Red Sox

Jeter Downs explains his name, and how he finally met his hero in a bizarrely random way

Jeter Downs explains his name, and how he finally met his hero in a bizarrely random way

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jeter Downs may be named after the Yankees' Hall of Fame shortstop, but the two had never met until a chance encounter at a Miami traffic light just last week.

"I was driving, me and my brother were driving to go to train," Downs said Wednesday. "My brother, we're in traffic. He sees this Range Rover pulling up. He was like, 'Oh my God, is that Jeter?' He honks and I wave at him.

"I'm doing training with Raul Ibanez. I called Raul and said, 'Tell Jeter that the kid he was waving at was Jeter.' So then he told him that and it was pretty cool that I met him that way."

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A couple of days later, one of Downs' friends attended a Marlins event and arranged for Derek Jeter to FaceTime with his awestruck namesake.

"I've idolized him my whole life," Downs said. "It was finally good to meet him and talk to him a little bit. It was definitely special."

Needless to say, there's a new Jeter in town, and the Red Sox can only hope he's one-tenth the player who gave him his first name.

Jeter Downs was part of the return for Mookie Betts and David Price in the blockbuster with the Dodgers, and the slugging 21-year-old middle infielder hopes to strike his own path in Boston.

"It's cool to be traded for arguably a top-five player in the game," Downs said. "But it doesn't mean anything if I don't go out and do my job. I still have to go out and perform, play well. Things can be talked about after."

So about that name, which he estimates he's been asked about so much, "I can't even count the number of times."

His mom liked the way Jeter played, so she gave that name to her son, who was born in Colombia, but raised in Miami. His older brother, Jerry, is also a Red Sox farmhand, though he's named after their dad, who has always been a Red Sox fan.

"Obviously you get bombarded with this whole name thing," Downs said. "It's pretty cool. I guess my mom knew what she was doing when she named me Jeter."

The Red Sox gave him some special treatment, not only inviting him to big league camp, but giving him a locker next to J.D. Martinez and a number (20) that's about 65 less than the typical minor leaguer.

There's a lot to like about Downs' game. While scouts are split on his ability to remain at shortstop, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder projects as an everyday second baseman with power. He blasted 24 home runs last year between High-A and Double-A, and there's no reason to think he couldn't move quickly in a Red Sox farm system that's currently thin on top-end talent.

"Honestly I don't care where I'm playing as long as I'm helping the team win," Downs said. "It'd be the outfield if that's what we need to win and make things happen."

And who knows? Maybe he'll even do justice to his name.

"I obviously have the name, so I kind of had to be a fan of his," he said. "I idolized him – the way he played, the way he went about the game, the things he did, how he was respected by every single team. It was pretty cool as a kid. I don't care what team you're from. It was just cool to watch a guy like that."

Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

One of the most entertaining players ever to don a Boston Red Sox uniform was born 48 years ago today.

That would be Manny Ramirez, who celebrates his birthday on May 30. In honor of the special occasion, Major League Baseball tweeted an awesome video that includes some of Ramirez's greatest moments:

Watch below:

That cutoff of Johnny Damon's throw never gets old.

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Ramirez joined the Red Sox in 2001 after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Cleveland Indians. From there, he became a key contributor to two World Series titles (2004 and 2007) and furthered his legacy as one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.

He isn't done yet, either. Ramirez announced just a couple of months ago he is hoping to find a roster spot in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League. More "Manny Being Manny"? That sounds great to us.

We wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest (and most interesting) players in Red Sox history.

Ever Wonder Series: Why did the distance of Fenway Park's Green Monster change?

Ever Wonder Series: Why did the distance of Fenway Park's Green Monster change?

Of all of Fenway Park's quirks, my favorite might be how the 315-foot sign on the Green Monster suddenly became 310.

It's possible I love this story because the sportswriter gets to be the hero.

In 1995, the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy decided to settle one of the most persistent rumors of his career. He remembers hearing it as a cub reporter during the 1975 World Series, when the Reds insisted to a man that Fenway's famed left field fence couldn't possibly be 315 down the line.

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They all believed it was closer, but no one could prove it, because the Red Sox resisted periodic efforts to measure and answer the question once and for all.

That didn't stop the Globe from accessing the park's original 1912 blueprints, which showed the wall at 308 feet. They enlisted a World War II reconnaissance pilot to examine aerial photos, and he pegged it at 304. The author George Sullivan crawled up the foul line with a yardstick and settled on 309-5.

None of those numbers ever became official, though, because 315 by that point had been well-established as part of the park's lore. Fenway opened in 1912, was extensively renovated in 1934, and added bullpens in 1940, giving us the dimensions we essentially recognize today. For more than 60 years, the 315 sign at the base of the foul pole beckoned right-handed sluggers, terrified pitchers, and lived in what felt like perfect accuracy.

But Shaughnessy had other ideas. He finally decided to take matters into his own hands in March of 1995. His friends on the grounds crew looked the other way as he hopped a fence in an empty Fenway and unfurled a 100-foot Stanley SteelMaster tape measure.

It only took a matter of minutes to prove his hunch correct: 315 wasn't 315 at all.

It was 310, or 309-3, to be precise. Shaughnessy wrote about his findings in late April, and within a month, the Red Sox had quietly changed the sign to 310, which it remains to this day.

"My whole life looking at that wall, it was 315," Shaughnessy said. "Shortly after the story appeared, they changed it to 310, which surprised me. It was very un-Red Sox like in those days, and these days.

"Now when I see 310, I take some pride in that."