MLB Notes: Boston K Men celebrating 25 years of strikeouts

It started with a couple of teenagers from Wayland and a stencil.

When Pedro Martinez joined the Boston Red Sox in 1998, then 16-year-old Kirk Carapezza and his best friend Ryan McCarthy made sure they were in the building for his first start at Fenway Park. The energy in the ballpark that day was electric, but the two couldn’t help but notice something was missing.

“No one was keeping track of his Ks in the bleachers,” Carapezza said. “So we went home and printed out 27 and came back for his next start, and then we never missed one of his starts.”

In the months and years that followed the group grew in size and notoriety, and before long the Boston K Men were born.

A quarter-century later they’re still going strong.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the K Men, who have now counted thousands of strikeouts recorded by the best Red Sox pitchers of the modern era. In the process they’ve become a Fenway Park institution and the sight of their “K” signs stretching across the outfield wall has become a familiar one for an entire generation of Red Sox fans.

“One fan came up to us and said at this point the Ks are like part of the tapestry of Fenway Park,” said Carapezza, who away from the park serves as a reporter and editor for WGBH News.

Originally the group set up shop in Section 39, Row 31, then the last row of the right field bleachers, and posted the Ks along with a poster that read “Los ponchados de Pedro.” Many of those original signs are still being used to this day, and while the atmosphere at Fenway Park wasn’t the same in the late 90s as it would be leading into the 2004 World Series championship season, the crowds that came out to see Pedro were on an entirely different level.

“It was like a European soccer game,” Carapezza said. “It was crazy.”

After Martinez left the Red Sox following the 2004 World Series the K Men moved from the back of the bleachers to their current perch atop the Green Monster and began posting for other pitchers. They came out for Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, David Price and now for Chris Sale, though this past week they called an audible and posted for Brayan Bello’s season debut on Marathon Monday against Shohei Ohtani.

While the group is still driven by a love of Red Sox baseball, in recent years they’ve also worked to channel their passion into making a real difference away from the park too.

Over the past few seasons the K Men have partnered with The Base, a Roxbury-based urban academy that provides sports training and competition along with programs geared towards college access, career development and other outlets to help talented local kids become successful. The group sells T-shirts and hats to support The Base’s programming, and thanks to a donation by Fenway Park’s Bleacher Bar covering the cost of printing and shipping, 100% of the proceeds go to The Base.

In return numerous kids from The Base regularly come to the park to help the K Men post signs.

“We’re at the point now where a lot of us are older, we have families, we have kids, but partnering with The Base is great,” Carapezza said. “It’s really reinvigorated the group because it’s given us a reason to come out here again, and the student-athletes they send are the same age we were when we started this thing.”

Last year the K Men raised more than $20,000 for The Base, helping support the organization’s baseball and softball programs along with all travel, uniforms, meals and other associated costs. The Base also sponsors basketball as well as programs relating to STEM and eSports, and Steph Lewis, president and CEO of The Base, said thanks to partners like the K Men local kids can benefit from their offerings without spending a nickel of their own money.

“Everything we do and everything about us is completely cost-free,” Lewis said. “So when we’re hitting the pavement and thinking of different and innovative ways to be able to fundraise, it made perfect sense working with Kirk and the rest of the K Men.”

Though the K Men to this day continue to buy their own standing room only tickets for each game, the Red Sox donate tickets for the kids from The Base to attend. Carapezza said the relationship has been incredibly fulfilling for both sides and they’re hopeful the kids they’ve gotten to know will ensure K signs are still being posted at Fenway for many years to come.

“Eventually we’d love to have [the K signs] in Roxbury at The Base and it’s their responsibility,” Carapezza said. “Those students [would] have to figure out how they’re getting to the games and putting up the K signs.”

To learn more about the K Men and their efforts, visit

‘Robot umps’ to debut in Triple-A

After years of testing and tinkering in the lower levels of the minors, the Automated Ball/Strike System is set to make its debut across Triple-A this week. The Worcester Red Sox will play their first game with the electronic strike zone on Tuesday.

Over the coming months two versions of the ABS system will be tested. On games played Tuesday through Thursday all calls will be made using the electronic strike zone, and Friday through Sunday the “challenge” system will be used.

Under the challenge system balls and strikes will be called by the home plate umpire like normal, but each team will have the ability to challenge calls in a similar manner as tennis players on close boundary calls. When a challenge is made the pitch will be shown on the stadium video board, and each team will have three challenges per game, with teams retaining challenges if they are proven correct.

Though MLB has not indicated when the ABS system could be implemented in the big leagues, its promotion to Triple-A suggests the league is serious about the concept. Last year the pitch clock, shift ban and larger bases were all tested across Triple-A before their MLB introduction this season, and other rule changes are also being studied at lower levels.

For instance, this season the Atlantic League, a partner league of MLB which in recent years has served as a laboratory for prospective new rules, will debut some interesting new tweaks. Starting Friday the ALPB will feature a new Designated Pinch Runner rule, which will allow clubs to designated a particular bench player as a pinch running specialist who can sub in for any baserunner they wish. That player and the pinch runner could then both return to the game without penalty.

The ALPB is also testing a pitcher limit of a single mound disengagement per at bat (down from two) as well as the Double-Hook DH rule, which allows clubs to use the designated hitter throughout the game provided that the club’s starting pitcher has completed at least five innings. If the starter fails to make it through the fifth, the club then loses the DH for the remainder of the game, which would presumably discourage teams from using openers or employing bullpen days at the expense of starting pitchers.

Athletics to build new ballpark in Las Vegas

The long-running Oakland Athletics stadium saga appears to be nearing its sad yet predictable conclusion.

This week the Athletics confirmed they have agreed to a binding purchase of land for a new ballpark near the Las Vegas Strip. The club plans to build a billion-dollar retractable-roof stadium on the property to be opened in time for the 2027 season.

The move all but assures the Athletics will become the first MLB club to relocate since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005.

Founded in 1901, Las Vegas will become the fourth city the Athletics have called home. The franchise spent its first 54 years of existence in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in 1955. The club then moved to Oakland 13 years later in 1968 and has called the Bay Area home for the past 55 years, winning four World Series championships in the process.

In recent years, however, the Athletics have become an embarrassment.

Under the direction of owner John Fisher, who has an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion, the Athletics have stripped their big league roster down to the studs and allowed the aging Oakland Coliseum to fall into a state of disrepair. Entering the weekend the A’s were an MLB-worst 4-16 on the season with a historically bad pitching staff allowing an average of nearly eight runs per game.

The club has also raised ticket prices while carrying a league-low payroll of just $58.2 million, and unsurprisingly fans have turned away in droves. The Athletics are currently averaging only around 11,000 fans per game, and some nights the club has barely drawn 3,000.

If all that sounds like the plot of “Major League,” you’re not wrong. Unfortunately this story won’t have a happy ending for the good fans of Oakland who deserved better from their ball club.

Farm Report: Keegan crushing it

Playing his first full season of professional baseball, Methuen’s Dom Keegan has gotten off to a fantastic start. The former Central Catholic great has been tearing the cover off the ball for the Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and so far ranks as one of the most productive players in the minors.

Entering Saturday Keegan is hitting .485 with two home runs, nine RBI and an eye-popping 1.311 OPS through 10 games. This past Monday he was also named Carolina League Player of the Week after batting .588 with four runs, five RBI and 13 total bases in the prior five games.

Keegan was a fourth-round pick by the Rays last summer after a decorated four-year college career at Vanderbilt. Two other locals selected, former Northeastern University teammates Cam Schlittler of Walpole and Sebastian Keane of North Andover, are currently teammates for the New York Yankees’ Florida Complex League club.

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