Rafael Devers makes a fan for life in Seattle

Bill Foley
Contributing writer

As T-Mobile Park came into sight at the end of our 600-mile drive to Seattle, I asked my son which baseball player is his favorite.

Grady is 11 years old, and, because he has been brought up the right way, he is a huge Red Sox fan.

He quickly said “Mookie,” like there wasn’t another option possible.

Mookie Betts is clearly a fan favorite, especially with the kids.
Grady was the happiest boy in the Pacific Northwest
Saturday night thanks to Rafael Devers.

If an election were held to find the most favorite Red Sox player, the reigning American League MVP would win in a landslide among fans 12 and under.

It would definitely take something spectacular to change that.

These days, being the favorite Red Sox player is something of a feat, too. The roster is filled with stars and likable players like J.D. Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, just to name a few.

Twenty-five years ago, a young, exciting player like Rafael Devers would have ascended to the top of the favorite list like Nomar Garciaparra or Mo Vaughn. These Red Sox, though, have an unprecedented amount of star power. The 119-win Red Sox of 2018, after all, were one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball.

We drove from our home in Butte, Montana, to watch Games 2 and 3 of the season. They were the first two live Major League games for Grady. I took him to a few minor league games in Montana over the last couple of years, but that isn’t even close to the same thing.

He was excited the whole drive, constantly asking “are we almost there?” We had been looking forward to this trip since Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to end the World Series.

We sat nine rows up just off the third base Friday night, and we got to see a game for the ages. Really, can you imagine a better Major League debut for a young fan than the game in which Mitch Moreland’s three-run, pinch-hit home run capped a comeback from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 Red Sox win?

We jumped up and down in the aisle and exchanged countless high fives with the many vocal Red Sox fans in our section. We hung around to yell at Mitch as he was interviewed by Guerin Austin live on NESN.

I figured the night could not have possibly been any better.

Well, the next night topped it.

Grady wore his Mookie Betts jersey to the Saturday game, but a chilly breeze off the Puget Sound made it was sweatshirt weather. His grey sweatshirt with our hometown scribed across the front in copper is nice, but it didn’t say Red Sox.

So, we went to one of the team stores outside the ballpark to buy a new Red Sox hoodie. I figured he’d stand out better if any players signed autographs. He did, after all, just miss out as Jackie went above and beyond to sign for a ton of fans the night before.

Perhaps a little more decoration might help.

As he put on his new hoodie, Grady told me I am “the best dad ever,” then we headed to the a ballpark full of fathers who were doing the exact thing I was doing to earn such a distinguished title.

The ploy worked.

Once we entered the stadium, we headed down toward the fence in left field in hopes of getting a prime spot.

We were 20 to 25 rows up from the field when Grady said, “Dad, dad, he’s pointing at me.”

I looked down on the field to see Devers looking our way. While dozens of fans by the fence had their hands up hoping to catch Devers’ attention as he looked hand out a souvenir, the young third baseman was eyeing my son.

Devers pointed to make sure Grady was looking, and he fired a strike our way. I didn’t see the ball coming, but it was coming in pretty hot.

Grady managed to quickly grab the ball he hoped to have signed and his Sharpie out of his mitt just in time to snag the ball just above his left shoulder. The force of the ball forced his glove behind his head, but Grady held on.

The crowd of Red Sox fans yelled, whistled and applauded for Grady. Devers was still watching as my son looked at me with a smile from ear to ear.

We looked down at Devers to see the player pointing with his glove at Grady. Devers nodded as if to tell him “nice catch.” Then Devers headed back to his post at third base to continue practicing.

The moment had a “Mean” Joe Greene Coke commercial vibe about it, and my boy had a memory that will last a life time. So did his dad.

I went through my mind to recall the great highlights of Devers’ short career. I reminded Grady of when Devers, still just 20, hit the home run off Aroldis Chapman’s 103 mph fastball in August of 2017.

I reminded him of his huge home run at Houston in the American League Championship Series. I told him how so many experts expect Devers to be a breakout star this season.

I’m not sure if the magnitude of the moment has sunk in for him. I can’t tell if he realizes that seeing him catch that ball is one of the highlights of my life.

It certainly was something spectacular, indeed.

We got up early Sunday morning for the long drive home. We took one last look at T-Mobile Park as we turned onto I-90 for the start of the 600-mile trek.

“So,” I said, “who is your favorite baseball player?”

Grady thought for a second before saying, “Um … probably Devers.”

Follow Bill Foley on Twitter — @Foles74