Civale gets full-circle moment with first Fenway start

May 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BOSTON -- has pitched at Fenway Park before.

It was April 22, 2015, and Civale was a sophomore right-hander facing Harvard for the Northeastern University Huskies in the final round of the Baseball Beanpot tournament. Civale entered to work the ninth inning, gave up two hits and picked up the save in Northeastern’s 7-6 victory.

“I was a reliever back then, so I just came into the game for the last inning,” Civale said with a smile on Monday afternoon. “But it was just fun to be out there.”

Civale has pitched against the Red Sox before, too. He first did so during that same sophomore season at Northeastern. His college team traveled south to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., for a Spring Training exhibition in which he struck out David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts.

Civale has also taken the mound against the Red Sox at Progressive Field in Cleveland, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and even at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo on March 10 as part of the Dominican Republic Series.

And Civale has been to Fenway Park plenty. The native of East Windsor, Conn., said he made the 93-mile trip four or five times to see the Red Sox, his favorite team growing up. He and his brother, Nic, came to appreciate Rays legend Evan Longoria that way, which is why Civale warms up to Longoria’s iconic walk-up song, “Down and Out” by Tantric.

When Civale wound up going to college in Boston, he and his teammates would walk to the ballpark in pursuit of cheap tickets “as often as we could.” He came back as a Major Leaguer, signing his name inside the Green Monster, but the schedule and his health never aligned for him to get a start here.

Now, Civale can finally cross a big item off his baseball bucket list.

The Rays right-hander will scale the mound at Fenway Park on Tuesday for the first time as a professional baseball player to start against the Red Sox. It’s a moment Civale has been looking forward to since he first reached the big leagues, if not much longer.

“It’ll definitely be special,” he said. “It’ll be very cool.”

Civale still lives in the area during the offseason and has called Massachusetts home since he left for college. He said he’ll have “a lot” of family and friends in attendance, along with folks from Northeastern, although he left the specifics and planning to his wife, Francesca.

Civale wanted to keep his focus on his start. He hasn’t completed five innings in each of his last four outings, although he and manager Kevin Cash agreed his last time out was a step in the right direction.

“I saw positives, too,” Cash said. “I'm glad that he felt that there were positives to that. I want to see that continue.”

Still, Civale allowed himself a moment on Monday afternoon to walk around a relatively quiet Fenway Park, soaking in the atmosphere before he gets to experience it at the highest level on the mound.

“I do it every time I'm here. Try to do it at every stadium we go to,” he said. “To call these places our workspace is very cool, so just trying to take it in every time we're somewhere.”