Seniors enjoy day at Fenway

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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BOSTON – There was no victory, no consolation prize or any home runs poked around Pesky’s Pole for the Massachusetts baseball team yesterday at Fenway Park.

But what did happen on Wednesday seemed fitting – especially for those players who have very little time remaining with maroon and white jerseys on their backs.

The Minutemen managed just three hits in their 8-3 loss to Holy Cross in the Beanpot Consolation game, but each of them came off the bats of elder statesman – with seniors Travis Munsey, Bill Rankin and Lou Proietti all registering singles in what will likely be their last chance to ever play in front of the Green Monster.

And it’s something that none of them will likely ever forget. Well, except possibly for the fifth-year senior center fielder that might have preferred playing somewhere a little bit different. Say, maybe in the House that Ruth Built.

“I’m a Yankees fan,” Rankin said with a grin. “But it was great to play at a field like this. It’s always fun being here and it’s a great ballpark. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

His fellow outfielder, Munsey, loved the experience as well – but Yankee Stadium couldn’t have been any further from his mind.

“Growing up, you love Fenway Park,” he said. “It’s definitely tough to try and forget you’re playing here so you can concentrate and try to win the game. It was an awesome experience, but we definitely should have won.”

Perhaps the most excited out of this trio was Proietti, who was nothing but smiles after being asked what it was like to play at the old ballpark.

“It’s great and I’ll never forget it,” he said. “Everything about it is just incredible. When you wake up in the morning, you just can’t wait to play. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Although he didn’t register a hit like those other guys, that game was even more special to 6-foot-2 senior catcher Frank McPherson. A native of nearby Somerville and the primary backup to captain Bryan Garrity, McPherson got what was a rare start yesterday, marking just his fifth appearance of the season.

“I mean, it was unbelievable,” he said. “Being a senior, last chance, home crowd. I had a lot of family come by, so it was pretty surreal. It was really fun and it was an absolute rush of emotions stepping to the box and catching here.”

And as if those increased emotions that came with playing at a legendary ballpark weren’t enough to deal with, Munsey had the added bonus of trying to figure out how in the world he should play a fly ball off the Green Monster.

“Well, it definitely takes some getting used to,” he said. “The first ball was a lot harder than the second one. It was hit right at me – and I didn’t know whether to go back or not and I kind of got caught in the middle.”

Those were the only two balls hit to Munsey all afternoon, but the co-captain contributed with his bat when he recorded UMass’ third and final hit of the game with two outs in the ninth inning.

Proietti, the shortstop, was the only Minuteman to reach base twice, recording the game’s first hit leading off the bottom of the first, and being struck by a pitch in the sixth. Rankin enjoyed the best day of any UMass player, going 1-for-3 at the plate with a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base. The lefty outfielder has surged offensively lately, but once again showed why his glove work is so highly thought of – with four putouts and one outfield assist yesterday.

Both Munsey and Proietti recorded hits in the consolation game at Fenway Park last season, but for Rankin it was his first career hit playing there.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to get much going as a team,” Rankin said. “But it was nice to get that hit and score.”

The rest of his teammates – seniors or not – agreed that it would have been nice to have put together more offensively. But after the game, upon learning that all three hits for UMass were stroked by seniors, the four seniors mentioned above all really relished that fact.

“I didn’t even realize that, actually,” Proietti said. “It is special knowing that, especially since us three will probably never be playing here again. It’s kind of nice.”

“I didn’t realize that,” Munsey said, much like his shortstop did earlier. “Yeah, it’s definitely pretty cool.”

“As seniors, and this being our last chance – being able to do that was a good thing,” Rankin said. “It’s great because it was the last time playing there for us and everyone wants to get out there and get a hit at Fenway.”

But once again, it was the local kid – who didn’t get to join the “senior hit group” or get to play that much in his UMass career – that was the most excited and proud of this little factoid produced by his senior teammates yesterday.

“It was unbelievable,” McPherson said. “It was great seeing those guys – Lou and Travis are my roommates – get hits, and especially Billy, also. It was just so good to see those guys do well. I wish the team could have got a win, but it was fun, and we still got to play at Fenway.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]