Welcome to the Hotel Fenway. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
How much do your Red Sox love baseball? Clay Buchholz, Mike Napoli, and John Lackey slept overnight at Fenway. That’s how much.
It was one of those “only could happen to the Red Sox” episodes, sort of like when Wade Boggs willed himself invisible or when Gene Conley and Pumpsie Green got off an overheated bus in the Bronx and Conley went to Idlewild and bought a plane ticket to Israel back in 1962.
It all started after the Sox’ dramatic 6-5 comeback victory over the Orioles late Sunday. ESPN’s decision to televise that game resulted in a 10:41 p.m. finish followed by the traditional 11:09 a.m. first pitch on Marathon Monday.
Why bother going home at all? When you consider drive time, traffic, beefed-up Marathon security, Fenway crowds, and parking hassles, it seemed like it would be easier to just sleep at the ballpark.
So that’s what Buchholz, Napoli, and Lackey did. They bunked at Fenway. They had a mini-team sleepover, just like in high school. We’re not sure if Larry Lucchino left mints on their pillows, but Buchholz, Napoli, and Lackey were definitely first to report for duty at the ballpark Monday morning. These are guys who give “safe at home” a whole new meaning. Golden slumbers in their eyes. Bunk beds.
“I took the bottom,’’ said Napoli. “I had Lackey above me and that scared me a little bit — that he was going to fall through.’’
Buchholz pitched like a guy who should have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. He was routed for six runs and seven hits in a disastrous third inning of a 7-6 loss to the Orioles. Maybe John Henry needs to order some Tempur-Pedics for Fenway’s clubhouse barracks.
Sox manager John Farrell broke news of the ballpark pajama party when he met with the media at 9:30 a.m. While talking about Napoli’s recovery from being hit in the knee by a pitch in the ninth inning Sunday, the manager said, “He and a couple other guys spent the night here with the quick turnaround.’’
Asked if he would identify Fenway’s other overnight guests, the bleary-eyed manager said, “Our starter [Buchholz] and John Lackey . . . We’re on short rest, but the game goes on and we’ll be ready to go.’’
The ballplayers slept in a room situated directly above the Red Sox clubhouse, a room that wasn’t officially guest-ready until the middle of last season. It’s part of extensive ballpark renovations that started after Henry bought the team in December 2001. Architect Janet Marie Smith directed the early renovations and found an amazing amount of space above the ancient cramped clubhouse. The space can be accessed from stairways located at the front and back ends of the clubhouse and includes a lunch room, a video room (formerly the umpires’ room), an interview room, a weight room that is shared by both teams, and the new guest-quarters room that features six beds.
“That’s why it’s there,’’ said Farrell. “They’re taking advantage of it.’’
“People get here early,’’ said Napoli. “I heard somebody lifting weights at 6 in the morning.’’
Buchholz perhaps would have been better off going home Sunday night. The struggling righty (0-2, 7.71 ERA) sailed through two hitless innings, then surrendered seven hits, getting only one out in a jailbreak third inning. The tall Texan was lifted after Jonathan Schoop’s Wall-ball single and was loudly booed when he walked from the mound. It was four minutes after noon. Perhaps time for a nap.
In late-night situations, big league teams often send the next day’s starter to the next city, or back to a hotel to get required rest. Why was Buchholz at Fenway?
“[Going home early] was presented to him,’’ said Farrell. “His choice was to spend the night here . . . Some guys would rather stay with the team and we don’t force it on them.’’
Told that his manager said leaving early was an option, Buchholz said, “That’s just like having the 8 [o’clock] ESPN game and then flying out to Toronto. I don’t fly out . . . It’s hard to get to bed before 2 in the morning. That’s sort of what I add it up to . . . So that had nothing to do with it.’’
The Fenway Sleep Room seemed to agree with Napoli. He fielded his position cleanly and crushed his fourth homer of the season leading off the bottom of the eighth.
“Being here was easier,’’ said Napoli. “In the sleep room. I didn’t want to deal with traffic. It’s convenient. It’s a dark room. It’s got blankets.’’
As far as we know, the Sox have no plans to institute a “Fenway Points” rewards system (imagine Lackey as a Platinum Elite Lifetime member), but those of us who work at the Henry-owned Globe are hoping he creates some sleepover space at our palatial offices at 135 Morrissey Boulevard.
When it happens, I’m taking the top bunk.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.