SPRINGFIELD — Although the single-digit wind chills may not have been a great indicator, the sight of beer vendors and the distinct aroma of sausage grinders inside the MassMutual Center on a mid-January weekend is a welcome reminder that baseball season is just around the corner.

With pitchers and catchers set to report for spring training in less than a month, the Boston Red Sox once again hosted their patented Winter Weekend at MGM Springfield and the MassMutual Center on Jan. 19 and 20.

Generations of fans from all over the region flocked to Springfield to support their beloved team and participate in the bevy of activities available during the weekend including panel discussions, photo and autograph sessions with players and baseball-related activities during the Fan Fest portion.

Sporadic jeers and pleas for better pitching rained from the crowd when newly hired Chief Baseball Officer Craig Breslow and Chief Executive Officer Sam Kennedy walked out to the MassMutual stage during Jonathan Papelbon’s late-night talk show segment on Jan. 19.

One fan screamed out, “I miss Kiké Hernadez and Mookie Betts, who are these players? Spend some money,” during the Sox Survivor games during which pitchers and position players competed against each other in team minigames.

The acrimonious reactions are in response to a generally quiet offseason for the Red Sox after finishing in last place in the division for the third time in four seasons this past year.

“I think they’re a big market team not acting like a big market team,” John Barry, a Winter Weekend attendee from Andover told Reminder Publishing. “I’d be fine if they just told us the truth and said, ‘Listen, we’re not ready to compete this year.’ But, they lie to us.’”

Others like Barry, expressed contempt for the organization’s perceived negligence in fielding the best team possible, but these feelings were unable to suppress fans’ commitment to their historic franchise, and Winter Weekend served as a reminder of why people love the team in the first place.

“I think it’s an atmospheric thing,” said Robert Smith, a Naugatuck, Connecticut, native, when describing why the Red Sox have such a gravitational pull. “I don’t see other teams holding events like [Winter Weekend] … it’s like we’re all one big family.”

Jarrod Deering and Nick Cormacchi, two lifelong fans who traveled from Albany, New York, to enjoy the event, voiced their opinion on the current state of the team.

“We drove an hour and 30 minutes to see the Red Sox and be surrounded by other fans who seem to share a similar vibe towards this team. We need pitching and the front office refuses to acknowledge that or make a beneficial move,” Deering said.

Fans gave several reasons for why they went to Winter Weekend. Some said it was on their bucket list for a couple years, while others said they had so much fun when they went during a past year that they had to go again.

Cormacchi said, “I have been going to this event for years. Being able to see current players and former players that you see on TV in-person is worth it and being surrounded by other fans who love the same team makes it feel like a family event.”

Scott O’Shea, from Hopedale, said, “I’ve never been, but I heard so many great stories about the weekend, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to go. Everyone’s here to have a good time.”

Some fans summed up their reason for attending in succinct, but effective, terms: “It’s the Red Sox, man,” said Tom O’Shea, a Connecticut resident who attended the event with his wife and two kids.

Smith and Tom O’Shea’s comments reflect the general aura of a diehard fanbase that reaches beyond the confines of Massachusetts. Even during an era of stagnation, the Red Sox will always secure their fans for many reasons, whether it is because of their rich history or because fandom was passed down from generation to generation.

Father and son Jeff and Josh Landon traveled from Wilmington, Connecticut, to show their loyalty.

“It is great to see the players in person and get some autographs as well,” Jeff Landon said, when talking about why he loves coming to the event, “Even though they finished in last place you got to stick with them because they are your team. There have been seasons where it looked worse and we made it to the World Series.”

One fan, Tommaso Tollis, explained that events like Winter Weekend illustrate how important the Red Sox and baseball are to Massachusetts.

“Baseball is widely known in all of Massachusetts,” Tollis said. “If you’re from Mass., and you don’t like the Red Sox, it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Tollis, an East Longmeadow native, said this was his first time attending Winter Weekend. He added that he saw the players were coming and thought, “What else is there better to do on a cold Saturday in January?”

“I think this event brings the whole city of Springfield together, because who doesn’t love baseball,” Tollis said. “It’s been America’s pastime for almost eternity, so this just really gets people excited for the season.”

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