A simple foul popup has turned Danny Vinik into a celebrity in Boston.
Vinik threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first game of the AL championship series between the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, one week after he kept Angels catcher Jeff Mathis from catching Manny Ramirez's foul ball in the second game of the first round.
``It was the experience of a lifetime, I've never experienced anything that incredible,'' he said of the ceremony before Boston's 10-3 win over the Indians on Friday night. ``To be THE fan of Red Sox Nation, I just never dreamed of it.''
Vinik often attends games at Fenway Park - his father is Red Sox part-owner Jeffrey Vinik - but said he never had the chance to catch a foul ball before and barely remembers how he barehanded the ball from behind the temporary photographers' box.
``It kind of landed in my hands, the place erupted and I started getting jumped on,'' he said.
The 17-year-old high school junior, who stopped playing baseball competitively last year, said dozens of people have stopped to congratulate him.
``I have a lot more friends than I ever knew I had,'' he said with a laugh.
Vinik said the only other time a foul ball came near him, his father, a hedge fund manager who once ran Fidelity's mammoth Magellan Fund, missed it.
``I'm glad it wasn't hit to me, because who knows if it would've landed in my hands or landed on the ground,'' Jeffrey Vinik said. ``I'm glad that he caught it. It's great to have your kid do something like this.''
ON SECOND THOUGHT: Arizona manager Bob Melvin slept on it, and he still thinks it was the wrong call.
Melvin said Friday that he believes the umpires erred in calling interference on Justin Upton in the seventh inning of Colorado's 5-1 victory in Game 1 of the NL championship series.
The Diamondbacks had two runners on with no outs Thursday night when Augie Ojeda hit a grounder to third baseman Garrett Atkins, who threw to second baseman Kaz Matsui. Upton, running from first, slid over second and then rolled his right shoulder into Matsui's left leg, knocking the infielder to the ground.
Second base umpire Larry Vanover immediately called Upton out for interference, resulting in a double play.
``I think it's a good, clean, hard slide,'' Melvin said before Game 2 in Chase Field. ``You're supposed to just slide into the bag? It's human nature. His job is to go in there and try to take the guy out. And when you're still within distance of the bag, you'll see it happen nine times out of 10, guys will vary their angle to it.''
The call sparked outrage among fans, and some threw litter onto the field. Crew chief Tim McClelland sent players to their dugouts for about eight minutes until order was restored.
Melvin said the Diamondbacks didn't plan to lodge an official complaint.
``The last thing we should do is dwell on it and have it roll over to today,'' Melvin said.
FAMILY AFFAIR I: The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians are locked in a fierce battle over the loyalties of a single fan: New England Patriots player personnel director Scott Pioli.
Pioli worked with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro when they were both with the Cleveland Browns. Shapiro also has a connection with Eric Mangini: the New York Jets coach and former Patriots assistant is married to Shapiro's sister, Julie.
``I refrain from watching (the Patriots and Jets). Scott's a 15-year-long friend and Eric's my brother-in-law,'' Shapiro said before Boston's 10-3 win over Cleveland in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night. ``I'm an Eric Mangini and Scott Pioli fan first and a Patriots and Jets fan second.''
Pioli is also friends with Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who spent a year in the Indians front office after he was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies and got to know Shapiro there. When the Red Sox hired Francona, Shapiro introduced him to Pioli.
FAMILY AFFAIR II: Red Sox Nation is well represented in Tarboro, N.C.
Just say the name of Boston center fielder Coco Crisp and 94-year-old Maude Porter lights up, eager to talk about her great-grandson.
Her pride is displayed in a Crisp bobblehead doll that sits next to a stack of newspaper clippings on her coffee table in Tarboro, a town about 60 miles east of Raleigh. She wears a T-shirt bearing Crisp's name and has another one he sent her celebrating Boston's AL East title.
Porter turned down a personal invitation to attend Friday night's opening game of the ALCS against Crisp's former team, the Cleveland Indians, at Boston's Fenway Park. She says she prefers to watch her great-grandson in the comfort of her home.
She says she talks to him when he comes to bat ``just like he could hear me.'' She even calls Crisp by his real name - Corvelli.
``I say, 'Come on Corvelli. Hit one for Grandma. Grandma is watching you. Do yourself proud boy. Eat that apple up.' I got all sort of things that I tell him,'' she said.
The last time she watched Crisp play in person was last year against San Diego, when she got to meet several Red Sox players, including stars David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
``I get excited when I see them,'' she said. ``The last time they played I was sitting right here. I told (Ortiz), 'Come on, hit it in the grandstand.' And he did. When Manny came up, I said 'back-to-back daddy.' I love the Red Sox. I love Corvelli.''
DOUBLE DUTY: It could be a busy evening in Denver on Oct. 29.
The Broncos are scheduled to host Green Bay on ``Monday Night Football'' at 6:30 p.m. at Invesco Field. At around the same time, the Rockies could be hosting Boston or Cleveland in Game 5 of the World Series.
``We will not be changing the time of our game,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. ``There is no facility or parking conflict.''
The NFL did not schedule a Sunday night game opposite Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 28. Monday night had been a travel day for the World Series, but the schedule was altered this year for the first time since 1985.
SITTING THIS ONE OUT: When the Cleveland Indians celebrated on the field after beating the New York Yankees on Monday night, manager Eric Wedge watched from beyond the foul line.
``They earn the right to be out there,'' Wedge said before Friday night's first game of the AL championship series against the Red Sox. ``As soon as you get done playing, you start managing and coaching, it sure as hell better not be about you anymore.''
Wedge said it's been his custom all season to let the players congratulate each other on the field. When they're done, he catches them on their way back to the dugout.
``This is their team. It's their clubhouse.'' Wedge said. ``They show us the respect by coming through and shaking our hands when that's all said and done.''

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