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Red Sox take offseason swing to campus

In about one month, the Boston Red Sox and Northeastern’s baseball team will face off in their annual exhibition game in Florida. But Wednesday night, the Huskies threw down the gauntlet against the reigning World Series champs in a lighthearted moment during the “Red Sox On Campus,” a town hall-style event at Northeastern featuring Sox general manager Ben Cherington, manager John Farrell, and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

The Sox trio discussed the team’s championship run in 2013, the season ahead, and baseball Xs and Os, answering questions from some of the several hundred audience members in Blackman Auditorium. Gomes, who last October helped lead Boston to its third World Series title in nine years, joked it was the Huskies who should be worried. “Well you guys got to pack your lunch cause we’re the champs,” Gomes said in jest.

Kidding aside, Gomes and Farrell said playing Northeastern was great for the major leaguers because it’s their first organized game in spring training.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Farrell said, “and having been a college player, getting the chance to play against a big league team or Triple-A team, I know it’s an exciting time for you guys too.”

The event was sponsored and filmed by NESN and emceed by Tom Caron, who hosts the pre- and postgame shows during Red Sox games. “Red Sox on Campus” will air on NESN on Monday, Jan. 27, at 10 p.m. and will rebroadcast in the days following.

Graduate student Jenny Chu, who is pursuing her master's in pediatric primary care, had her shirt signed by Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes at "Red Sox on Campus" event. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Graduate student Jenny Chu, who is pursuing her master’s in pediatric primary care, had her Red Sox t-shirt signed by outfielder Jonny Gomes at the “Red Sox on Campus” event. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Prior to the taped portion of the event, Jack Moynihan, Northeastern’s vice president of alumni relations, welcomed the audience and thanked the Sox for their continued partnership over the years, which includes providing co-op experiences for students. “The Red Sox have been a great partner,” Moynihan said.

Cherington, who was named general manager in 2011, told the crowd the front office staff only had a few hours to celebrate the team’s World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Then it was back to work. “For us, free agency started the next morning (after the last game of the series),” Cherington said. “We haven’t had much time to reflect on it.”

Earlier in the day, the Red Sox rival New York Yankees had signed highly sought after Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract. So John Sweeney, who is pursuing his master’s in criminal justice leadership at Northeastern, cut right to the chase with his question to Cherington: when would the Sox sign starting pitcher Jon Lester to a long-term extension?

“The open door is always there, and the willingness and effort to talk is always there,” Cherington said. “So I think with that, a conversation will happen at the appropriate time. We will see.”

Farrell, who was in his first year as the Red Sox manager last season, was asked by William Pett, SSH’14, about his thoughts on Major League Baseball’s new expanded instant replay rules, which will allow managers to challenge calls umpires make during a game.

“I’m all for it,” Farrell said. “Everyone wants to get the calls right. You want to be sure a call in April doesn’t affect whether you get into the postseason.”

Other questions ranged from favorite ballparks to how the Sox will stay motivated to repeat their success this upcoming season. The crowd roared following Gomes’ response to a question about how to be a good teammate. “First you win, because winning erases everything,” noted Gomes, who later added that he strives to mentor younger players and provide the same veteran leadership he benefited from early in his career.

Gomes also admitted he’d be shaving off his now legendary beard before spring training. Someone asked him that since beards became the team’s theme last season, what would be team’s theme in 2014? “Back-to-back,” Gomes replied.