The Boston Marathon is just about two months away but runners have been training all through the late spring and summer months. On Saturday mornings, runners from a number of different charity teams come together for training runs. This includes Dougie’s Team, the team for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Runners alternate each week between longer training sessions to work up to 26.2 miles and shorter sprints to save energy and improve speed. The entire training program takes up 22 weeks. Saturday, August 7, the 13th Saturday of the program, was a longer run in which runners traveled anywhere between 10 and 16 miles. This particular Saturday was my first chance to cover marathon training behind the scenes.
Beating the Heat
Dougie’s Team captain Mike Palmer as well as Dougie’s Team runners Ann Corbett, Ashleigh Holmes, and Hanna Adams all ran 16 miles. Even for experienced runners, running this far was not an easy feat in the hot weather. The runners tried to beat the heat by waking up as early as 5 a.m., but today was an especially warm day even in the early morning hours.
Normally, runners would be training in the winter with the marathon taking place on Patriots Day. This year, with the marathon taking place in October, the training has been a little different. I met with several Dougie’s Team runners at the Boston Common, the endpoint of their run. Lauren Machado, who ran the marathon virtually for retired Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s charity team in 2020, was waiting at the Common as well with snacks and water for the runners.
Coach Furey leads runners through all aspects of training
Coach John Furey, who coaches Dougie’s Team, mentioned how this part of the training was a mental challenge and gave some insight into what the runners are currently dealing with.
“What you really have the runners going through is building physical and mental toughness.”
— Coach John Furey
Words of advice amongst runners
Runners also had numerous tips for one another. Lauren explained how the snacks she was giving out benefitted runners, while Mike and Hanna had words of encouragement for their teammates.
“If you want to run a marathon, don’t let anyone say you can’t, because you can fulfill any dreams that you want if you put your mind to it.”
— Dougie’s Team captain Mike Palmer
Dougie’s Team sticks together
While today was a tough run, Dougie’s Team remained motivated with the Flutie Foundation and Marathon Monday in mind. Members of Dougie’s Team have also kept each other motivated, leaving no one behind. Running is an individual sport but during the 22 weeks of training, having teammates to train with can really make a difference. This team is united in running for the Flutie Foundation and helping each other succeed.
Support Dougie’s Team to raise money for autism
Each Dougie’s Team runner is holding a fundraiser for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism leading up to the marathon. Click here for more information on how to support these runners and the Flutie Foundation in their mission to help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.
It was Autism Acceptance Day at Polar Park and it was a beautiful day for some baseball. The WooSox faced the Toronto Blue Jays AAA affiliates, the Buffalo Bisons. Before the game, the WooSox honored many organizations that support people affected by autism. The New England Center for Children (NECC), a leader in autism education and training (and the school that taught me to talk) was honored during the pregame ceremony. Many NECC students, teachers, and family members also received tickets to the game.
Autism Acceptance Day was also the first 100% capacity sellout at Polar Park (9,508 fans) as Chris Sale took the mound for a rehab start after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in March 2020.
While Sale’s rehab start made this game even more exciting, large crowds can be a challenge for individuals with autism. As a result, the WooSox added an additional sensory-friendly space in the DCU Club. The Unum Sensory Friendly Room was also open, as it is for every game, along the first base line adjacent to fan services.
I covered the game and events of the day on behalf of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. I was focusing not only on the game but also on the inclusive environment Polar Park had created.
I caught up with Jared Bouzan, NECC’s Chief Development Officer, before he was honored on the field. I also spoke with Jeff Arnold, a member of the NECC marketing team. Both Jared and Jeff were excited for the events of the day and very appreciative of the WooSox.
Marie Roy, an autistic WooSox employee, was working at the nacho stand. I met Marie last month during the Polar Park open house and caught up with her again at this game at the nacho stand where she works:
Joe Bradlee, WooSox VP of Baseball Operations & Community Relations invited me to come to the park at 1 p.m., three hours before the game, to catch batting practice (BP). It was a pretty incredible experience to be welcomed on the field to cover BP along with several other press members. Many extra media members came to Polar Park for Chris Sale. Red Sox utility player Marwin Gonzalez, like Sale, was also on a rehab assignment and took BP with the team. After BP, I had the chance to interview WooSox first baseman and designated hitter Josh Ockimey as well as WooSox coach Bruce Crabbe.
I also had the chance to speak with reporters like Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram (who I had originally met in 2015 during my first press box experience with the Bruins), and Alex Speier, a Boston Globe baseball writer and researcher who is frequently on NESN during Red Sox games to provide unique insight on the players. I was surprised to learn that despite the wealth of information that Alex shares during a game, like the percentage of change-ups a pitcher has thrown all season, that he is a one-man research team. He noted that he comes up with the good questions and then finds the data on the internet.
After covering BP and the pregame ceremony, I found a spot behind home plate next to the press box to watch the game. I was able to see Sale’s warm-up in right field in front of the Worcester Wall, and the game began shortly afterwards.
In the top of the first, the crowd roared as Sale took the mound. Even though he let a couple of baserunners on in the first, he kept the Bisons scoreless. Marwin Gonzalez, who I saw smash a few balls to right field during BP, gave the WooSox an early lead by crushing a solo homer over the Worcester Wall in the bottom of the first.
Over the first three innings, Chris Sale struck out six batters and he looked very sharp in the third inning when hitters Christian Colon, Corey Dickerson, and Tyler White all went down swinging for strike three. I performed some play-by-play from the stands during the top half of the second inning.
The fourth inning wasn’t as easy for Sale as he struggled with his fastball command. Sale gave up his first run in this inning on a pair of doubles. However, if it weren’t for center fielder Tate Matheny leaping up against the wall to rob Kevin Smith of a home run, the Bisons would have taken the lead. Matheny also had a running catch for out #2, with the third out coming on Sale’s seventh strikeout.
In the bottom of the inning, Matheny showed how great defense can lead to offense by hitting a two-run shot over the wall and onto the left field berm. Michael Gettys, who had reached base in all four of his at bats, scored on the HR blast.
Sale left the game with the score 3-1, after throwing 81 pitches, striking out seven, and giving up one run in five innings. Shortly after Sale was done, several media members exited the press box and a few of them asked me if I wanted to go see Chris Sale, so I followed them out of the ballpark.
The WooSox set up a temporary press tent just outside the ballpark specifically for the Chris Sale post game interview. He spoke to the media during the bottom of the 6th inning. I was told that I could observe, as Joe McDonald and Alex Speier asked the bulk of the questions, but I was encouraged to take a spot up close on the side of the tent just before Sale came out to speak.
Sale said he was very encouraged by the results and that this was different than the previous rehab outings. He said he “felt normal” for the first time in a long while during this game. He knows what the Red Sox are doing is special and that he needs to be ready to help them when he rejoins the club.
While Sale was speaking, the WooSox continued to build on their lead as #2 Red Sox prospect (according to MLB.com) Jeter Downs, hit a huge solo shot into deep left field and well past the berm seats.
Buffalo made the game closer in the seventh inning. Nash Knight who had already knocked in the first Bisons run, tripled for his third hit before scoring on a Rodrigo Vigil groundout.
However, Durbin Feltman came in to pitch the last two innings, and prevented the Bisons from scoring any more as the WooSox secured a 4-2 victory. Sale was the winning pitcher with his first official win since August 2019.
After the win, fans headed onto the field for the Sunset Catch. Fans are invited to play catch after every Saturday WooSox game at Polar Park.
I had a thrilling day at Polar Park as I had the opportunity to enjoy all the events of the day as a press member, a fan, and a member of the autism community. I’ll be back at Polar Park again on Friday August 13 to see the game and watch fireworks afterwards, something Polar Park does for every Friday night game. If you haven’t had the chance to go to a game yet, I highly recommend it.
Today marks 7 years since I took a book out of the library and decided to start this blog, posting an MLB 2014 Preview. That’s pretty fitting considering my sports fandom began with baseball.
Just like I did in 2014 and have done in every year since, I’ll be posting my MLB season predictions before the season begins. For the second year in a row, I collaborated on these predictions with my cousin Michael. I made an appearance on his podcast, The Master Plan. I’ll have a post up about those this weekend. In the meantime, I have some special announcements to make.
I designed this new logo in commemoration of this 7 year blog anniversary as well as the upcoming Autism Acceptance Month this April:
When I was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, my parents were told I may never speak. I have made lots of progress since then, from learning to talk, read, and write, to discovering my passion for sports, to starting this blog. After starting this blog, I realized I wanted to become a professional sports journalist, and I have been lucky enough to have some experiences in the industry thanks to connections I’ve made through this blog.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive communities that helped me along the way. That’s why I’ve launched a apparel fundraising campaign featuring this new logo to help give back to the autism community this April.
Click here or watch the video below for more information on this campaign:
I’m excited to be celebrating 7 years of Boston Sports Mania and Autism Acceptance Month with this campaign, and I look forward to keeping this website active for many years to come.