FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Class was in session.
For the 14th consecutive year and the 15th time overall, Northeastern University got a crash course in baseball at the highest level. The Huskies kicked off a three-week Florida road trip Thursday with an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
And there were teachable moments everywhere.
Northeastern coach Mike Glavine can always impart the wisdom of his Hall of Fame older brother, Tom. But there isn't a substitute for sharing the field with professionals, and during batting practice, the impressionable Huskies were able to mingle with their Red Sox counterparts, many of whom aren't much older than the typical college senior. Take, for example, 24-year-old All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts, last year's MVP runner-up in the American League, who is two years older than Northeastern senior pitcher Nate Borges, who interned with the Sox last fall.
The outcome of the game is beside the point. For the record, the Red Sox won again, 9-6, and improved to 15-0 all time against Northeastern.
But after opening their season with three consecutive losses, the Huskies hope a two-run ninth inning against the Red Sox can propel them to better things before they return in a few weeks to a Boston campus that's only a few miles from Fenway Park.
As they walk down a hallway leading to the field for batting practice, Northeastern players get a visual reminder of who they are about to play.
Charlie McConnell, a sophomore infielder/outfielder, keeps his marketing homework in his equipment bag during a three-week baseball road trip to Florida. Unlike with the Red Sox, baseball isn't the only thing on the Northeastern players' minds.
Batting practice offers the Huskies an opportunity to pick up pointers from the Red Sox and chat with them individually. Several Northeastern players paid close attention to the flight of the ball off Red Sox utility man Brock Holt's bat.
Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes knows all about the challenges of being a student-athlete. Barnes played for the University of Connecticut before being drafted by the Red Sox in the first round in 2011. He offered a few tips to the Northeastern players. Among them: Don't be afraid to check in with the team's trainers, even when you're not injured, to ensure your body is always in tip-top shape.
Freshman David Stiehl chats with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland during Boston's pregame batting practice. Northeastern players came to BP early to watch the Red Sox hit balls and get a chance to talk with them.
Rick Burroni jokes with Rivers Harris, 11, as he signs his baseball before the game. Harris' family travels to Fort Myers every year from Atlanta to catch spring training tilts and collect autographs along the way.
What better audience for a college player than the coaching staff of a major league team? And as Northeastern captain Pat Madigan bats, Red Sox manager John Farrell and coaches Gary DiSarcina, Carl Willis, Bob Kipper, Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield (left to right) watch him closely.
All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts chats with Northeastern infielder David Hopkins. Bogaerts has been in the majors since 2013, but he's just 24, not much older than most of his college opponents.
Fans watch the Huskies and BoSox from JetBlue Park's version of the Green Monster. The field carries on the various Fenway Park traditions like the Monster -- and a sing-along to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."
Northeastern senior David Hopkins tags out Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez as he throws to first base.
Northeastern players celebrate as senior Nick Fanneron scores the team's first run against the Red Sox.
Northeastern freshman Teddy Beaudet isn't quick enough as Red Sox infielder Deven Marrero tags him out at third base. In recent years, the Huskies have gotten more competitive. After losing 25-0 to the Red Sox in 2012, the last five games have been decided by five runs or fewer.
"Great game," says Northeastern sophomore Cam Walsh's family as he is greeted by his great aunt Martha Donahue, father Jamie Walsh and great uncle William Donahue. The sophomore outfielder's day: 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.
Northeastern freshman Tom Githens gets one last sense of the big leagues as he makes his way back to the visitor's locker room after the 9-6 loss.