Spring is here, and with it the Boston Red Sox and hope. Hope for the Red Sox is spelled T-E-D. It stands 6 feet 4 inches high, weighs at the moment a bulky 224 pounds and swings a baseball bat as perfectly as a herring gull flies.
Hope stood in short left field in Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida last week, flopping around after fly balls and grounders, smiling, talking with this player and joking with that one, laughing, sweating under the sun. People watching practice from the grandstand looked mostly at the batting cage and the man currently at bat, but eyes kept straying out to left field, and newcomers to the stands were nudged and told, "There's Ted. That's Ted Williams out there in left."
When it was near time for his turn at bat, Williams loped in to the batting cage. He dropped his glove, picked up the little red shin guard he uses to protect his left leg from fouls glancing down off his bat and leaned over to strap it on.
Joe Reichler, an Associated Press sportswriter, was on the other side of the cage.
"Hi, Bush," he said to Williams. Williams looked up from the shin guard, his face alert, and saw Reichler.
"Hi, Joe," he said. He finished buckling the strap and walked over.
He stood leaning against the cage, making small talk, occasionally interrupting himself to comment on the action. Leo Kiely, the lean Boston left-hander, was on the mound. Williams indicated Kiely with a nod of his head.
"That guy there. He's as thin as a damn rail."
He shook his head as if in worry, like a parent disturbed by a child who won't eat. A batter hit a sharp line drive.
"Base hit," Williams announced approvingly. "Dandy."