Red Sox play first exhibition game of 2023 Spring Training

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On Friday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox officially returned to the field for their first exhibition game of 2023 Spring Training at JetBlue Park in south Fort Myers.

The team has been practicing for around two weeks. The field is mowed, the outfield is freshly painted, and the ballpark is ready to welcome fans back. Friday’s exhibition game was played at 1:05 p.m. against the Northeastern University Huskies. These spring exhibition games are guaranteed to help drive tourism and business in Lee County.

“We are going to approach this as a celebration: A celebration of Lee County, a celebration of each other, and a celebration of the Boston Red Sox,” said Shawn Smith, general manager of Florida operations for the Red Sox. “It’s exciting. I mean, if you can’t get excited for this, what can you get excited for?”

Boston Red Sox player practices his pitch during 2023 Spring Training. Credit: WINK News

“We’re big Yankees fans, and they’re playing in March,” said local resident Mary Jane Lawton. “We wanted to make sure we got tickets.”

While the game is meaningless, some fans’ experience is priceless.

It’s been a while since Spring Training has welcomed everyone without restrictions. COVID-19 did a number on baseball in Southwest Florida the last few years. Then, the owners and players fought over money, and of course, the hurricane damaged Jet Blue Park.

“It is nice to get back to a little more normal things that we do every year. For me personally, I had a little bit of damage from the storm, so it’s nice to be out and just kind of see everybody getting back to that new normal again,” said Stephanie Corbin, a Red Fox fan from Fort Myers.

Boston took the field against Northeastern. Before the game, WINK News met the mom of one of the Huskies’ pitchers.

“I was a little bit worried because last year the MLB was on strike, and this year they’re playing, so this is just an amazing gift, it’s just a beautiful gift. That he’s playing here [Friday], and Northeastern is playing here right now,” said Janyne Dunham, mother of Brett Dunham.

The man in charge of the Red Sox Florida operations just getting to opening day is a win. “I’m a people person. I love to be able to interact and enjoy people. And most importantly, it makes me even happier to see these people feeling that way. I joke. I say, ‘I’m not responsible for the wins and losses, only the wins,’ and the wins are making our fans happy and serving the community of Lee County,” said Smith.

The Red Sox’ next home game will be played Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. You can buy tickets online or at the box office.

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