WHERE THERE’S SMOLTZ-THERE’S FIRE
Take any notion you have about superstars and their egos and throw them out the window when it comes to John Smoltz. The future Hall of Famer was sitting in the McCoy Stadium clubhouse waiting patiently for the weather to cooperate for his scheduled start on Friday night. After conferring several times with RJ and Terry Francona and Theo Epstein in Johnson’s office,(Tito and Theo via conference call) Smoltz told the trio he’d be happy to wait out the weather. A lot of prima donnas would have packed their gear and waited to start on the next day. The Red Sox were concerned about getting Smoltz warmed up and then having him sit and wait out the rain. The calls from the Red Sox are very funny. We are asked to vacate RJ’s office, the door is closed and they discuss the issue of the day. High drama and top-secret doings. I just hope the Department of Homeland Security is as conscientious as the Red Sox. Red Sox pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel is in town and he remembers Smoltz as a young guy in the Tigers organization, back in the mid 1980′s. “Smoltz was a good pitcher and a good position player, as well. We had to chase him off the field.” Treuel added that Smoltz would never come in from the action, if not forced. “We told John, we don’t play both ways (pitching and position) in the pros.” Treuel said that Smoltz reminds him of Casey Kelly, the young man chosen by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2008 draft. Like Smoltz, Kelly is a very good shorstop and a promising pitcher. Pitching, he has already earned one promotion after just a month or so. Ralph Treuel saw his last start- “Casey pitched well. We made four errors behind him, but he did OK.” Treuel is pleased with Kelly’s progress and his desire- “Case is a throwback, he’s a baseball player.” Treuel insisted that no decision has yet been made regarding Kelly’s future. It seems the Red Sox like him as a pitcher, but he is more enamored with playing shortstop. “I told him, no pressure, just play and take the quickest route you can to the majors.”
Ever wonder what goes on in the PawSox clubhouse during a rain delay? Here’s a small sampling. At about 5:00 p.m. on Friday Clay Buchholz was at his locker, strumming on his guitar. Next to him, Billy Traber was receiving or sending a text message. At the large rectangular table across the room a group was playing cards while several others kibbitzed on the game. Jeff Bailey and Jonathan Van Every were partners, while Chris Carter looked on. Jeff Natale was in an overstuffed chair watching a movie on his laptop. Carlos Maldonado and several others were watching NCAA baseball on ESPN, while others ate. Michael Bowden was in the weight room, jumping rope under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach, Mike Jones. Paul McAnulty wandered back and forth, chatting with a couple of members of the media. Just another day at the office.
I admit that I can get jaded. I have spent so many days and nights over the last 20 years at the ballpark, or an arena or stadium of some sort. I do love it, although maybe I might occasionally take it for granted. When the PawSox win, I am much happier than when they don’t. I got an eye-opener on Thursday night as I made my way back to the press box after my post-game interview with Travis Denker. A young girl who was in some way developmentally disabled, was being taken back to the car by her parents. The smile on her face was priceless. She looked at me and said “We won tonight”. It brought me back to a time when that was the most important thing in life. If my team won- I was a happy guy. Some times you need a kid to give you a more clear perspective. I have no idea who she is, but I hope I see her out here again.