NINE INNINGS WITH NAT
We recently ran a contest to come up with a name for a pre-game interview segment we do with PawSox infielder Jeff Natale. Each week Nat interviews one of his teammates for our broadcast. So far, his subjects have had rousing success. On the day he interviewed Sean Danielson, “Spike” went 5-6. The day he spoke with Billy Traber, the lefty earned a win. Guys aren’t exactly clamoring to speak to Jeff, but it is starting to catch on. “At Bat with Nat” took a major step forward on Saturday. My partner Dan Hoard was taken ill and unable to work the game between Pawtucket and Scranton. After getting the OK from Manager Ron Johnson and President Mike Tambutrro, I invited Natale , who is on the disabled list with an oblique strain to sit in with me and provide color and analysis for the game. He jumped at the chance. The reaction in the clubhouse was mixed as teammates ribbed him, encouraged him and basically begged him to say nice things about them. Danielson immediately preyed upon his fears telling him- “You are SO nervous right now, you can’t stand it.” Mark Kotsay, on a M.L. rehab assignment asked if he could come in on Wednesday ( a scheduled day off for him). Catcher Dusty Brown just looked at Natale with disgust and told him “You are going to suck.” Brownie was wrong- dead wrong. Natale was spot-on fabulous. With zero experience, he stepped in and provided terrific commentary and insightful analysis. His sense of humor was evident and his knowledge of teammates and the opponent really added a new dimension to the broadcast. To me, the funniest part of the day took place right after I asked him to join me in the booth. He started rejoicing and high-fiving teammates around his locker as if he’d just won the World Series. “Yay” he shouted “Hoard’s sick, Hoard’s sick!!!” I’m sure he meant it in a positive way.
Michael Bowden is not Superman. The 22 year old righthander suffered through his first bad outing of 2009, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits in the second inning of Saturday’s loss. Bow’s ERA soared from a league-best 0.86 to a still, very impressive 1.64 for the season. Manager Ron Johnson was effusive in his praise for Bowden before the start. “Bowden has done everything you could possibly want, so far.” RJ added “That being said, he is still working on development of location, control quality and consistency. Is that picky? Yes, but that usually means the other stuff is money in the bank”. The Red Sox are working with a fine-tooth comb to help the 22 year old in his development. Talking about Bowden and Clay Buchholz, RJ said-” If something happens up there (Boston) with their pitching depth, I guarantee, we’re ready.”
Had a nice conversation recently with David Howard, special assistant to Theo Epstein. The former Royals infielder was at McCoy to inspect the troops this homestand. Howard is an avid golfer and a good friend with Brad Faxon, PGA tour professional from Rhode Island. The two met while Howard played for Kansas City. Howard has been a participant in the CVS Charity Classic run by Faxon and fellow R.I. native, Billy Andrade. “I couldn’t believe I was there. I’ talking to guys like (actor) Joe Pesci and Glen Frey (of the iconic rock band, Eagles) It was unreal”. Howard is a good enough golfer that he has caddied for Faxon in PGA events on several occasions. “Once in 1996, Brad was in the same group as Tiger Woods, soon after he turned pro- Tiger found out that I was a former ballplayer and had been married for just over a week. He walked over to my wife who was on the other side of the ropes, kissed her on the cheek and offered her his condolences on how we were spending our honeymoon.”