So near, yet so far.
The Lexington Legends are playing their final series of the season in a ballpark that is modeled after Fenway Park, the famed home of the Boston Red Sox. Fluor Field is in Greenville, South Carolina, home of the Greenville Drive, the Red Sox class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Fenway and the big leagues are still miles and years away for the few who do make it to the top from here.
Red Sox reminders are everywhere – there are posters of Boston greats such as Ted Williams and Jim Rice, and the outfield dimensions match Fenway, including 420 feet near the bullpens just to the right of straightaway center field, and a 302-foot distance from home plate to the foul pole down the right field line. (In Boston, that’s called “Pesky’s Pole” after former Red Sox star Johnny Pesky, who hit enough of his 17 career home runs in that direction to get the pole named for him by former Red Sox pitcher and broadcaster Mel Parnell.)
But no reminder of Beantown is as prominent as Greenville’s version of the “Green Monster,” the 37-foot high wall in left field at Fenway. In Greenville, the wall is 30 feet high, but that’s big enough to attract everyone’s attention – including fans, who take advantage of opportunities to have their pictures taken in front of the wall.
Right-handed hitters in particular can be tempted to leave hitting discipline behind to take a big swing and go for the wall. Often, the last round of pre-game batting practice is used to do just that – to get it out of the system.
So for one final weekend, the Legends play in front of the South Atlantic League’s version of one of baseball’s most famous landmarks. It’s not “the show” -- but it’s a showpiece.
The Greenville series concludes with a game Monday afternoon, and after returning to Lexington, the 2014 Legends will scatter – some going back to their hometowns, and others, after a very short break, headed for Royals’ training headquarters in Arizona for the fall instructional league. They will have completed one of the early challenges of their baseball career – the 140-game South Atlantic League schedule. Most Legends are in their first year of full-season professional baseball after having played in short-season leagues, which begin their 70-game schedule in mid-June following the completion of high school and college seasons and baseball's June draft.
In the Kansas City Royals’ system, the short-season teams are in Idaho Falls, Idaho (Pioneer League) and Burlington, North Carolina (Appalachian League), and a look at the current rosters for those teams will provide something of a preview for the Legends’ 2015 season. The Royals’ player development department, headed by Scott Sharp, will make final decisions in spring training.
The Legends open the 2015 season Thursday, April 9 in Charleston, South Carolina and after playing four games in Charleston and three in Greenville, will open the home season Thursday, April 16 against the West Virginia Power at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Thanks for reading, and as always, watch for Legends news at www.lexingtonlegends.com on the Legends Facebook page, and on Twitter @lexingtonlegend.