To Boston’s old number 18 — the one now in pinstripes — Thursday’s first pitch in Grapefruit action must have looked liked one. Johnny Damon, as they say, crushed it. To Boston’s new number 18, whose first offering in earnest comes tonight, before a media glare few ever experience, it will matter not that the opposing batsman plays for Boston COLLEGE. That’s what early spring games are about. Giving kids a chance to swing against live big league pitching. But when Daisuke Matsuzaka spins his gyro ball plateward, a thousand cameras popping, the BC youngster will have something else to contend with. Like it or not he’ll be swept up in Dice-K Mania! Just like the rest of us.
Confess. Who among Red Sox Nation hasn’t already penciled in 20 wins for our new Japanese star? Favorite f or the Cy Young, too. He’ll be bigger than fellow countryman Ichiro. There’s a no brainer. Seattle? Suzuki might as well be playing baseball in Hoboken, compared to that global stage Dice-K debuts on in Florida this evening. Yes, we’re thrilled that Josh Beckett managed to keep Northeastern University batters from taking him deep for two innings yesterday. Equally happy for former Sea Dogs, Kason Gabbard, who threw quite well, and Devern Hansack (less so) in a split-squad loss to the Jays. But set your TiVo to NESN at 6:05 p.m. Eastern, for that is where we will find our greatest joy as Red Sox fans. Forget Smokey Joe, Parnell, Rocket, Pedro- all of ’em. This is special. Tonight we become eye witness to greatness, passengers aboard a meteor bound for Cooperstown. Wanna bet against it?