HOW SWEEP IT IS !!!!!

     I have broadcast thousands of baseball games over my career.  Somewhere between 1700-1800 nights at ballparks all across the fruited plains.  Every season has ultimately ended in a loss, until Thursday night, September 13, 2012.  That was the night the Pawtucket Red Sox ended a 28 year drought.  For the first time since Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office, The PawSox reign as the champions of the International League.  Being there was a surreal experience.

     As a broadacster, you’re really not part of the team itself, but you are recognized as a part of the entourage.  You stay in the same hotels, eat at the same restaurants, ride the same busses and hang on every win and loss.  One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen was the final out, a sharply hit ground ball hit up the first base line, smothered by Andy LaRoche.  Andy waved off pitcher Josh Fields, stepped on the bag and the celebration began. 

     International League President, Randy Mobley made the presentation of the Governors’ Cup, symbolic of the I.L. championship to PawSox President, Mike Tamburro, General Manager, Lou Schweccheimer, Manager, Arnie Beyeler, and Red Sox Director of Player Development, Ben Crockett.  As the trophy was being hoisted, PawSox players orchestrated a well-choreographed attack of champagne on the brass.  The air was filled with foam and bubbles and plenty of smiles.  Over the course of a 144 game season, there are a lot of games that don’t matter.  This one clearly did.  I know a lot of the people there thought about Ben Mondor, the late owner of the PawSox, Arnie Beyeler mentioned him, saying he appreciated the help Ben must have given his club, smiling down from above.

     There has to be a catchy nickname for the Champion PawSox.  This club, lead by Nelson Figueroa, who won the clinching game in the regular season, the first round of the playoffs and in the championship round, as well, defied the odds.  A team decimated by promotions and defections and trades, had no business contending.  Portland Sea Dogs, veteran free agent types and a few remaining from our opening day roster, banded together and won it all.  In the long and storied history of the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise, these guys will forever be known as the PawSox team that won it all.  For some, it may be the highlight of their career, for others, perhaps a stepping stone to greater heights.  It can never be taken away.

     The PawSox rampaged through the I.L. playoffs, going 6-1.  That includes the first sweep in franchise history in the playoffs, taking three in a row from the completely overmatched Cahrlotte Knights.  There is a bit of unfinished business.  Tuesday night, the PawSox will face the winner of the Pacific Coast League title, either Omaha or Reno.  It’s a one game, winner take all event, the Triple A National Championship.  It will be played in Durham, North Carolina.  Win or lose, this has been a special season.  We are the Champions!

THE CATCH HAS CAUGHT ON

     This is the latest version of “The Catch”. If you’re a Willie Mays fan, it may have come in 1954. If you are a San Francisco 49er fan, it may have been Montana to Clark. If you are PawSox fan, this might be your Holy Grail. Jason Repko made the catch of the season the other day at McCoy, leaping over the leftfield wall to rob Kosuke Fukudome of a Grand Slam. It was a miraculous play by a very gifted defensive player. “The Catch” got, not only our attention, but the attention of the folks at the “Today Show”, “Good Morning America” and ESPN, to name a few. Repkos’ gem is currently a three time winner of the SportsCenter Top Ten, Best of the Best. This means it has been deemed the best play in sports for three days in a row. That includes ML baseball, NFL, US Open Tennis, Golf, Soccer and the 2012 Paralympics. Very impressive.

      Repko takes us through what he saw off the bat of Fukudome. “I knew it was going to be somewhere in the vicinity of being near the wall. I didn’t know it was going to be a homer. I had a pretty good read on it. Running back, I knew I was going to try to make a play on it. I was running pretty quick and jumped up. Instantly, as I was catching the ball, I looked to see where I was. I was already up on the wall. I knew I was going over. Luckily, I stretched my right hand over to brace myself and I was able to twist myself onto my feet. Not hurt…so it was good stuff.” Repko scratched his arm on the play, so he checked that as he realized there were runners on base and that was the first out. He still can’t explain why he jumped back onto the playing field before making his throw. One run scored, but only one as he got a thunderous ovation at McCoy.

     A great defensive player, Jason ranked his heroics. “That’s right up there with some of my best, I think. I’ve made catches like that before, but the wall has never been four and a half feet high, so that adds to it, flipping over into the bullpen.” What flashes through your mind at a moment like that? “More than anything, it was trying to prevent myself from falling on my face. As funny as it sounds, I’ve looked behind that fence before to see if anything was back there. Pre-planning in my head. This was months ago when I first got here. If something like this happens, am I safe doing what I did. Everything looked good back there, so that’s what made me feel free about going for it.”

     Repko says the acclaim and notoriety has resulted in tons of tweets, texts and facebook messages. “It’s been pretty cool.” Repko isn’t the first PawSox player to make the coveted top 10 in 2012. In May, Lars Anderson peaked at #4 when his home run hit his picture on the giant video board at McCoy. Repko has taken it to a new level. Already a three day winner, this could receive an ESPY nomination as play of the year.

     As a conspiracy theorist and a guy who likes a little controversy now and then, I jokingly asked Jason if he really made the catch. His eyes bugged out and he quickly and emphatically replied. “Of course I did. The umpire asked me the same question.” If you don’t believe Jason, just check out the bullpens’ reaction. In unison, they raised their arms. You can’t stage that.

      In the end, “The Catch” may be overwhadowed by the Governors’ Cup playoffs and a possibhly an I.L. crown, but those who saw it, won’t soon forget it.

DANIEL BARD KEEPS WORKING AND LEARNING

      It occured to me the other day that no one has heard Daniel Bard speak in quite a while.  Probably not since he first joined the PawSox to iron out his mechanics and then rejoin Boston.  Things didn’t quite work out that way.  The PawSox are in the final week of the regular season, hunting down the Wild Card berth and Bard is a mainstay in the Pawtucket bullpen.  Bard was asked to assess 2012, both on the field and personally.  “I’ve learned a lot, to say the least.  It’s been a crazy season.  Not what I expected if you talked to me back in February.  At the same time, it’s part of my journey, part of my career.  I’m confident I’m going to come out a better person, a better pitcher.  I know I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place right now.  I finally have a sense of comfort out there.  I feel like I’m back in control.  I’m anxious to see what the future holds.”

     Bard says he can’t afford to waste time thinking “what if I hadn’t moved into the starting rotation”.  He was, after all the best setup man in the American League, if not all the Majors.  “I think it’s natural to wonder what might have happened if I’d moved back to the pen when (Andrew) Bailey went down.  I think it happened for a reason.  The way things played out, I think I’ve been put through these trials to make me better or make someone else better.  It hasn’t been all fun at times, but I think you can learn something from every situation.”

     Bards’ 2012 season has been a microcosm of the year the Red Sox have endured.  Nothing has gone the way anyone planned.  When asked about the blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, Daniel admitted to being stunned.  “I don’t think it’s really sunk in  yet, just how big that trade was and just what an impact it will have on our season and our future.  It’s going to change the landscape of baseball in a lot of ways.  It was something the Red Sox kind of had to do.  After this year, they had to make a fresh start.  I’m glad I’m still here to be a part of it and see what happens next year.  Still, it’s sad to see those guys go.  I was good friends with all of them.  I wish them all the best out there.  It will be interesting to see what they (The Red Sox) do with all the freed up finances.”

    Despite his struggles at times this year,  Bard has remained strong and has never entertained the idea of giving up.  “I never thought of shutting it down.  I’ve stayed healthy all year.  When you’re healthy, you can keep going out there and working on things.  I’ve been blessed to stay healthy.  For me, it’s just a matter of taking it one day at a time.  Each outing, each day.  Whether it goes the way I planned or not.  Each day I get a fresh start.  Don’t let the last day beat you.  I try to get it out of my system.  It doesn’t matter today, what you did yesterday.  That’s how I try to approach it.”  Bard adds that he rarely loses sleep over a tough outing, but it’s not because he doesn’t care.  “No, I rarely lose sleep, whether it’s going good or bad.  I’ve had some frustrating drives home, but I always try to leave it at the ballpark.  I don’t let baseball become the most important thing in my life, and that keeps things in perspective for me.”

     As a 23 year old coming up through the Boston system, the right hander regularly threw in the upper 90s.  His fastball these days is more often in the 91-95 mph range.  Daniel isn’t concerned.  “If you look back to the Spring, I’m over 100 or 110 innings.  That’s more than I’ve thrown in the last three years.  In the beginning of the season, I think it was mechanics.  I feel I’ve corrected that and cleaned it up for the most part.  My velocity isn’t where it was a couple of years ago, but then again, I’m not as young as I used to be.  I feel good.  My arm feels good.”

     Bard is eager for the offseason and getting a fresh start in Fort Myers in February.  First he has other things he looks forward to.  “I want to spend a lot of time in a deer stand (hunting) and after a couple of weeks, get back to working out and get back into the flow of things.” 

     Despite his travails, Bard has handled the entire season with class and dignity.  He has been nothing but a true professional.  The kind of guy you want to root for. 

YOU COULD DEFINITELY USE A PROGRAM

      Sometimes the ideas for these blogs flow freely.  Other times, I sit and stare at the screen of my laptop for a long time.  This morning, it was the latter.  I am amazed that we are on our final road trip of the season.  After we finish n Charlotte, we head further south to Gwinnett to face the Braves in Georgia.  Despite massive personnel changes, the PawSox are still chasing a postseason berth.  A few nights ago against Rochester at McCoy, the Sox starting lineup featured exactly one player from the Opening Day lineup from manager Arnie Beyeler.  Che-Hsuan Lin was the only man in the starting lineup from April.

     Off the top of my headhere’s who isn’t here anymore. (In no particular order)  Lars Anderson (Columbus), Aaron Cook, Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Clay Mortenson, Andrew Miller, Scott Podsednik, Junichi Tazawa (Boston),  Brandon Duckworth, Doug Mathis (Japan),  Justin Germano (Cubs), Ross Ohlendorf (Padres), Luis Exposito (Orioles), Josh Kroeger (releaased), Chorye Spoon (released), Justin Thomas, Darnell McDonald (Scranton).  Those are just the guys I remember while sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Pineville, N.C.  Yesterday I rode to the ballpark in a shuttle with 11 players.  Not one of them was an original member of the 2012 PawSox.

     We may make the playoffs.  We might not.  It’s that close.  These days, Alex Hassan (leg) and Reynaldo Rodriguez (hand) are on the disabled list.  Various ailments and injuries have also sidelined Jose iglesias (knee), J.C. Linares (hand), Will Inman (finger).  With this knowledge, you probably agree that manager Arnie Beyeler has done a miraculous job keeping the club in the hunt.  All 5 starting pitchers from the team that started out 45-25 are gone.  The DH, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman,catcher, rightfielder are all gone as well.  After the amazing start, the PawSox dropped 9 straight.  The last six weeks or so, they’ve played .500 ball.  This last week, the PawSox have dropped 5 of 7.  We were great, terrible, and average.  The same team? Yes, but not really.

     At this very moment, Nate Spears, Lin, Tony Thomas, Jason Repko and Alex Wilson are the healthy holdovers.  Thomas has played very well despite months on the disabled list.  Newcomers like Dan Butler and Mike Rivera behind the plate, Andy LaRoche and Jon Hee in the infield and Josh Fields and Pedro Beato in the bullpen, along with the “new” starting rotation of Zach Stewart, Chris Hernandez, Billy Buckner, Nelson Figueroa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are holding down the fort.

     You aren’t cheering for the same guys today that you rooted for in April.  However, there is a common denominator.  They all wear, or wore the Pawtucket Red Sox jersey, and that’s what makes them your boys of summer.   

YOU COULD DEFINITELY USE A PROGRAM

      Sometimes the ideas for these blogs flow freely.  Other times, I sit and stare at the screen of my laptop for a long time.  This morning, it was the latter.  I am amazed that we are on our final road trip of the season.  After we finish n Charlotte, we head further south to Gwinnett to face the Braves in Georgia.  Despite massive personnel changes, the PawSox are still chasing a postseason berth.  A few nights ago against Rochester at McCoy, the Sox starting lineup featured exactly one player from the Opening Day lineup from manager Arnie Beyeler.  Che-Hsuan Lin was the only man in the starting lineup from April.

     Off the top of my headhere’s who isn’t here anymore. (In no particular order)  Lars Anderson (Columbus), Aaron Cook, Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Clay Mortenson, Andrew Miller, Scott Podsednik, Junichi Tazawa (Boston),  Brandon Duckworth, Doug Mathis (Japan),  Justin Germano (Cubs), Ross Ohlendorf (Padres), Luis Exposito (Orioles), Josh Kroeger (releaased), Chorye Spoon (released), Justin Thomas, Darnell McDonald (Scranton).  Those are just the guys I remember while sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Pineville, N.C.  Yesterday I rode to the ballpark in a shuttle with 11 players.  Not one of them was an original member of the 2012 PawSox.

     We may make the playoffs.  We might not.  It’s that close.  These days, Alex Hassan (leg) and Reynaldo Rodriguez (hand) are on the disabled list.  Various ailments and injuries have also sidelined Jose iglesias (knee), J.C. Linares (hand), Will Inman (finger).  With this knowledge, you probably agree that manager Arnie Beyeler has done a miraculous job keeping the club in the hunt.  All 5 starting pitchers from the team that started out 45-25 are gone.  The DH, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman,catcher, rightfielder are all gone as well.  After the amazing start, the PawSox dropped 9 straight.  The last six weeks or so, they’ve played .500 ball.  This last week, the PawSox have dropped 5 of 7.  We were great, terrible, and average.  The same team? Yes, but not really.

     At this very moment, Nate Spears, Lin, Tony Thomas, Jason Repko and Alex Wilson are the healthy holdovers.  Thomas has played very well despite months on the disabled list.  Newcomers like Dan Butler and Mike Rivera behind the plate, Andy LaRoche and Jon Hee in the infield and Josh Fields and Pedro Beato in the bullpen, along with the “new” starting rotation of Zach Stewart, Chris Hernandez, Billy Buckner, Nelson Figueroa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are holding down the fort.

     You aren’t cheering for the same guys today that you rooted for in April.  However, there is a common denominator.  They all wear, or wore the Pawtucket Red Sox jersey, and that’s what makes them your boys of summer.   

NAVA’S BACK IN TOWN

     There are certain people that make you feel good, no matter what.  Daniel Nava is one such person.  The outfielder is back with the PawSox for a Major League rehab assignment (wrist).  He has distinguished himself this season in Boston, after not even getting an invitation to Major League camp this past Spruing Training.  Nava, who went 0-1 with a couple of walks on Sunday, talked about his ailing wrist.  “The status is, I’m good.  They’re better.  I’m here to see some pitches and get some at bats, and hopefully get back to Boston quick.”

     Nava made a huge splash in 2010.  In his very first Major League at bat, on the very first pitch he saw in the Bigs, he crushed a grand slam off Joe Blanton of Philadelphia.  Nava says this time around is different.  “I think anytime you do something for a second or third time, you have a better understanding of what to expect.  Things just weren’t a shock.  You knew what was coming.  What to expect and what not to expect.”  

     Nava doesn’t let the praise he’s received from management and media alike, go to his head.  “Of course it feels good.  It serves as motivation to continue the hard work.  Let’s keep it going.  Don’t get lackadaisical.  Arnie (Beyeler) and I had a conversation when I first got called up this year about that and it was something that stuck with me.”

     Nava has had a birds’ eye view inside the Boston clubhouse for most of the season.  He maintains that the Sox are still very much alive despite their struggles. “This team is still built to win.  It’s a really good team.  The positive is that  you go day by day to get a win any way you can.  That can be the best thing.  I don’t think that anyone on the team has thrown in the towel.  It has been a grind.  Every day is a grind, whether we’ve played well or not, it’s been challenging with all the injuries.  There’s nothing left to lose, so hopefully we can get things going back in the right direction.”

     Daniel adds with all the added scrutiny, the rumors and innuendo swirling about the Sox, his teammates are handling it well.  “A lot of the guys are used to it.  They’ve been around the game.  They’re savvy veterans.  You learn to separate that from what happens on the field.  This is the time to prove the doubters wrong and hopefully we can make a playoff push.”

     Tradition dictates that a M.L. player on a rehab, buys his minor league teammates a meal, or “spread” after the game.  Knowing Nava and his health conscious habits, infielder Jon Hee joked that it would probably come from “Whole Foods.”  “Yeah, he’ll get us a salad bar.”  Hee laughed.  Nava laughed harder when he heard Jons’ comments. “What’s wrong with that?”  Nothing…..I guess.

    

HASSAN AND PAWSOX BATTLE THE YANKEES

    If Tuesdays’ game between the PawSox and Scranton was any indication, this is going to be some stretch drive.  The two teams atop the North Division battled it out and the PawSox took it 9-7.  Pawtucket jumped out to a 9-0 lead and hung on for dear life.  Believe it or not, with 20 games remaining on the 2012 schedule, there are 8 left against the Yankees.  That includes a doubleheader on Wednesday night at McCoy.  It’s a two game swing every night, meaning if the PawSox lost last night, they’d trail SWB by three games.  Instead, it’s just one game.  It’s shaping up to be a fun final couple of weeks.  And by the way, just for good measure, the PawSox close out the regular season with 4 at home against the Yankees.  Talk about drama.  There are a couple of very familiar faces on the Scranton roster.  Manny Delcarmen and Darnell McDonald.

     One name that has become familiar to Sox fans, is Alex Hassan.  The native of Quincy Mass. has had a very good first season in Triple A.  He offered his thoughts.  “It’s been pretty good.  I’ve definitely had some ups and downs but this has been the most challenging level for me so far.  It has forced me to make adjustments for the better.  I’ve had my struggles, but those are what make you better in the long run.”  Hassan got off to a slow start in April, going 0 for his first 17.  “It was really tough, but that’s the name of this game.  It’s a game built on failure, especially if you’re a hitter.  There are going to be some tough times in this game, but that’s ok.  Everyone goes through it.  It’s tough but if you’re going to play baseball, you have to accept it and persevere.”

     When enduring a tough stretch, Hassan says there is really only one person that can help him.  “It’s me. A lot of people will say stuff to try to help, but ultimately it’s me that has to make the decisions and have a good attitude.  It’s hard to do.  The coaches here are really supportive, but it’s in your hands.  Ultimately, it’s up to you.”

     Hassan adds that he tries to be a good teammated to those who have followed him up from AA Portland.  “Just be supportive.  They’re all good players, so I don’t need to help them with that part.  We’re always there for each other.”  That could come in handy as they round the final turn.

THINKING OUT LOUD

     First, let me tell you that it’s amazing that I haven’t smashed my laptop into a thousand pieces yet.  It’s on its’ last legs and seems to take great delight in devouring a blog that I’ve tried to post, or blanking out on me just as I’m about to do the scoreboard on the post-game show. As soon as the season ends, I will get a new one, and I will indeed, take a sledge hammer to this one.  As you might imagine, I’m about to write the same blog for the second time and I ain’t happy.

     (Deep Breath)  Kind of amazing that the PawSox are still in the thick of the playoff chase.  My friend Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times wrote a story the other day about the amazing turnover on the 2012 Pawtucket roster.  I haven’t counted, but according to Brendan, there are just 7 players left on the roster from Opening Day.  Yet, Pawtucket is in a seesaw battle with Scranton and Lehigh, as the three teams duke it out for the postseason berths.  Should the Sox make the playoffs, expect the roster to be further compromised, with the likes of Iglesias, Gomez and others going up to Boston to help them in their quest for fourth place in the A.L. East.   

     As I was sitting outside the hotel this morning, I chuckled as a taxi pulled up and picked up Daisuke Matsuzaka and his entourage.  What a waste of money this guy has been.  The brass in Boston has to be licking its’ chops, counting the days until they are rid of him and his exorbitent salary.  He will pitch in Rochester, leave and then rejoin us in 5 more days to start and throw another one of his patented 85 pitches in three innings.  Never a Cy Young, but most definitely a sayonara.

     Long, seemingly endless bus ride on Thursday night to Rochester after being swept at home by Syracuse.  After 5 hours on the bus, mercifully, we stopped on the NY state thruway.  “Sbarro” was still open and horrible pizza never tasted so good.  I felt like I was at an outdoor cafe in Tuscany, I was so hungry.  To that point, I had a box of Cheez-It crackers in my backpack, that I gladly shared with my buddy, Jose Iglesias.

     Went for coffee this morning and was amazed to see a guy get thrown out of Tim Hortons.  Apparently he had been sitting at his table for a long time without buying anything.  Intensely fixated on his laptop, the manager asked if she could get him anything.  He said he was all set.  A few moments later, she asked again.  When he said no again, she asked him nicely to pack up because the paying customers could use his table.  When he ignored her request again, she enlisted the help of a Rochester police officer.  The guy started arguing with the cop when he made it clear that he should leave immediately or risk arrest.  You really have to be a “bust-out” to get kicked out of a Tim Hortons.   The vagrant continued his argument on the street.  I figured I better take off before I was next to go.

      I can’t push my luck with this computer. I’m going to try to publish this blog before it disappears.  If you hear a loud scream from Rochester, you’ll know why,

RYNE-O-MITE

     It’s rare enough to have a Hall of Famer at the ballpark, but this weekend we had two of them at McCoy. Wade Boggs was in the house for his induction into the International League Hall of Fame. Across the field in the visitors’ dugout, sat Ryne Sandberg, Lehigh Valley manager and Cooperstown teammate of Boggs. In fact the two former infielders were inducted into the Baseball Hall together in 2005. When Boggs spoke to the throng in Pawtucket, he made certain to acknowledge Sandberg.

      Sandberg is finishing his second year as Iron Pigs manager. He was, at one time a candidate for the PawSox’ position. “I enjoy it here in Lehigh Valley. We have a tremendous fan base, so the atmsphere is always great. We have a good group of guys here. I enjoy what I’m doing and this is a good place to do it.” Sandberg is thought to be the only man in I.L. history who was elected into the Hall before he became a league manager. In fact, it was his enshrinement that got him thinking. “When I got into the Hall in 2005, going through that process, I figured out that I really wanted to be back in unioform, in some capacity. After coaching in Spring Training as an instructor for 8 years, I made up my mind that I wanted to try this in 2007 in A Ball. My reflection back on past coaches and managers and the game in general, is really what helped me decide. I’m thrilled about it.”

      Sandberg returns to Cooperstown every summer for the induction ceremonies. He says the Phillies are very good about giving him the time off. He looks forward to reuniting with his brethren annually. Last summer, outfielder Brandon Moss played for Ryno in Lehigh. The former PawSox standout told me that you’d never know the manager was a Hall of Famer. Sandberg considers that a compliment. “I talk to our guys on a daily basis, about how we’re all in this together. I’m out here to help them get better. Sweat and do all the things I need to do to help them. If that’s the message, that’s great. That’s how I went about my business as a player and I continue to do so as a manager. I take a lot of pride in preparation. Pre-game work. Quality work. Work hard and have fun.”

      As a Hall member, Sandberg hears the ongoing debate about steroid users and whether they should be included in Cooperstown. He doesn’t shy away from offering an opinion. “The conversation needs to be had. It was a big part of the game. However long it went on, those were baseball games that were played. I think it’s going to be very tough to put any of their plaques up in the Hall of Fame. It’s up to the sportswriters and baseball. It’s going to be a tough road to travel. These players played and I don’t think you can disregard this part of history. If there’s a compromise to recognize these players, OK. But remember, The Hall is about stats. It’s about character and integrity and playing the game the right way. Players that boosted their stats by breaking the law and going against the rules…I think that will speak for itself.”

GOOD BYE LARS AND GOOD LUCK

  The July 31, non waiver trade deadline has come and gone.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter.  This time it did.  Scott Podsednik was shipped off to Arizona with Matt Albers for former Pawtucket reliever Craig Breslow.  A loss, certainly, but Scotty “Pods” hadn’t been around that long.  The one that hit me was bittersweet.  Lars Anderson was traded to the Indians.  Lars has been in the Sox organization since Day 1.  Six years.  At one point, Baseball America rated him the top prospect in the organization.  He never quite lived up to the pressure or burden of such a billing.  You can’t judge him by that.  At age 24, Lars has a tremendous upside that I think will benefit Cleveland. 

     It was a poignant moment at Frontier Field in Rochester.  Heavy rain was falling and the guys were milling around the clubhouse, monitoring Twitter for the latest rumors.  Manny Delcarmen, the Scranton pitcher, who of course, is a Massachusetts kid with a Red Sox World Series ring was chatting with Daniel Bard and me when word about Lars got out.  Manny knows how quickly you can fall out of favor and be traded.  Sometimes it’s hard to come to grips with changing teams and uniforms.  Manny’s been gone a while now.  He knows what lies ahead for Lars.  Bard, who has struggled this season, had to be contemplating his own future, as well.

     As always, Anderson was philosophical when talking about his future.  “I’m really excited, man.  I had an awesome six years in the Red Sox organization.  I feel like I’m ready for something new.  A change of scenery is going to be good.  Something to energize me.  A place where there’s more of an opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the Big Leagues on a more regular basis.  All that is there in Cleveland.  It feels good to be wanted by a team and I’m excited to get started.” 

     Exactly a year ago, Anderson was traded to his hometown A’s.  When pitcher Rich Harden failed his physical, the deal was cancelled, leaving Lars back at McCoy Stadium.  It was a difficult situation for him.  One he handled as deftly as a hot smash to first base.  “There’s no other way to go about it constructively.  It stung as little bit.”

     In exchange, Boston gets a 27 year old knuckleballer, Steven Wright.  Wright converted to the knuckler a couple of seasons ago.  The Sox have tried over the years to find another Tim Wakefield with guys like Charlie Zink and John Barnes.  Nothing personal, but I’ve never been a fan of the pitch.  I can remember sitting in my crib, as a baby, just ripping Hoyt Wilhelm.  Ok, so maybe that is a bit of an exxageration, but you get the point.

     Lars leaves behind a lot of good friends.  He leaves behind a best friend, Ryan Kalish.  Anderson had to take a deep breath before talking about leaving Kalish in Boston.  “We talked about this possibility last night when he got called up to Boston.  We may never play together again.”  Anderson paused.  “Who knows?  Maybe we will.  Ryan and I will remain friends.  We’ll probably live in the same city during the offseason and train together.”

     Lars had no inkling that he’d be dealt.  Nor did he envision his landing spot.  The Columbus Clippers.  “I was completely blindsided.  I had heard nothing.  I was getting ready to play tonight.  When Arnie (Beyeler) told me, I was surprised.”

     Anderson isn’t worried about making new friends.  Playing first base comes with some advantages.  “I  get to chat with all the guys that reach base when we play them.  So we kind of know each other a little.  It’s not totally unfamiliar.”

      As I told Lars, I was having a tough time reading him.  I’m certain there had to be a range of emotions swirling around him.  He clarified for me.  “I’m really pleased with this.”  I will miss Lars.  I got acquainted with his mom Diane and his dad, George.  I even enjoyed conversations with his grandparents over the years.  I watched Lars mature from a kid into a thoughtful young man.  It has been my pleasure.  Good bye and good luck, friend.          

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