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Scenes from Game 3 of the Rays-Red Sox ALCS

Birthday present of the day

For Michael Aguis, his 36th birthday Monday will be tough to top. Aguis was the Rays fan — in an Evan Longoria jersey, no less — who caught Longoria's solo homer in the third inning from his seat atop the Green Monster.

Aguis, a computer consultant in New York, grew up in St. Petersburg (went to East Lake High) and has been a die-hard Rays fan since the beginning. He still has season tickets in Section 103 at the Trop. Aguis got Monday's tickets from his buddy, Red Sox fan Tom Cibrowski, who actually got his hands on the home run ball first before Aguis hustled to grab it on the ground.

"It's his birthday," Cibrowski said. "He deserves it. But I'm probably not allowed back here again after bringing (Aguis)."

A Red Sox fan nearby, noticing Aguis' luck, asked Aguis for some lottery numbers.

"I just hope there's enough people to see it and say that it's not just 'Red Sox Nation' around here," Aguis said. "The 'Rays Neighborhood' is alive and strong as well."

As for what it would take to give Longoria his prized souvenir?

"If he pays for my season tickets," Aguis said with a smile. "Or … maybe throw out the first pitch for Game 6 would work in exchange for the ball."

Turns out, Aguis kept the ball. And Longoria met him outside the Rays clubhouse after the game to sign it. "Happy Birthday," Lon­goria told Aguis.

"I don't get starstruck," Aguis said. "But that was pretty cool."

A 'knockout punch'

The Rays have talked a lot about how their two September wins at Fenway Park were big confidence-boosters heading into this series. Carlos Pena said before arriving at Fenway on Sunday, he thought back to Dan Johnson's tying home run off Jonathan Papelbon (which led to a 5-4 victory on Sept. 9), saying, "How much does that home run mean to us right now?

"It was huge, huge. It's like that big knockout punch from the Cinderella Man, and all of a sudden, you landed a punch on the unbeatable Ivan Drago (left)."

He likes baseball?

So what does a manager do when he doesn't have an ALCS game? If you're Boston's Terry Francona, you watch more baseball. And sleep. And watch a movie that wasn't very memorable.

"I watched a little bit of the (Phillies-Dodgers) game," he said of his time off Sunday. "I watched a little bit of the Patriots game. I watched a movie a little bit. I just kind of went back and forth and mostly slept. It's one of those nights where you're so tired, you fall asleep early then you can't sleep late. But I watched a little bit of the game just because I like baseball."

Sign of the times

There is a massive sign hanging above a Fenway Park gate at the corner of Van Ness and Yawkey reading "Fenway Park, America's Most Beloved Ballpark." Maybe in another 90 years the Trop will get to hang that sign. This! Is! Boston!

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, right, bears a resemblance to Leonidas, king of the Spartans, these days with that red beard and all. And his ungodly numbers in the League Championship Series — hitting an all-time best .526 entering Monday — suggest he would clobber Persian pitching no matter who Xerxes threw out there if it meant a trip to the World Series. Oakland GM Billy Beane did refer to him as "Euclis: The Greek God of Walks" in the book Moneyball for his uncanny ability to coax walks. If the suit fits …

TBS reporter Craig Sager is known for his off-the-wall suits and shoes. Sager was in rare form Monday: light blue shirt, two-toned jacket and shoes that were robin eggshell blue and made of leather and snakeskin.

"It sort of looks like (the Rays) colors," Sager said. "(Third-base coach Tom Foley) liked the coat, and (pitching coach Jim Hickey) wants my shoes. We're the same size."

How did Sager's flair for fun suits start? Sager, who also worked for Ch. 10 in Tampa and WXLT in Sarasota, said the first time he was ever on TV, for a high school football awards show, he wore a seersucker suit that was blue, white and yellow. They told him, "If you ever want to get on TV, you can't wear that stuff."

Turns out, then-TBS owner Ted Turner didn't mind: "Ted said, 'I don't wear underwear. I don't wear socks. You can do whatever you want.' "

Sager put it in perspective: "I was Willy the Wildcat at Northwestern; running around the field, getting yelled at by fans in a mascot outfit. This is nothing."

Bold claim

During TBS's pregame coverage, they timed Rays outfielder Fernando Perez, left, from third to home on Saturday's winning sacrifice fly at 3.27 seconds. That wouldn't surprise Carlos Pena.

"He's the fastest human in the world," Pena said. "Besides Bolt."

Bolt, of course, is Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who set world records in the 100 meters (9.69) and 200 meters (19.30) at the Beijing Olympics.

Just another foe

Boston catcher and Tampa native Kevin Cash said it wasn't strange playing against his hometown team in the postseason. No offense, but the Rays were never his club, although he played 13 games for them in 2005.

"They came around too late," said Cash, whose entire immediate family except his father and stepmother still live in the Tampa area. "I was already out of (Gaither High), out of (Florida State). I was already a Braves fan."

Howling for Howell

Rays left-handed reliever J.P. Howell has joked the only fans who own his jersey are his relatives. Turns out, he underestimated his following. Nina Resmini, a 13-year-old resident of Rochester, Mass., might be the biggest Howell fan there is.

The two met four years ago at a baseball camp at Cape Cod, where Howell, 25, was Resmini's counselor. The two bonded and have kept in touch via text messages ever since. Resmini has attended a few of Howell's games for Triple-A Durham and the Rays, including Monday's Game 3 at Fenway, where she donned a brand new Howell home jersey and surprised him with it during pregame warmups. Howell spotted her, smiled and put his hand over his heart before signing the shirt.

The last time Resmini watched Howell at Fenway, she held up a sign that read, "I Howl for J.P. Howell." Her dad, Joe, said some people around his daughter laughed, asking her "What do you see in that guy?"

"He's just a really nice guy," she said, "and a great player."

Howell made Resmini proud Monday, pitching two scoreless innings that included escaping a first-and-third, no-out jam in the seventh with only one run scoring.

Howling for Howell

Rays left-handed reliever J.P. Howell has joked the only fans who own his jersey are his relatives. Turns out, he underestimated his following. Nina Resmini, a 13-year-old resident of Rochester, Mass., might be the biggest Howell fan there is.

The two met four years ago at a baseball camp at Cape Cod, where Howell, 25, was Resmini's counselor. The two bonded and have kept in touch via text messages ever since. Resmini has attended a few of Howell's games for Triple-A Durham and the Rays, including Monday's Game 3 at Fenway, where she donned a brand new Howell home jersey and surprised him with it during pregame warmups. Howell spotted her, smiled and put his hand over his heart before signing the shirt.

The last time Resmini watched Howell at Fenway, she held up a sign that read, "I Howl for J.P. Howell." Her dad, Joe, said some people around his daughter laughed, asking her "What do you see in that guy?"

"He's just a really nice guy," she said, "and a great player."

Howell made Resmini proud Monday, pitching two scoreless innings that included escaping a first-and-third, no-out jam in the seventh with only one run scoring.

Scenes from Game 3 of the Rays-Red Sox ALCS 10/13/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:14pm]
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