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Up until a couple of months ago, Greenville Drive manager Darren Fenster had no idea that a total solar eclipse was going to happen over the mainland United States for the first time in 38 years.
And he definitely didn’t know that Greenville, S.C., was in the path of totality, making it one of the best cities in the country to catch a viewing Monday.
All Fenster knew was that the Drive had a game scheduled against the West Virginia Power that day.
Drive general manager Eric Jarinko came to him with an idea.
Minor league teams look for a million ways to make nights at the park exciting, but this one felt built-in.
What if, Jarinko said, we scheduled the game around the eclipse?
“[He] changed it to 1 o’clock,” said Fenster, “and the plan was that about five minutes before the eclipse, they were going to delay the game, let all the players and fans experience it, and five minutes later, get the game going.”
The day ended up being more wild than Fenster could have imagined. Before 6,636 fans at Fluor Field, the Drive fell into an early 4-0 hole. Power starter Luis Escobar got the first out of the fifth inning, then the sky started shifting.
“It got dark really, really quick, and that was cool, and then it got light really, really quick, and within about 2½ minutes it was all over,” said Fenster.
“Kind of like New Year’s Eve. You have all this anticipation and then all of a sudden it’s, ‘OK, it’s over. Now what?’ ”
The game was delayed for 22 minutes so fans — who were treated to special protective glasses — could watch the eclipse.
In the meantime, Escobar tried to stay warm. But after he came out of the delay and recorded the second out, the Drive scored six two-out runs, and they went on to an 8-7 walkoff win.
“I guess you could say we won the eclipse delay,” Fenster said.
“It was definitely nothing like I had experienced before. It was cool, it was weird, it was different, but I mean it happened so quick.
“It didn’t get pitch-black dark. It was almost like at dusk every night where it’s still light out, but the sun’s just about down.
“I think the Drive did a really good job of handling it in a way that kind of made us aware of it but didn’t make us secondary to the eclipse. The game was still the game.”
All he needs is glove
Bryce Brentz pushed his home run total this season to 30 after he went deep twice in Pawtucket’s win over Buffalo Wednesday.
It’s the most homers by a Sox minor leaguer since Ryan Lavarnway hit 32 in 2011 — a year in which Brentz also hit 30.
At 28 years old (and with 2,668 minor league at-bats), Brentz has a very clear approach at the plate. But what’s been important this season is his ability to stay in the lineup. His 111 games played are the most he’s had in a season since 2012.
“He’s healthy,” said Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. “He’s been on the field. And I think that’s the biggest thing for him, because he’s had a history where he’s been banged up and he’s missed significant playing time.
“So, knock on wood, things have gone pretty well this year from a health standpoint.”
Brentz’s power is undeniable, but the challenge now is finding a place for it in the lineup. He has moved around the outfield throughout his career, but with 48 career errors, he’s never found a comfort level. This season, he has a team-high eight errors in the outfield.
“There’s times when there’s some bad hops in the air,” Boles quipped. “Just happens. But the last couple nights, he’s played well.
“You see the errors. He leads the team in errors in the outfield and obviously that stands out. But yeah, it’s getting there.
“He can’t be a one-dimensional guy. He understands that. If he’s going to open some eyes, he’s got to be able to play some defense, because there’s very few strict DHs.”
End of Castillo’s season?
With less than two weeks left in the Triple A season, it’s possible that outfielder Rusney Castillo may have played his final game of the season.
Castillo went on the disabled list last Friday with left knee inflammation. He sustained the injury making a diving play in right field.
Boles was uncertain about Castillo returning before the end of the year.
“We’ll see,” said the manager. “Hopefully we can get him back, but I don’t know.”
Castillo is hitting .314./.350/.507, and even though he isn’t on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, he might have been among the September call-ups.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.