It may be just an annual exhibition game for most people, but playing against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox is a big deal to Bedford’s Connor Lyons.
“Later in life, I can tell my own kids I played against the Boston Red Sox,” said Lyons, the starting center fielder for Northeastern University, which plays the Red Sox today at 1:05 p.m. at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
A former Trinity High of Manchester star, Lyons shares outfield and co-captain duties with his older brother Connor, a redshirt senior, while another Granite Stater, Salem High School grad Josh Treff is the Huskies’ starting catcher.
There will be a New Hampshire presence in the stands for the game, too, with the Lyonses’ mother, grandmother and younger brother Griffin, a Trinity sophomore, all attending.
Northeastern has played the Red Sox every spring since 2004, but the exhibition never gets old, Connor Lyons said.
“When I was a freshman, I was in awe and shocked when I stepped on the same field with the Red Sox,” he said. “I’ve been a lifelong fan. Now the shock has worn off, but it’s still a big deal, especially this year because they’re coming off a championship season.”
Last year’s game proved memorable for Lyons. He posed for a picture with slugger David Ortiz, lashed a single and later stole a base against Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard and catcher David Ross, then found himself talking trash with All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“It was fun, especially with Pedroia giving me the business,” said Lyons. “Bard was just working on his location, and I noticed his windup was a little slower to the plate. So I took off, stole the base and looked up to see Pedroia. He started in about me snagging a base off Bard, saying he wasn’t paying any attention to me. I said, “Hey man, I’ll take what I can take,’ and it just went back and forth from there. But it was all in fun. I respect Pedroia, and I look up to him because he’s a little guy like me.”
Lyons said today he’ll try to seek a picture with either Grady Sizemore or A.J. Pierzynski, two newest to the Red Sox.
“They’re going to help Boston this year, and it would be neat to get a photo with one of them,” said Lyons. “I’m also going to see if I can track down Johnny Gomes before the game. He’s another player I really like to watch play.”
In six games so far this season with the Huskies, Connors is batting .231 with one RBI. His career batting average with Northeastern is .295 and he has 28 career stolen bases in 33 attempts.
Today, Lyons said, he’ll be batting either fourth or fifth in the lineup against the Red Sox.
“Our first baseman, Rob Fonseca, is hurt, and I’ve been taking his normal place in the batting order,” Lyons said. “I normally set the table, but now I’m in a role of driving in runs, which I like.”
Last year, in a 3-0 loss to the Red Sox, Connor started in center field and played seven innings. Sean entered the game in right field, played four innings and had one at-bat.
“That’s another moment I’ll never forget: playing in the same outfield with my brother against the Red Sox,” said Connor Lyons, adding with a laugh, “We lost 3-0, but it was better than the year before, when we lost 25-0 to Boston.”
Lyons was looking forward to watching a recording of the game, largely to listen to Treff, who agreed to be mic’d up for the broadcast.
“I know he’s going to play, and it’s going to be interesting to hear what he says during the game,” Lyons said. “He’s a funny guy, someone who just keeps the team loose. He’s a good teammate.”
Junior right-handed pitcher Keegan Taylor of Greenland and Portsmouth High is a member of the Northeastern team, but still is inactive after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“He had some complications with his surgery, but I heard he might be back in a month,” said Lyons, who suffered a season-ending injury last year in Wilmington, N.C., breaking his collarbone while making an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track.
Lyons said he’s not setting any goals today against the Red Sox.
“Just going to have fun,” he said. “Even if I get up three times and strike out three times, I’m still going to have a great time.”