June 2009

GOOD MEMORIES OF SYRACUSE

If you listen to Dan Hoard and me on the PawSox Radio Network, you are hopefully entertained and informed on a nightly basis.  I think I promised in a past column that I would tell you about how we connected years ago.  Since we are playing Syracuse, now seems to be a good time to tell the tale.  I was living in Syracuse in the late ’80s, a salesman for Dale Carnegie Training. (How to Win Friends and Influence People).   I made a sales call to MacArthur Stadium, the home of the Syracuse Chiefs.  I parlayed the meeting into a gig as the Public Address announcer at the ballpark.  That season, I met a young broadcaster named Dan Hoard.  We became friendly and I confided to him that I secretly would love to be a sportscaster, but alas, at age 25 or 26 I feared I was over the hill.  He assured me that I could do it.  He directed me to a class at Onondaga Community College for sportscasting.  Vinny Spadafora was the teacher and Vinny would broadcast high school sports on a local station.  He would use his students as volunteers to work the sidelines or as analysts.  Since I was a little older than the rest of the class, I jumped in with both feet.  I’d work games on Friday nights and Saturday mornings or whenever Vinny had one.  The younger students were either out partying or nursing hangovers.  I taped myself and Dan would critique the tapes for me.  Eventually I was hired to do morning sports on a station in Cortland N.Y.  After a couple of months I was hired at WHEN in Syracuse, the competitor of Dans’ station, WSYR.  After a few more months, with Dan still mentoring me, he hired me to work with him at WSYR.  Shortly after that, he left to work at WTVH television under Mike Tirico.  With a little more than a year of experience, I was made the sports director at WSYR.  We broadcast Syracuse University football and basketball.  I was involved in every aspect of the broadcast.  Dan and I would chat occasionally and run into each other while covering stories.  When he left for Cincinnati, I was a finalist to replace him at Channel 5, but I was beaten out by a fellow named Rob King.  I was eventually hired as the play by play voice of the Chiefs and spent three seasons there.  Thanks to Dan, I learned an awful lot about the business.  Fast forward to 2006 and the PawSox tell me that they’re hiring him to be my partner.  I think the chemistry was immediately apparent.  I can’t speak for him (although I think I can)- we have a great time.  We laugh hard every day and we’re both doing something we love.  It’s even better when you do it with someone you respect and like.

 

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Congratulations to Jeff Bailey on his most recent promotion to Boston.  He takes Mike Lowells’ roster spot (hip).  The other day Bailey was talking about his strong interest in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and particularly a Russian fighter named Fedor.  “Bails” encouraged me to check out one of Fedor’s bouts on Youtube.  I immediately saw why Jeff was drawn to this guy.  Outsized, by most opponents, Fedor is known for his tenacity and his ability to think on his feet.  Throw in incredible toughness and that completes the package.  Fedor sounds an awful lot like Jeff Bailey.   

NOT NECESSARILY JUST A MANS’ WORLD

Baseball is obviously a male-dominated world. The players, coaches, broadcasters.  Virtually everyone is a man.  There is one exception in the International League.  34 year old Beth Jarrett is the athletic trainer for the Syracuse Chiefs.  She is believed to be the first female trainer in the 126 year history of the International League. “It’s been great.  I’ve already had the chance to go home a couple of times.”  Jarrett grew up in Indianapolis and makes her offseason home in Charlotte.  Jarrett says working and living in a male oriented world isn’t hard for her.  “I guess I’ve been doing this so long and been around the guys so long that I’ve forgotten what the obstacles were. For me, it’s a job where I come out to the ballpark and do what I can to keep the guys out on the field.  After a time, you forget about the bad stuff and enjoy it while you can.”   Jarrett says she doesn’t feel the need to “prove herself” every spring training.  She jokes that she does have one shortcoming- “I guess I struggle to lift the water cooler and the guys razz me about that.  We all do our share.  I’m there so early, six o’clock in the morning.  You really don’t have time to think about things like that.  You’re doing what you have to do to get through the day.  Jarrett got bitten by the “baseball bug” at an early age.  “I was a bat girl in Indianapolis at 16, I loved being on the field.  I loved being with the guys.  When I got the chance to do it in high school, I knew it was for me.  I interned and worked my way through independent ball.  That was how I started.”    Jarrett enjoys the travel and visiting new places.  “I grew up an American Association gal, so it’s fun to work my way around the I.L.”  As far as she knows, Jarrett has the longest tenure of any female trainer, but she isn’t the only one.  “The Mets hired a girl and I think they have her working in the rookie league.  I had the chance to meet her at spring training.  Other than that, I’m not sure if there are any others.”  Jarrett claims that she isn’t necessarily focused on making it to the Major Leagues- “I just try to make it  through one season at a time.  The season is long enough and it’s hard enough being away from friends and family.  I try not to think about what the next step is going to be.  Triple A is where I wanted to be.  I’m so happy to be here that anything else that comes after it is going to be a bonus.”  While she loves her job, the offseason is something Jarrett looks forward to.  “The season is so long.  I get burned out.  When I was younger, trying to make ends meet, I worked in clinics and high schools.  The last few years, I’ve been fortunate.  I’ve saved up some meal money and I’m able to travel.  On her first trip to McCoy, Jarrett was impressed with the ballpark.  “I love it.  I love the atmosphere and the way things are set up.  It’s very unique and fun.  I’ve had a great time.”

THE R.J. REPORT

Every Sunday we tape a pre-game interview with PawSox manager Ron Johnson.  He is always forthcoming and gives us whatever we need to do our job.  (It also helps that he gets a $25 gift certificate to Gregg’s Restaurant- he loves “Death by Chocolate”)  On this particular Sunday, as we discussed the “gospel according to RJ” we covered a variety of topics.

On Satuday’s 3-2 win over Syracuse- “I thought pitching was the key to the win. (Jeff) Bailey hit the home run early and they shut our offense down for 8 innings.  When you’re in a siituation like that, you have to hold their offesne down until we can score.  I thought Buch (Clay Buchholz) did an outstanding job.  Marcus McBeth and Hunter Jones allowed us to be in that position to win the game.  I thought it was outstanding.”  Jones and McBeth combined for 3 perfect innings of relief and Buchholz gave up one earned run in six innings.

 

On the PawSox inability to drive home runs on a consistent basis- “There’s no mystery here.  We watch it on (ESPN) SportsCenter every night.  These guys know it.  Botom line is someone gets on base and someone else hits one into the gap or out of the park.  Jeff Bailey’s been with me a long time and we were kidding around.  He said “you love the homer”- I said “Bails, I just love to win.”  They don’t show you highlights on ESPN of singles and walks and ground balls because those teams don’t win.  They show the home runs.  I know this ballclub has the potential.  We have guys who can carry the club.  If Chris Carter gets hot…If Jeff Bailey gets hot…Dusty Brown and others.  I’m hoping that we’re getting to the point where we’re going to get after it.”

 

On the two triple plays turned this week by the PawSox-  ” I’m going to be known for that.  When I was a young manager I thought I was going to be aggressive and steal bases all the time.  You send the guys, there’s a line drive and bang bang there’s a triple play.  I got scared and stopped sending runners.  Two triple plays in four days?? That’s amazing.” 

 

On catcher Mark Wagners’ promotion to Pawtucket from AA Portland-  “I’m excited anytime a young prospect comes up.  He’s earned it, he’s played well down there.  Every time this happens, I think about Jason McLeod and the scouting department and the great job they consistently have done getting great players.  We are ready to see another one.  Right now I’m planning on using Wagner one night and Brown the other.  It worked with Dusty and (George) Kottaras last season.  I think it’s healthy.  They can all help the big league club.  We had to put Carlos Maldonado on the disabled list with a calf strain.  He’s a veteran and having Wagner and Brown around him in the clubhouse is invaluable. When he comes back, we’ll have a lot of depth.  John Ottness was sent back to Portland.  He did a great job while he was here.  He’ll go to Double A and get a chance to play every day.’

 

On the progress of Jed Lowrie and his M.L. rehab from wrist surgery- “Jed’s coming along fine.  He played six innings Saturday.  He’ll DH today.  He’ll get some lefthanded at bats.  Since he joined us he’s hit righty since we’ve faced primarily lefthanded pitchers.  With Jed we are kind of taking it inning by inning, at bat by at bat.  We’ll see how he feels.  He’s coming along nicely.”

C.C. YES! YES!

There’s no doubt that if Chris Carter and the rest of the PawSox offense can keep it rolling, they’ll be a very formidable foe for the second half of the season.  Entering Fridays’ game in Norfolk the PawSox (39-33) had the worst team batting average in the 14 team league (.235)  They are tied for twelfth in home runs with just 46.  These are not “your fathers’ PawSox.”   We are used to seeing RJ’s “Wrecking Crew”- a gang that wins with the home run and the bases loaded double. Despite the offensive woes, the PawSox are in the thick of the playoff chase, 2 and a half games out of first in the North and just a half game out of the wild card.   Carter has really started to heat up, hitting a couple of homers in Norfolk, batting .421 during his current 5 game hitting streak.  Carter is excited about the 5-2 road trip so far.  “It’s fun baseball right now. I’m loving it.  It’s really fun to be a part of the team right now.  I’m having fun.”  Carter is well aware that the pitching has carried the Sox so far in 2009, bit is quick to add that the offense is on the verge of some big things. “Our pitching has been tremendous but I also think that our hitting is going ot come around.  We’ve got some guys who can swing the bat and we’re going to get hot and put up some runs.”  Carter, an I.L. All Star in 2008 is also aware that his production is down this year.  After opening the season in Boston and wasting away on the bench, he’s eager to shine. “I’m a guy who always put up good numbers.  I got off to a slow start, but in the end, I know where I want to be.”  Carter or “CC” as he’s called by teammates, can look back on his Major League experience with Boston to help him succeed with the PawSox.  “It gave me a lot of confidence and now I know that I can play with those guys.  If I just keep doing well and believing in myself, I know there’s going to be an opportunity somewhere some time.”  Carter adds that he’s not afraid to compare himself to other I.L. stars.  “I see guys like Shelley Duncan and Oscar Salazar and I know who they are and I know I have put up numbers just like theirs’.  It helps me to see other guys doing well and I know I can do better than I’m doing right now.  I’m determined.  It’ll come eventually.”  Carter is also confident in his squad- “once our hitting comes around we are going to win a lot more games.  I think this team can be a dominant team.  Not just a good team, but a dominant team.  A team that can put other teams away.  All we need is the hitting.  We have every other component in place and the hitting is showing signs of being there.”  He believes in the adage that “hitting is contagious.”  “When there are runners on base, it opens holes.  You get sacrifice fly opportunities, you put pressure on the other teams’ defense.  It definitely is contagious.” 

 

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Congratulations to Red Sox farm hands Casey Kelly and Junichi Tazawa.  Both pitchers have been selected for the XM Futures Game to be played on July 12 in St. Louis.  Kelly will pitch for the U.S team while Tazawa will compete for the World team.  Tazawa is 7-4, 2.92 for the AA Portland Sea Dogs, while Kelly, last years’ number one pick has split time between Greenville and Salem.  At Greenville, Kelly went 6-1, 1.12 and is1-2, 2.51 so far at Salem.  In 2008, Red Sox minor leaguer Che Hsuan Lin was named the MVP of the Futures Game.

 

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If you haven’t seen the Todd Phillips movie “The Hangover”, run, don’t walk to your nearest theater.  Absolutely, riotously funny.   

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ANYWAY???

As former PawSox hurler David Pauley took the mound against Pawtucket on Thursday afternoon, I had mixed emotions.  Of course, I wanted Pawtucket to win, but I also hoped that Pauley would pitch well.  The 26 year old spent parts of the last few seasons in Pawtucket and won 14 games for us in 2008.  On top of that, he’s a fantastic guy.  It reminded me of a similar situation I found myself in a couple of seasons ago.  Former I.L. All Star Tim Kester was with Pawtucket in 2004 and 2005.  We got to be friendly and we stay in touch to this day.  He came back to McCoy as a member of the Ottawa Lynx and was starting against his former teammates.  He got himself into a jam, loading the bases.  He methodically worked his way out of the mess,  and as he struck out the last batter of the inning, I temporarily forgot he was no longer one of the “good guys”.  As I screamed “Kester- struck him out to end the inning!!” Dan looked at me as if I was nuts. I caught myself and became extra-subdued.  “We’ll be back right after this timeout on the PawSox Radio Network”.  Apparently I was so effusive in my praise and description of Kesters’ strikeout, one of his Lynx teammates told him- “Man, that Pawtucket radio guy really likes you.”  They had the game on the radio in the visitors’ clubhouse at McCoy.  Kester and I got a good laugh out of it then and Hoard and I got a good laugh out of it today.  Although I think I was very complimentary of Pauley, I was happy the PawSox were 7-4 winners.  I was sorry my friend had a tough day.  He will bounce back.  He always does.

 

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Nice P.R. for the PawSox on Thursday.  John Smoltz’ picture was featured on the front of the “USA Today” sports section.  Smoltz was seen sitting in the McCoy Stadium dugout, wearing a PawSox cap.

 

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Dusty Brown has been optioned back to Pawtucket, from Boston.  Brown caught an inning the other night, the ninth.  It was a PawSox reunion, as he caught Daniel Bard.  Brown was excited as he made his Major League debut.

 

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Jolbert Cabrera plays for the Norfolk club.  He is the older brother of former Red Sox shortstop, Orlando.  Around Christmas in 2001, Cabrera was driving his S.U.V. in his hometown of Cartagena, Colombia when he was a carjacking victim.  As he tried to protect his family, he sustained a bullet wound to his backside as his assailant shot him.  If someone gets shot anywhere else, there’s not so much as a smile.  When you take one in the “can”, it opens up all kinds of jokes.  Fortunately, Cabrera was OK.  It reminded me of an episode of my favorite show M*A*S*H*.  A soldier sustained a similar wound.  As he lie on his stomach, somewhat embarassed, he asked Dr. Pierce (Alan Alda) what he should say when folks back home ask him where he was shot.  Hawkeye replied- “Tell them you were shot in Korea.”

 

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We (the entire PawSox travelling entourage) were treated to a superb meal Thursday by owner Ben Mondor. Occasionally, Ben will spring for a “spread” on the road and feed his boys.  Thursday’s feast was catered by Outback Steakhouse.  Sliced sirloin, ribs, chicken breasts, shrimp, wings, mashed potatoes, salad and veggies provided everyone with a full belly and a big smile.  Mike Jones, our strength and conditioning coach appreciated the food.  “I’ve been with a lot of teams but I have never before seen such generosity.”

 

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A couple of other details to clean up.  Jed Lowrie sat out Thursdays’ game.  So did Bubba Bell.  Lowrie has a bruised knee after getting hit by a pitch on Tuesday.  Bell complained of fatigue and soreness in his legs.

 

 

REAL MEN SOMETIMES WEAR POWDER BLUE

It is something I’ve written about before- seeing former members of the PawSox, now on other teams.  It’s part of the game.  It was somewhat unnerving though, to see former PawSox and Red Sox righthander David Pauley and ex Pawtucket pitching coach Mike Griffin in the powder blue practice uniforms of the Norfolk Tides.  “Griff” looks great and reports that his wife Denise is doing well, daughter Kimberly just graduated from college and son Brad is thriving.  After you spend so many seasons with someone, even if you haven’t seen them in a while, you get nostalgic.  We spoke to each other using a false southern twang to try to sound like former manager Buddy Bailey, just as we used to do every day.  We caught up on old times and reminisced about the laughs we shared with RJ.  Griff seems happy and the young pitching staff in  Norfolk would do well to listen to the man who helped develop pitchers like Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon.  David Pauley is reunited with his coach.  Pauley was traded to the Orioles for current Pawtucket reliever Randor Bierd.  David is enjoying his first run at fatherhood.  He’s been a dad to a beautiful little baby girl for about three weeks.  “Everything’s great.  I’ve got a new family, I’ve got a new baby. Everything’s going well.”  As a father of 2 daughters myself, I asked David about “love at first sight” with his daughter.  “It’s one of those things you just can’t express.  It’s a love that you don’t know until it’s there.”  Getting used to fatherhood isn’t all that’s new for Pauley, he has to adjust to a new organization, as well.  “It’s been different but the ability to come over and make new friends is one of the great things about this game.  Then you also run into guys that you came up with and it’s fun.”  Pauley admits that he does miss certain aspects of the Red Sox- “Mainly, it’s the guys I grew up with for 4 years.  You build relationships.  It’s your family.  You’re like brothers, that’s what it’s about.  To come back and play against them and hang out a bit, it’s fun.” David has maintained his relationship with former teammate, Charlie Zink.  “Oh, we keep in touch, make sure we know what’s going on with each other.”  Pauley has a great shot at being a good father.  He is blessed with caring parents who support him wholeheartedly.  “You couldn’t ask for a better set of parents.  They’ve been with me through thick and thin. ”  Carol and Dave listen to the PawSox broadcasts still, even though their son is with the Tides.  Really the highest compliment they could pay to Dan and me.  Pauley was once dealt from San Diego to Boston so he was prepared when he was acquired by Baltimore. “It’s one of those things that you have to prepare yourself for.  You know there’s going to be a big change.  I enjoyed every minute I spent with the Red Sox.  That was the most fun I’ve ever had in baseball.”  Pauley adds that it’s “big” to be working again with Mike Griffin- “It’s a situation where we don’t have to learn each other.  He knows me and how I go about my business.  He knows I’ll follow my routine and knows what works for me.”  Pauley isn’t sure about his status with the Orioles- “I’ll just wait my turn”.  His former catcher Matt Weiters, rated the number one prospect in all of baseball is now in Baltimore and he gets Pauleys’ seal of approval.  “He’s really good already and he’s on the fast track.  It’s scary to think of how good he is going to be.”  The PawSox and Norfolk will play a four game series in August.  Three games at McCoy and one at Fenway.  David would love to take the mound in Boston again- ” To be able to go over there, whether it’s in the Big Leagues or the Futures game, it’s an honor to pitch at Fenway.”  Pauley makes his next start Thursday at 12:15 p.m. against the PawSox.  “They haven’t faced me before, but they’ve seen me.  I’d like to say that I’ve got the upper hand, but we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out.”  Hopefully, everything pans out for Pauley and his family.  He is one of the “good guys.”  

 

 

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“AT BAT WITH NAT” Jeff Natale’s weekly interview with a teammate is available on pawsox.com, clicking on multimedia and “At Bat With Nat.”  Enjoy!!!      

THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL

Tom Hanks played manager Jimmy Dugan in the baseball movie “A League of Their Own”.  His famous quote about crying is played on giant video scoreboards around the country after an opposing player complains about an umpires’ call or there is a gripe of some kind.  That is part of the game.  I have found that there is crying in baseball.  Someone is always getting ripped off.  A pitcher was getting “squeezed” by an umpire.  A batter checked his swing.  Another hitter vows that he knows the strioke zone better than the umpire.  You get it.  A seasoned veteran once told me that a hitter shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt, if in his previous at bat, he was flailing at pitches outside the strike zone.  Nearly every day or so, a manager or coach will make a call to the official scorer to try to get a call changed.  “It would lower my guys’ ERA.” or “My guy needs the hit, give the points.”  It gets a little sickening.  You can never please everybody.  We are pounding Durham in their park.  At this stage, the PawSox have taken three straight with Clay Buchholz scheduled to take the mound on Monday night.  I like our chances.  After Sundays’ 5-3 PawSox win, I had to sit and listen to just how horrible the Durham Bulls are.  This came from one of their staff members.  The Bulls aren’t horrible, they are just riding a horrendous streak that has seen them drop 11 of their last 12 games.  I’m a compassionate guy, but I don’t care!  Those are the breaks of the game.  We’ve all watched in horror as our favorite team has swooned uncontrollably.  Did they feel badly for us?? No way.   Baseball is a long season- a marathon, not a sprint.  You go through streak after streak after streak.  The key is to not get too high when things are going well and not to get too low when they swirl the bowl.  This guy from the Bull’s staff nearly had me wanting to take my own life as he whined about how they “could, woulda, shoulda.”  Former Syracuse University and New England Patriots head coach Dick MacPherson liked to say- “If “Ifs and buts” were candy and nuts, then every day’d be Christmas.”  Save it for someone who cares.  Where I do have some compassion when it comes to the Bulls, is for manager Charlie Montoyo and his young son Alex.  The not-yet 2 year old is about to undergo his third open heart surgery at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Montoyo will be leaving the club in the hands of pitching coach Xavier Hernandez and hitting instructor Dave Myers.  Young Alex has been diagnosed with Epstein’s Abnormality.  Let’s all say one for Alex and the Montoyos.     

WHY’S HE CALLING ME MEAT? I’M THE ONE DRIVING A PORSCHE

You can’t make a trip to Durham, North Carolina without thinking about the iconic movie classic “Bull Durham.”  The giant, snorting, red-eyed, tail wagging, smoke breathing billboard high above the leftfield wall in Durham is a constant reminder.  If you hit the bull you win a steak from a local restaurant, BUT only if you are a Durham player.  A couple of seasons ago, PawSox infielder Ed Rogers hit it and found out the hard way.  “Bull Durham” celebrated its’ 20th anniversary last season with a concert in Carolina, headlined by Kevin Costner and his band “Modern West”.  We had Ron Shelton, the movies’ writer and director on “PawSox Insider” last season to take a look back.  The movies’ impact is still felt here on “Tobacco Road”.  Although licensing agreements prevent the Bulls from selling movie memorablilia at the park, they get about 300 requests a year for custom made jerseys with the names “LaLoosh” and “Davis” and their numbers on the back.  TRIVIA QUESTION-  What numbers did Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner, the movies two stars, wear as “Nuke” LaLoosh and “Crash” Davis in the movie? (answer at the end of the blog)  The impact goes far beyond North Carolina.  Pawtucket righthander Clay Buchholz is a big fan of the movie- “I’m an enormous “Bull Durham” fan- I love it.”  Buchholz, who’s scheduled to start on Monday against Tampa’s lefthander Scott Kazmir is such an afficianado, that he named his English Bulldog, “Nuke”.  Like Tim Robbins’ character, Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, Buch’s puppy, just about a year old, is big, very big and getting bigger.  “Nuke weighs 88 pounds and could get up to about 100 pounds.”  Unlike LaLoosh, called “Meat” in the movie by the older and much wiser Davis, the dog has some smarts. “Nuke is smart and he’s got a sense of humor.”  Buchholz, like a proud papa says he loves his dog.  Clay brags that his dog comes from excellent blood lines.  “Both his parents were show dogs.  I’m not going to “show” Nuke, but he is a great dog.” 

 

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I got a laugh on Saturday as I was sitting in the lobby of our hotel in Durham (I’m a big lobby-sitter and people-watcher)  Jeff Bailey came down and we started to chat.  A couple of minutes later, Billy Traber got off the elevator and all three of us started to laugh when we realized that Traber and Bailey were wearing the exact same t-shirt.  Not a Red Sox issue, but a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, celebrating a concert tour from 1977.  Both men are rock and roll fans.  After much debate, Traber retreated to his room to change his shirt.  Only then, did it dawn on me that neither fella was even alive during Zeppelin’s tour.  Bailey was born in 1978 and Traber in 1979.  (I graduated from high school in 1979- yes- I’m old!)

 

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Just a random thought.  When we refer to Chris Carter by his nickname “CC”, do the Hispanic players on the PawSox think we’re saying “Yes, Yes” ??

 

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TRIVIA ANSWER-  In “Bull Durham”  “Nuke” LaLoosh was #37 and “Crash” Davis was #8

 

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P.S.  We are working on getting “AT BAT WITH NAT” online.  Check PawSox.com or this blog for an update this week.

AT BAT WITH NAT- FROM CHARM TO JINX???

Baseball players are a superstitious lot.  If they are going well, they will wear the same shirt every day.  They’ll eat the same food for breakfast.  They’ll drive the same route to the ballpark.  If things aren’t going well, they’ll do anything to bust the slump.  As you might know, earlier this season we handed a microphone to infielder Jeff Natale.  He conducts a weekly pre-game interview with a teammate, called “At Bat With Nat.”  It is immensely entertaining, and informative as Jeff can ask questions that others might not be able to get away with.  Early on, his subjects enjoyed tremendous success.  Roommate Sean Danielson, his first guest, went 5-6 on the day he was on with Nat.  A week later, lefty Billy Traber earned a win out of the bullpen on his Natale day.  Since then, there has been a shift of fortune for the guys.  On the very day Chip Ambres spoke to Natale, he was traded to the Mets and wound up in frigid Buffalo.  After Nat interviewed 22 year old Michael Bowden this week, Bowden endured his worst outing of the year.  Michael surendered 6 runs in the first inning in a game the PawSox came back to win 8-6.  My fear is that his teammates will ditch him and our “ABWN” segment will go away.  Baseball is a fickle game and it is very unforgiving.  Natale has an interesting style, relying almost solely on humor.  After asking the guest “How it feels to be the 3d, 4th or 5th etc. person on his “show”, he quickly shifts gears and could ask, “How is it to be my roommate?” or “How excited are you to have me in the lineup?”  When he asked Bowden the former question, Michael said Natale just hangs around in the room “Creeping around facebook”.  Natale turned the table on Bowden ratting him out about his temper tantrum in the room, when the air conditioning stopped working for the third straight night.  Natale continued by asking what it was like to be considered a “super prospect” adding his first few guests were considered “bad prospects”.  Bowden was honest- “It’s a neat experience-it’s pretty sweet.”  Finally, Natale asked a question that made me laugh out loud.  “Michael, why are you such a square?”  Bowden lost it, too.  Amid guffaws, he tried to answer.  “I go out, maybe once or twice a year, if I’m feeling good.  If you (Natale) invited me, I might be likely to go out more often.  I usually just sit in my room after a game and talk to my girlfriend.”  I get a real charge out of “At Bat With Nat” and I hope the listeners do, as well.  I just hope he can find a guest next week.

 

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This week our featured guest on “PawSox Insider” was former All Star Sean Casey.  Casey now works for MLB Network as a commentator.  The man who is known as the “Mayor” and once received a landslide  46% of the vote when Major Leaguers were asked about who was “the nicest guy in the Big Leagues”, lived up to his billing.

 

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Fridays’ game was a tremendous comeback win. Marcus McBeth, Rocky Cherry, Randor Bierd and Fernando Cabrera shut out the reeling Durham Bulls over the games’ final 8 innings for an 8-6 win.  Shortstop Gil Velazquez summed it up succinctly- “Our bullpen did a hell of a job!”.

COME AND LISTEN TO MY STORY ABOUT A MAN NAMED JED

Add another rehabbing major leaguer to the already long list the PawSox have had in 2009.  At his news conference on Friday, Terry Francona said that shortstop Jed Lowrie would travel to North Carolina on Saturday and be in the PawSox lineup on Sunday.  Jed, a PawSox alum (2007, 2008) has been recuperating after surgery on his left wrist.  The former Stanford All America has been on the shelf since April 11.  Francona says the Red Sox will not rush Lowrie, no matter what- “Jed could spend a couple of weeks with the PawSox.  It’s like he’s starting Spring Training all over again.”  Lowrie had a great deal of success in his rookie year of 2008.  The switch-hitting infielder appeared in 81 games after Mike Lowell went to the D.L. on April 10.  Lowrie played 49 games at shortstop, splitting time with Julio Lugo.  Lowrie did not commit an error at short.  He proved to be a “Major-League Ready” hitter, batting .258 with 25 doubles and 46 rbi.  The 2004 Pac-10  player of the year enjoyed his finest moment during the postseason, on October 6, 2008 driving in the game winning and series clinching run against the Angels at Fenway Park in the American League Divisional Series.  Jed won the shortstop job in the spring when Julio Lugo went down.  Since Jed’s injury, Nick Green has done a more than adequate job filling in.  Lowrie will be reunited with his former Cardinal teammate, Chris Carter.  The pair played together in college along with the likes of Carlos Quentin, Ryan Garko and Donny Lucy.  The PawSox should continue eating well if Jed continues the tradition of buying the post-game  meal, or “spread” as it is more familiarly known.  He follows the footsteps of Kevin Youkilis, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Lugo, Mark Kotsay, John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli.

 

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The Red Sox released lefty Chris George late Thursday night.  The lefthander had been on the D.L. and never got the chance to get off.  A great guy, (and more importantly, a lefthanded pitcher) should catch on with another club.  Wish him ALL the best.

 

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I know it’s only Friday but I’m aleady “licking my chops” in anticipation of Monday night’s matchup here in Durham.  It could just as easily take place at Fenway or Tropicana Field.  Clay Buchholz (5-0, 1.90) will face lefty Scott Kazmir (M.L. rehab- right quadriceps strain).  Kazmir is an All Star for the Rays, in fact he was the winning pitcher for the American League last season at the mid-summer classic.

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