Red Sox Kick Off "Listening Tour" in CT

  Duby McDowell, from left, greets her former teacher, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, with MetroHartford Alliance vice president Nancy Wheeler and attorney George Springer.

Duby McDowell, from left, greets her former teacher, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, with MetroHartford Alliance vice president Nancy Wheeler and attorney George Springer.

It was one big happy Red Sox Nation love fest Friday at the Hartford Club, the hallowed spot team executives chose to launch the team's 2010 "Listening Tour."

And fielding the questions, compliments and complaints was Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino, and what a good job he did in a drive to sway the state's Yankee and Mets fans to the Beantown camp.

Before taking on the media, Lucchino met with a select group from the MetroHartford Alliance, answering questions on topics ranging from "not enough parking" to high ticket prices. Those with the guts to speak up were rewarded with autographed baseballs and other Sox memorabilia.

"We've owned the team for years, but we are still considered the new owners," joked Lucchino, explaining the addition of amenities to Fenway, including more bathrooms, changing tables, vegetarian food and spectator standing room areas that have been added to the Red Sox home field in response to fans' suggestions.

You couldn't swing a bat without running into some kind of Red Sox hook-up at the local breakfast. There was John Green of Lux Bond & Green, the official Red Sox jeweler; Jon Gengras of Gengras Volvo, the official Red Sox car; and Duby McDowell, the official teacher's pet, as far as Lucchino is concerned.

"She was the model student, the shining star," oozed Lucchino, explaining his brief stint as a New Haven teacher while pursuing his law degree at Yale. McDowell, whose public relations firm handles Sox press relations in Connecticut, called her former fifth-grade teacher, her favorite.

Star-struck businessmen were late for work as they waited for pictures with and autographs from Lucchino and took time to peruse the team's 2004 World Series trophy, which was on display.

Admitting it has been a slow start for the Sox so far this season, Lucchino - whose jewelry box includes a "Final Four" watch, three World Series rings and a Super Bowl ring - needed little time to think when asked about the baseball game he would like to see if the sky were the limit.

"The 1927 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox," said Lucchino. "That would be a game."