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This article was published 19/8/2011 (3359 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE Green Monster at Fenway Park didn't scare him away, but it didn't exactly welcome him with open arms either.
Nineteen-year-old Ben Dartnell had been waiting all his life to team up with the architectural hulk that sits surveying left-field in Boston's monumental ball park, and this summer, the kid from East St. Paul, who grew up a diehard Sox fan, got his chance, as the Boston Red Sox held their annual exhibition games this past June to showcase the club's latest draft crop.
Parents, club brass and even Sox manager Terry Francona were all in attendance, and Dartnell, the 6-foot-3, 211-pound pitcher, did not disappoint in his brief outing, recording two strikeouts and walking a third batter on a full count.
But he never got the call-back. Instead, the Red Sox threw Dartnell a bit of a curveball. Aug. 15 was the last possible day to sign with a pro team, and the Sox decided not to sign the product of Vauxhall Baseball Academy in Alberta -- but don't expect it to slow down the pitcher and his plans for pro ball.
"I'm going to attend Eastern Michigan University and pitch for them," he said Tuesday. "I wouldn't call not getting signed a dent or a speed bump or anything like that. It was really a win-win situation from the beginning: I was either going to get signed by my favourite team (Red Sox), or get to go to a great school to play baseball and get better and try to get drafted again."
The latter prevailed.
Dartnell, who is enrolling in an exercise science program, will come out of the bullpen for Eastern Michigan, and the Eagles, who are low on lefties, couldn't be happier to have him.
"They have almost no left-handed guys," he explained. "So when the university found out I didn't sign, they were thrilled."
In Major League Baseball, if a team passes up on signing a player once they have already drafted him, as Boston did with Dartnell, he becomes a free agent. Thus, as of this past Tuesday, Dartnell and the Boston Red Sox have absolutely nothing to do with each other professionally -- if only that were the case on a personal basis.
"If I go back to school and get drafted again, but by the Yankees, that would be a nightmare," Dartnell said with a laugh. "I'm such a Red Sox fan. That would be awful."
The former St. John's-Ravenscourt student is keeping everything in perspective however, and is having fun summer.
"When I first started playing baseball, I never thought I was going to get drafted," he said. "Now, I've been selected by my favourite team, and even though I didn't sign, I get to go to a great school on scholarship to play baseball. It's amazing."
As for Dartnell's flirt with Fenway, even though he didn't make a big impression, the experience was invaluable -- one that could not be fully accounted for by stats, numbers, and scouts.
"To step out there, take a breath and look around, it was surreal," he said. "It was a hundred per cent a dream come true."
As of now, however, the dream is still on the runway, and before it can take flight with his near-90 m.p.h. fastball, Dartnell must soar with the Eagles.
"Baseball is Ben's passion," his father, Paul Dartnell, said.
Now, he will try and make it his career.