This past Monday night, I witnessed fans of the Astros’ PCL affiliate cheering wildly for Brewers farmhand Manny Parra as the 24 year old lefty completed a perfect game for Nashville against Round Rock. Express manager Jackie Moore failed to chastise the locals for their disloyalty…and perhaps he should’ve, if you buy what Bill Masse is selling. From Tuesday’s Manchester Union-Leader :
Clay Buchholz, the No. 3 prospect in the Red Sox organization, threw a four-hitter over 6ï»¿.1 innings, leading Portland to a 5-4 Eastern League win over New Hampshire before a solid Monday night gathering of 6,831.
To Buchholz’ surprise, he left yesterday’s game to a standing ovation, after surrendering his fourth hit, a clean single to left by Chip Cannon on his 91st delivery to the plate with one out in the seventh inning.
“I didn’t expect it, but it was nice,” he said.
In the Fisher Cats’ clubhouse after the game, Masse questioned the local fans’ loyalty to the hometown team.
“I think it’s sad,” Masse said. “We’re not playing the Boston Red Sox. We’re playing the Portland Sea Dogs. Unless you’re from that area, you root for your hometown team. This is New Hampshire’s team, Manchester’s team and to see Clay Buchholz get a standing ovation was absolutely disgraceful.”
When told that many of the fans in attendance attend Red Sox games or follow the Red Sox, Masse said, “We’re not playing the Boston Red Sox. It’s Manchester against Portland. There’s not a park in the world that would have given him (Buchholz) a standing ovation for throwing six innings for one run and 11 strikeouts. I guess I will never understand how you can root for the Fisher Cats when we don’t play Portland and root for them when we do play them.”
The roaring applause underscored the nature of operating a Blue Jays’ farm team within the heart of Red Sox nation — a paradox that reached a fever pitch on Monday.
Some Fisher Cats felt slighted. One player, who requested anonymity, said he felt like vomitting during the ovation.
“When I came to the dugout after that standing ovation, players were not happy. I just think it rubbed my team, and especially myself, the wrong way,” New Hampshire manager Bill Masse said yesterday after a day of reflection. “These guys are out there competing every night and giving the fans some awesome games, and they came away feeling like they were the visiting team.”
Fisher Cats reliever Tree Thorpe, a third-year member of the team, is one player fed up with Sea Dogs hype.
“As far as announcing in the third inning, ‘Fans come to tomorrow’s game to watch Red Sox No. 1 prospect Clay Buchholz,’ I think that’s bullcrap. We’re the home team,” Thorpe said. “To me, I take those things personally, and I’ll do anything to beat (Portland).”