MAYBE YOGI WAS RIGHT
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said- “Baseball is 90% mental- the other half is physical.” I think we get the drift. A season that begins in February with Spring Training and can last until late October is a grind, both physically and mentally. The Red Sox, like many teams have addressed the situation by hiring a sports psychology coach. In this case, it’s former Major League pitcher, Bob Tewksbury. “Tewks” has a very good way about him. He won’t prod into a players’ personal business, but if the player needs help, Bob is ready to lend a hand and an ear. Tewksbury was at McCoy on Wednesday as the PawSox were winding up their longest homestand of the season. “It’s my last trip in, I hadn’t been here in a while. It’s a chance to see some of the guys. We have a lot of guys, our guys, our guys being Richardson, Large, Bates, Wagner, Reddick…guys that I have history with. Every year at Triple A, we’re getting more and more of our drafted players here. Five years ago, when I first started, we might’ve had one or two of our guys in Pawtucket. It’s good to catch up with these guys, see the staff and watch a little PawSox baseball.” I likened a visit from Tewksbury to my favorite TV show of all time- M*A*S*H*. There was a recurring character, a psychiatrist, Dr. Sidney Freedman, played by Alan Arbus, who would make occasional trips to the 4077th to “take the pulse” of the unit. Tewksbury has a similar job. He said his visit had nothing to do , however, with the recent swoon that has left the PawSox out of playoff contention. “No, I’m here generally. I focus more on individuals more than a team, but I’ll talk with RJ or Russ (Morman) to see if there is anyone I should be talking to. A lot of times it’s just the daily struggles of being a professional baseball player. Dealing with the successes and failures and stuff the staff can talk to them about. It seems like one of those years they haven’t had a big bat in the lineup and run production is down from what I remember from Pawtucket teams. Pitching was good early, and you need those things, pitching, hitting, defense. When a couple of them are missing, it can make for a long stretch and I think that’s probably what happened.” With an influx of young players making their first trip through Triple A, there can be growing pains. Many of the young men face adversity on the diamond for the first time in their career. ”At every level, the guys become “professionalized” Everyone here, young or old, free agents or guys with big league time has gone through periods of time, in A ball, Double A or even rookie ball where they struggle. They eventually work their way through that. When you get to a new level, you’re not quite sure you really belong until you’ve had some success, then you go “OK now I belong here”- I did that as a player. I think every player goes through that. You go through that at the big league level. That’s why it takes some players so long to stick at the Major League level. It’s been such a dream, such a goal, a focus for so long. You get there and you think “Oh my God, can I really pitch here,” because it’s larger than life. That’s what happens. A lot of guys have performances that go up and down, because they don’t really know if they belong. That happens at this level too, so some of it is just Go Play, Go Play, Go Play and through the repitition of playing there is some success that breeds more success and they keep going.” Clay Buchholz is a big believer in Bob Tewksbury. Buchholz told me earlier this year that the two worked extensively during the offseason and it was a tremendous help. Tewksbury allows that Buch is a perfect example of what can be done to help a young man. “We all know about his trials and tribulations. The no-hitter, etc. You have initial failure.Youkilis was up and down, Pedroia had a bad month. Jacoby’s been one of those guys that hasn’t had to go through that. For Clay to be here (Pawtucket) then go back up there (Boston) and pitch, I think he felt he really belonged. Although, his first couple of games, you could tell he wasn’t as comfortable as he was his last three. His confidence has grown. He beat (Roy) Halladay in Toronto, I think it’s wonderful. He certainly can pitch at that level with a lot of success and it’s nice to see he’s getting the opportunity to do that.” Tewksbury provides a valuable and under-rated service to these young guys.