Prior to a day-night doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox earlier this month, two Red Sox players — who will remain nameless — sauntered into the clubhouse in the middle of the morning and exchanged forlorn looks and a sigh which seemed to suggest that they would rather have been home in bed.
They could be forgiven for the lack of enthusiasm. It was pouring rain outside, and they were about to play game Nos. 136 and 137 in a season that has been an absolute grind from the get-go.
Roughly 30 minutes later, both players were dressed, smiling and going at it with fellow teammates before hitting the field for batting practice. They seemed perfectly content and ready to keep on living the dream.
There is something about being with the fellas that can snap a player back to reality.
In a Red Sox season that has seen its fair share of difficult days to get up, the players have needed one another to power through.
That need has manifested itself mostly on the bench, where injured players such as Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek have remained constant presences while rehabbing from whatever ails them.
When asked about the All-Star-caliber disabled list manager Terry Francona said he was "fortunate" to have such leadership by his side, even though he would’ve rather seen such players in action. Their presence in giving teammates a boost, a slap on the back or just keeping things loose has been invaluable.
"You do this every day of your life, you want to be around the team," Francona said. "I don’t have any problem with [guys hanging around when hurt]. I think it’s great."
Despite the frustration of their injuries, these players were constantly upbeat, a necessary component to the team’s ability to stay afloat in the playoff race against what some have said were insurmountable odds.
Such a boost in attitude can translate to success on the field, but it also has advantages in other areas of life.
"There is no question that a positive, hopeful and engaged attitude will improve the quality of your life and your days," said Hester Hill Schnipper, head of oncology social work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "I wish I could say that a positive attitude will keep you healthy. This is a very important point because people who are struggling with serious illness may be very distressed by the suggestion that the normal down days are hurting their health."
However, she said there is plenty of research which suggests that "surrounding ourselves with people and activities we love, holding on to perspectives and priorities that please us, and believing in the importance of grabbing joy in the moment will improve the quality of every single day of our lives."
The Red Sox can relate. One of the more popular, and hilarious, scenes in their dugout this year has been the head-rubbing of Adrian Beltre after he homers. Beltre positively hates having other peoples’ hands on his head, so when his teammates learned of this quirk, they decided to exploit it at any cost.
It has led to several near "brawls" in the dugout as players, usually Victor Martinez or Marco Scutaro, pat Beltre’s pate before retreating from his ire with a cackle. It’s all in good fun, of course. Beltre always finishes the exchange with a smile.
Indeed, morale is always extremely high in the wake of a Beltre homer, for good reason.
But the Red Sox' ability to boost one another in some more difficult moments, including injuries, difficult losses and rainy mornings in September before a long doubleheader, has had an even bigger impact.