2017-02-15 / Top News

Red Sox spring security chief marks 25 years on the job

BY GLENN MILLER
Florida Weekly Correspondent

Steve Blessing has been around Boston Red Sox spring training about as long as two of the team’s best players - right fielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts – have been alive.

They were born in 1992, the year before the Red Sox started training at City of Palms Park. That was also the year the team’s future director of spring training security first popped into Fort Myers and looked at the park, which wasn’t ready for baseball.

“Just a hole in the ground,” Mr. Blessing said recently, standing in JetBlue Park, the team’s spring home since 2012.

He’s still on the job at 71, preparing for another spring training. Before going to work in baseball, Mr. Blessing worked with the Providence, R.I. Police Department, retiring as a detective sergeant.

“I was there for 24 years so this is going to be my longest place of employment,” Mr. Blessing said of the Red Sox.

He comes from a law enforcement family. His father, grandfather and son were also Providence police officers.

Fans attending games at City of Palms Park or JetBlue Park may have noticed Mr. Blessing at work, strolling the stands and grounds, making sure his staff is on the job and keeping fans safe.

Mr. Blessing is a seasonal employee, basically working through the winter and into the spring. He finds baseball fans pose little if any problems during spring training.

“It’s a great climate to work in,” Mr. Blessing said. “People, you can almost see them in that 10-minute ride from the airport to the ballpark. It seems when they here it’s like they hit the lottery.”

Mr. Blessing grew up a Red Sox fan and recalls childhood trips to Fenway Park, including most memorably one with his father in 1957. Young Steve Blessing followed a rookie second baseman named Ken Aspromonte out of Fenway Park after a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.

“There were no other kids around,” Mr. Blessing said. “There was a nice looking lady with a bee hive hairdo like Marge Simpson.”

He tried but failed to get Mr. Aspromonte’s autograph.

“He kept telling me to get lost,” Mr. Blessing said.

His father asked young Steve how he made out on the Aspromonte autograph quest. He had to tell his dad that he didn’t get the rookie to sign his souvenir Red Sox yearbook. Father and son then walked to a Boston televisions studio, where a benefit for the Jimmy Fund was being telecast.

His father encouraged him to go in the door and the young baseball fan spotted Tigers stars Jim Bunning and Al Kaline and Red Sox third baseman Frank Malzone.

“This is unbelievable,” Mr. Blessing said, recalling that day from 60 years ago.

He said Mr. Malzone asked to see his yearbook. Then Mr. Malzone showed it to the Tigers players and all three kidded each other about how their exploits had been exaggerated. They used, Mr. Blessing said, a colorful word to describe the bio information on each other, a word that can’t be printed here.

“They were having fun busting each other’s chops,” Mr. Blessing said.

Meanwhile, the kid was just standing there.

“Like Mickey the Mope,” Mr. Blessing said.

All three players wound up signing the yearbook for little Steve Blessing.

“I’m dumbfounded,” Mr. Blessing said, describing his reaction. “I was speechless.”

He was about to go tell his dad the great news when somebody said, as he recalls, “Hey, kid, aren’t you going to wait for Ted.”

The Ted in question was, of course, Ted Williams, the greatest Red Sox player ever. Williams then signed the yearbook.

“It was my lifetime treasure,” Mr. Blessing said.

Unfortunately, a family member later sold the yearbook.

But Mr. Blessing remained a Red Sox fan and like countless others reveled in the team winning the 2004 World Series, which broke an 86-year championship drought.

“It was a wet eye moment,’ Mr. Blessing said.

Now, after nearly a quarter of a century on the job, Mr. Blessing finds working in spring training is still a treat.

“There’s no drudgery for sure,” Mr. Blessing said. “Everything is here. The game. The fans. Sunshine. Can’t beat it.”

Fans have not seen the last of Mr. Blessing at JetBlue Park.

“I’d like to do this forever,” Mr. Blessing said. “Who wouldn’t?” ¦

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