Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach was toting second base around the clubhouse after a 12-2 win over the Rays on Friday, his loot after swiping his first bag in eight Major League seasons -- on his first big league attempt. Built like a backstop and hardly limber, Shoppach had not recorded a stolen base in the pros since 2002, when he was in Class A ball in the Sox system.
"It was awesome. I actually have already got a great idea of how I'm going to hang [the base] up," said Shoppach, who stole second in the sixth with a runner on third and two out. "Still photo of me sliding, jumping, kissing the dirt, getting the bag up. What a day for all of us, a lot of fun. It's nice to have those days -- especially [with] today's Opening Day and 100 years and all that stuff."
It wasn't pretty. Shoppach, who actually executed a delayed steal, went into a feet-first slide before switching to a headfirst slide that resulted in him plopping down on the bag and sending his helmet flying.
Shoppach waited 464 games to attempt his first steal, which was the active record. But if Shoppach was shocked he got the signal to run, he didn't say so.
"No, I mean, instinctively you know what you can do and can't do -- and [are] supposed to do, and know the signs," Shoppach said. "You just do 'em. Worked out good. I said, 'You know what, my baserunning antics today [are] going to [overshadow] anything I actually did playing.'"
"One of the best slides that I've ever seen in my entire career," Sox outfielder Cody Ross said. "He has the bag. Definitely for me, that was the play of the game. He slid a little early, Willie Mays Hayes-ish, and then proceeded to go forward and smash his head on the bag, it looked like. That's one thing we didn't practice in Spring Training -- one of the only few things. I wouldn't be surprised if we have some sliding practice for Shop sooner or later."
Shoppach had a truly fine day outside of the novelty steal against the team he spent the last two seasons with. He reached base four times, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and a hit by pitch. Shoppach also helped Josh Beckett to an eight-inning, one-run performance.
Shoppach was making his second straight start because the Rays had a southpaw on the mound in David Price and because, well, who would know Tampa Bay better than their former guy. It was not because of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's .077 average over the first five games, manager Bobby Valentine said.
"Kelly Shoppach did a great job working with Josh," Valentine said. "Was a really good job behind the plate. You know, his offense came through. Getting hit by a pitch started a rally. His double started a rally. He stole a base, I think, for the first time in his career. Nice Opening Day at home for Kelly Shoppach."