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Fenway Park adds to Beanpot excitement for UMass baseball

When he was still a football player, Kellen Pagel knew the University of Massachusetts baseball team had played at Fenway Park before, but he didn’t know the reason or the frequency of the game.

When he joined the baseball team, Pagel was excited to learn this was one of the years the finals and consolation game of the Baseball Beanpot were at Fenway. It alternates every other year.

“Ever since I heard about this opportunity I’ve been fired up. I’ve been bragging about this opportunity to my old football teammates, just telling them we’re going to be playing there on Monday,” said Pagel, who has never been in the park before. “I knew they had played there before. I didn’t know it would be this year. When I found out we were going to be part of it, I was really excited. It’s something to tell the kids about. It’s a unique experience. It’s one of those things when we first get out there I’ll take it in a little bit and then just get ready to play baseball.”

Now a senior, Rich Graef will be playing at the historic ballpark for the second time. But the novelty hadn’t entirely worn off as he looking forward to playing Northeastern in the championship game today at 5 p.m.

“Sophomore year, it was more of a big deal. I definitely had butterflies. Some of the younger guys, who haven’t played here, will have them, and I probably will too when I first step on the field,” Graef said. “It’s a major league field. Kids’ dreams are coming true playing on Fenway. We’re college baseball players and the main goal is to win the Beanpot and hopefully nerves don’t play too big of a role.”

Pagel and Graef, who coincidentally are both Indians fans, both alternated between left and center field, so one of them will be playing Fenway’s famed 37-foot high left field wall.

“I’m sure it will be a little weird at first. I’ve obviously never seen anything like that,” Pagel said. “But once we get settled, it’ll be just playing baseball again. I’ll be prepared to play the ball off the wall.”

There will be no batting practice as UMass’ game immediately follows Boston College and Harvard, who are playing in the consolation game. Graef hoped to have a few minutes to study the bounces.

“Before the game, I want to throw a few balls off it, just to see how it bounces. It could be turning a single to a double or a double to a triple if you don’t play it the right way,” he said. “You just have to be very aware of it. Communication with whoever I’m out there with is key.”

Both outfielders said the idea of hitting a ball off or over the wall would be something to remember.

“That would certainly be a personal feat, an awesome thing to do, but I’m trying not to think about it at all,” Pagel said. “I’m just going to keep my normal approach and go from there.”

Graef agreed.

“It would be great to do. As a hitter we want to stay with our approach of up the middle and not try to hit fly balls,” he said. “If it happens it’ll be a great story.”

The Minutemen won the 2012 Beanpot. Graef said the team isn’t taking repeating the feat lightly.

“We were lucky enough to do it last year,” he said. “We’ve been saying ‘let’s defend it and keep the trophy another year.’ It’s definitely a team goal. We’re looking forward to playing at Fenway again and hopefully beating Northeastern. Winning the Beanpot is special anyway, but doing it at Fenway is even more special.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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