for our players, but for our staff and our fans. A lot of the fans going to the game have not had the chance to go there in several years, and there have been a lot of nice changes. It really opens it up to a brand new market of fans."
It's believed that the last Minor League game of any sort to be played at Fenway Park was the 1977 Eastern League All-Star Game. The last-known regular-season game at the famed ballpark was in 1968, when Pittsfield (then a Red Sox affiliate) and Pawtucket (then an Indians affiliate) met in an EL contest.
The games could have an impact on postseason races, although both Red Sox affiliates are playing the roles of spoilers in their leagues. The Spinners are eight back of Tri-City in their division, but the Tigers are just four back and are hoping to climb back into contention. In the International League, Pawtucket is out of it, but Rochester, the Twins' Triple-A affiliate, is just one game out of first place and currently leads the Wild Card race.
That just adds to what will surely be a festive atmosphere. Several players, such as Pawtucket pitcher Marc Deschenes, a 10-year Minor League veteran who's never played in the big leagues, are from New England. Deschenes was born in Lowell and still calls Massachusetts his home. Lowell's Zak Farkes is from Boston and attended Harvard University.
But the biggest Boston connection may come from a Lowell player who's actually from Jacksonville, Fla. Spinners closer Joshua Papelbon is the younger brother -- his twin Jeremy pitches in the Cubs organization -- of Red Sox rookie closer Jonathan. Clearly, the name carries some clout near Yawkey Way, even if the 2006 draftee doesn't realize it yet.
"The biggest kick I got out of that was from Joshua Papelbon," Bawmann said. "When I said we expected it to be a sold out game, he raised his hand and asked, 'Do you think there's a way I can get some extra tickets for that game?' I had to get a chuckle out of that. If anyone owns Fenway Park today, it's probably Jonathan Papelbon."