GONNA MISS YOU, BIG BOY
I got a phone call Friday night from a good friend. It was Ron Johnson. The man who has managed the PawSox since the start of the 2005 season. I had speculated in this blog that RJ might be the man to replace Brad Mills on Terry Franconas’ staff. Mills is off to manage the Astros. After extensive talks with Tito and general manager Theo Epstein, RJ got the call earlier Friday. He will become a coach on the major league staff. His exact position has yet to be determined, but the Sox get a guy with ample experience and an incredible working knowledge of the current 40 man roster. “Of the current group, I’ve managed 28 of the 40, including guys like Youk (Kevin Youkilis), Pedey (Dustin Pedroia) Jake (Jacoby Ellsbury) and Lester (Jon Lester). Johnson has been managing for 18 years, the last ten in the Red Sox chain and is understandably thrilled that he’s been chosen. “Hydes, this is unbelievable. They had me fly up to Boston and we went through a five hour interview. You know what it’s like. You try to do a good job. The fact that it’s with Boston and Terry Francona makes it that much more special.” RJ didn’t waste any time fueling the fire and fanning the flames of the rivalry with the Yankees. Kevin Long is the Yanks’ hitting instructor and a former player for RJ. With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Johnson called his old friend - “I told him that they should enjoy this year, because there’s no way theyd be repeating.” Long asked me why. I told him I was now on the Big League staff. There’s nothing Ron Johnson loves more than his family and his ranch in Tennesee, but he is already chomping at the bit to get back, days before he carves the Thanksgiving turkey, “I wish Spring Training would start next week. I’m very excited, it’s very satisfying after being in the minors so long.” Buddy Bailey was the man who preceded RJ in the hot seat in Pawtucket. Bailey was extermely good to me in my first season (2004) with the PawSox. I was devastated when he was fired on the last day of the season. A few months later, I met Ron Johnson. From day one, we hit it off. The respect he showed me and the friendship he afforded me will be nearly impossible to replace. The PawSox staff will have a decidedly different look in 2010. Hitting instructor Russ Morman was fired at the end of the season and RJ and trainer Greg Barajas have earned promotions to Boston, leaving pitching coach Rich Sauveur as the final holdover from the group. I really could sit here all day and wax on about the skipper, but I don’t need to anymore. The Red Sox have rewarded his efforts with a well-deserved locker in the Fenway clubjhouse.