Many share in rare opportunity in Boston

BOSTON – The closest Major League Baseball stadium from D’Vone McClure’s hometown of Jacksonville, Ark. is Minute Maid Park in Houston.

That’s a 456-mile, eight-hour drive from the suburb of Little Rock. McClure, an outfielder for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, has never attended an MLB game. He did set foot inside a park two years ago when he signed his professional contract and took a physical at Progressive Field – home of the Cleveland Indians.

So being able to warm up at Fenway Park, sit in the Red Sox dugout and attempt to hit a home run over the Green Monster in left field was the thrill of a lifetime for the 20-year old.

“Being here is motivating me to make it ‘the show’ one day,” McClure said prior to the Scrappers game with the Lowell Spinners on Sunday.

He hit four home runs over the 32-foot, 2-inch wall that sits 315-feet away from homeplate.

“I always saw Manny (Ramirez) conquer it and I wanted to conquer it eventually,” McClure said. “It was just BP but it still feels amazing.”

McClure wasn’t able to make an appearance in the game, a 6-1 win by Mahoning Valley. Neither did fellow outfielder Josh McAdams, but just being on the field was a treat for the young professionals.

“I’m 20 years old and I feel like a kid in a candy store for this opportunity,” McAdams said. “It’s Fenway Park – that’s all you got to say.”

When the Stoneman family of Boardman heard that the Scrappers were appearing in the Futures at Fenway Classic back in May, they jumped at the chance to make the trip.

“We immediately said, ‘Oh we have to make that,’ ” said David Stoneman, who brought along his wife, Denise, and sons Alex and Andrew. “We’ve never been here before so this was an excellent trip.”

They watched the game with the parents of David Speer – a Scrappers relief pitcher who is from Connecticut. Speer is living with the Stonemans this summer as part of the Scrappers Host Family program.

The Rarick family of Canfield also made the trip from Northeast Ohio to Boston. They also host a Scrapper, relief pitcher J.P. Feyereisen.

“J.P. was so excited for this,” said Ellen Rarick, who traveled with her husband, Matt, and sons, Trent and Tyler. “We were so excited, too. We made it a road trip and spent a few days in Philadelphia and New York City.”

They also watched the Scrappers game on Saturday at the Spinners’ home stadium in Lowell. Mahoning Valley won that game, 9-3, to break an eight-game losing streak.

“Everybody was quiet and we were screaming and cheering,” Ellen said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak spent nine years as a major league player in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1975, as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kubiak recalls hitting a grand slam over the right-field fence at Fenway in a big win over the Red Sox.

He said he drove in seven runs that game.

“It’s the best place to pla – it’s a great park,” Kubiak said. “There’s been some changes but it’s nice to come back after 40 years. They didn’t have all the stuff on the roof, so there have been some major renovations. It’s modern now and it’s in such great shape.

“The atmosphere is terrific and I’m glad it’s still here. I never thought there’d be new stadiums. I’m glad they keep these stadiums – like Fenway, Wrigley and Dodger Stadium. They can’t get rid of this place.”

While many players, from both Lowell and Mahoning Valley, were making their first appearances at Fenway on Sunday, a familiar face was back in the lineup. Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, who has been on the disabled list for over a month, was making a rehab appearance with the Spinners. He was pulled in the fifth inning so he could catch a flight to his native Hawaii to spend the MLB All-Star break with his family.

“It’s exciting to be around these kids and have the honor of them asking questions about the game and wondering things they can do to become better ballplayers,” Victorino said. “That part means a lot. They’re willing to come to me and ask me whatever. I just never thought I’d be a feature part of Futures at Fenway.”

Whether or not any of the 60 players on both the Lowell and Mahoning Valley roster ever make it to the majors, let alone back to Fenway Park, remains to be seen. Each side will still treasure the memories made at the “most beloved ballpark in America.”

“I got to stand in the same batters box as Big Papi (Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz),” Scrappers second baseman Steven Patterson said. “Not many other guys can say that.”