PAWTUCKET – The PawSox players and staff couldn’t vacate the McCoy Stadium grounds fast enough Sunday evening.
After holding on for a 4-3 win against Buffalo, the PawSox put the unofficial first half (91 of 143 games) behind them and will use the next three days to regroup mentally. Baseball, a staple for all involved parties since the start of spring training in mid-February, plans take a back seat to vacation getaways and family reunions.
The scene inside the home clubhouse told the story. Bags were sprawled out all over the place, their mission to collect personal belongings and such before getting zipped up and hoisted over one's shoulder.
The All-Star break was here – and not a moment too soon.
“I compare (baseball’s in-season respite) to the last day of school. I know it’s only three days compared to a couple of months, but it feels like a couple of months for us,” surmised Pawtucket reliever Michael Bowden. “It’s nice to get away from the heat of the season, relax a little bit and get going for the second half.”
Before going their separate ways, several Pawtucket players shared how they plan to unwind.
Daniel Nava, outfielder: “I’m going back home to California. My flight leaves (Sunday night). It’s always nice to have one day off, but to have two more on top of that, it allows your body to relax. You catch up on some sleep and get some good meals, just the little things.
“(Watching the Home Run Derby and the MLB All-Star Game) is not necessarily going to be something I put time aside to do. We’re around (baseball) all the time. I have no plans to work it into my schedule, but if I get the chance I get the chance.”
Michael Bowden, pitcher: “I’m going with my wife to Cape Cod for a few nights, then spend a day on Martha’s Vineyard. We’re looking forward to a relaxing trip.”
Kevin Millwood, pitcher: “Whatever the kids want to do [upon returning to his Georgia estate] is fine by me.”
As an aside, Millwood couldn’t have timed his lone all-star selection any better. As a 24-year-old member of the Atlanta Braves, the righty was named to the National League squad for the ’99 contest. That particular Midsummer Classic took place in Boston and featured one of those “you’ll never forget where you are” moments when an 80-year-old Ted Williams entered Fenway Park on a golf cart.
“I think if I had one (All-Star Game) to go to, that probably would have been it,” Millwood said. “(Williams) kind of stole the show.”
Ryan Lavarnway, catcher/DH: “My girlfriend is still living in Portland; she got a job as a head chef up there while we were living with a host family. It’ll be good to see her. This is the longest I’ve gone without a rest period. This was my first big-league spring training, so there was an extra 15 games thrown in there that I wasn’t used to.”
Tony Pena Jr., pitcher: “I’ve got to take my wife to the doctor because she’s expecting. My dad (Tony Pena Sr., a bench coach with the Yankees) is going home to the Dominican. I was thinking about going to New York but with my family in town, I decided to stay in Providence.”
Felix Doubront, pitcher: “My wife’s from Long Island so that’s where we’re heading [following a cameo appearance with Double-A Portland Monday]. You have fun and relax and spend time with the kids. Eat, sleep, get some rest and be ready for the second half and finish strong.”
Brandon Duckworth, pitcher: “My wife recently gave birth to twins, so I’ll head home [to Utah] to make sure everything’s good with them. We also have a four-year-old daughter, but it’s been good for the fact her mom and dad are close by. That makes it easier, especially when we’ve had a few complications with my son with them coming early as twins.
“Everybody looks forward to (the time away from the ballpark) because it is a grind. You need a little bit of a break because we don’t get many. With the few off-days we do have, that’s sometimes why you hear guys say, ‘Man, what would I do for a rainout.’ It rejuvenates you, but then you come back and realize there’s not much time left. That’s when you lock in and try to finish the season strong.”
Jose Iglesias, shortstop: “All of my family is here, so we’re going to stay around here. This is a chance to get some rest, especially since I’m dealing with some headache issues right now.”