January 2010

NO ONE TO FEEL SORRY FOR

     Johnny Damon is a nice man.  I say that from experience.  In 2004, Red Sox senior adviser Jeremy Kapstein facilitated a meeting at Fenway Park between the long-haired, bearded outfielder and my two daughters, Eva and Carly, then 11 and 8.  They idolized Damon and he could not have been any nicer to them.  He signed autographs and posed for a picture with the girls.  In fact, I still carry the photo in my wallet.  Needless to say, like the rest of Red Sox Nation, they were heartbroken when he signed with the Yankees.

     Damons’ contract with the Yankees is up and for the moment, he has no baseball home.  Earlier this offseason,  New York offered him a reported 14 million over the next two years and he and his agent, Scott Boras, turned it down.  Damon, 36, will be hard pressed to get an offer from any team, anywhere near that amount.  The Yankees insisted that they want to go “younger” when Damon spurned their offer.  They signed Randy Winn, 35.  They did hold true to their word, I guess.  Recently, bargaining from a positon of power, the “Empire” offered a one year, 6 million buck deal.  Damon again said “no”.  Toronto has expressed interest, as has Tampa Bay.  Neither will come close to either of the Yankees’ offers.

     I guess I am continually amazed at the salaries offered, accepted, and turned down.  Scott Boras is very often in the middle of these negotiations.  A couple of years ago, he “helped” Jason Varitek to half of what Boston originally offered, and now he’s done the same for Johnny.  These are grown men who ultimately make their own decisions, so you can’t blame Boras entirely, but they do rely on their agents and personal managers for such advice.

     You can’t fault the Yankees for trying to get him, or anyone, as cheaply as possible (although they’ve never worried about money before) and you can’t argue with Damons’ reasoning either.  Athletes have a very limited window of opportunity to make as much as they can.  Sometimes, you have to recognize when you are well off, though.  Damon is still a very viable option.  He handles the circus in New York very well and still has the skills to get it done.  The Yankees cut ties with Damon and Hideki Matsui this offseason, giving their 2010 lineup and outfield a decidedly different look.

     Damon helped both the Sox and Yankees to World Series titles.  He remains one of my personal favorites.  Former PawSox manager Ron Johnson managed a young Damon years ago in the Kansas City chain and he loves him.  Johnny will make some team better this season.  I’m just glad it’s not the Yankees anymore.

NUGGETS

     How badly has George Steinbrenners’ health deteriorated?  The 79 year old Yankees owner had the World Series trophy brought to his home in Tampa so he could see it.  Big news in the Florida city was that the Boss stopped by the office the other day.  He used to make headlines for firing managers, now it’s news when he’s seen in public.

     Apparently they held aa fantasy camp at the Yankees complex and fans plunked down money to play with the likes of Lee Mazzilli, David Wells and Mickey Rivers.  As Simon and Garfunkel once asked- “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”

     Scary moment for former PawSox speedster Freddy Guzman recently.  The outfielder was zapped in the head while playing a Winter League game in the Dominican Republic.  Ubaldo Jimenez uncorked a 97 mile an hour fastball that hit “Fast Freddy”.  Guzman is OK and has been cleared to resume play. 

     Speaking of Winter ball.  There was a great article in the “New York Times” recently about former PawSox manager, Buddy Bailey.  The 52 year old Bailey has distinguished himself as a manager in Venezuela, where his teams have won 5 titles in the last decade.  “An American Household Name In Venezuela” first appeared in the “Caracas Post”.  It detailed Baileys’ exploits managing the “Tigres de Aragua”.  According to the story- “Bailey is worshipped by some, reviled by others, but ignored by no one” in the baseball-obsessed nation.  The fact that he has gained success in President Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela is that much more remarkable.  Chavez has made no secret the way he feels about the United States.  Bailey is so well thought of that some want him to replace former Major Leaguer Luis Sojo as manager/coach of the Venezuelan National Team.  Bailey is a taskmaster and does not suffer fools well.  He is an “old-school” type of guy that values hard work and effort. “If you’re being paid to be a professional, you have to put your nose to the grindstone and work hard all the time.  I believe in hard work.”  In the year I spent with the “Captain” (2004), I found him to be an extremely engaging gentleman.  When he’s working, he’s working.  After the game, he’ll enjoy a cold beverage and some “man talk.”  He really is a lot of fun to be around.  While he was with the PawSox, a couple of players who’ve gone on to success in the Big Leagues complained about Buddy and his approach.  One player, who I won’t name, “cried” incessantly about Bailey.  “He doesn’t like me!”  Waaaaaah!!  As I tried to tell the young man then, Bailey was just trying to get the most out of him.  Apparently he has succeeded in South America with that approach.  Buddy still manages in the Cubs organization (Daytona) during the season where he toils in relative anonymity.  In Venezuela, he is famous.  One sports scribe down there wrote “Maybe he’s not very friendly and maybe he’s not easygoing with teammates, but he’s a leader who knows how to win.”  Sounds like Buddy Bailey has earned the respect of an entire nation.  Glad to hear it.  Incidentally, this article appeared on page  A1 of the December 30, 2009 edition of the “Times.”    

A HIGHER CALLING

     While most baseball players have been working out diligently in preparation for the 2010 season, one is not.  Oakland’s, Grant Desme, ranked the eighth best prospect in the Athletics system is retiring.   Not because he is old.  He’s just 23.  Not because he is no good.  He was recently named the Most Valuable Player at the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .315 with 11 home runs and 27 rbi in just 27 games.  Desme completed a successful 2009 campaign with Kane County and Stockton, hitting .288 with 31 round trippers, 88 rbi and 40 stolen bases.  Desme has decided to trade in his bat and glove for rosary beads and a bible.  He aspires to become a Catholic priest.  Most players are “gym rats”, the type of guys who have to have the uniform torn off their back at the end of their career.  Desme was a second round pick out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2007.  He will put away his cleats and enter the seminary in August.  At about the time many of his teammates will be hitting their prime in the Majors, Desme will realize his dream of becoming a priest.  In a recent interview Desme said “It’s a ten year process.  It’s kind of like re-entering the minor leagues.”  Many of us aspire to fame and riches.  Playing professional sports is a dream to the vast majority of people.  This dude must really be legit.  He is giving up the chance at making life-changing money to try to change the lives of other people.  While fans sit in the stands praying for a win, this guy is going to be in a church somewhere praying for those fans.  While former teammates are at a bar or mall trying to meet women or shop for the latest fashions, Desme will be knee-deep in vows of celibacy and poverty.  Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  I can honestly say that I have never once, even for a second, toyed wsith the idea of the priesthood.  How does that thought creep into ones’ head?  And further, how do you finally pull the trigger and act on it?  When speaking about his decision last week, he admitted- “It took me a while to get to.”

     I don’t know Desme, but I guess his actions are to be appauded.  it’s just not my cup of tea.  In one of my all-time favorite movies, “Saturday Night Fever”, Tony’s (John Travolta) brother “Father Frank” decides to leave the priesthood, bringing shame to his middle-class Italian family.  I guess this is just the opposite, although I’m sure that there are folks who are scratching their heads over this choice.  The only one who really matters in this case is Desme, himself.  “I love the game” he said.  “But I aspire to higher things.”  Still what about some kind of compromise like a trade to the Angels or even the Padres?

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

     The PawSox annual Hot Stove party takes place this weekend at McCoy Stadium.  On Friday we got together with a bunch of the Red Sox top prospects in Pawtucket and looked ahead to the 2010 season.  New manager Torey Lovullo, and his wife Kristen are still in town and will preside over the festivities Saturday.  Also present were Director of Player Development Mike Hazen, who good naturedly threw a beat down at former manager Ron Johnson.  “Torey won’t want to use the office that RJ had until it’s been disinfected.”  Jon Jochim is the new athletic trainer, replacing Greg Barajas, now with the Red Sox.  He joins the staff after a year with the Double A Portland Sea Dogs.  Mike Roose will also join the staff as the strength and conditioning coach.

     It will be interesting to see which of the prospects begins the season in Pawtucket.  On hand were 21 year old Ryan Kalish who split 2009 between Salem and Portland.  He combined for 18 HR and 77 RBI.  The native of New Jersey was a ninth round pick in 2006.  Juinchi Tazawa, no stranger to PawSox fans, was accompanied by translator Masai Takahashi.  Tazawa made his M.L. debut in ’09.  25 year old Randor Bierd, acquired last season in the trade for David Pauley says he is healthy and ready to go.  Lefty Felix Doubront had the second best ERA in the Eastern League last year.  The 22 year old could be a good bet for a summer in Pawtucket.  Kyle Weiland was a third round pick in 2008 out of Notre Dame.  He spent last season in Salem and could be a year away from McCoy.  Jeff Natale, looking fit and trim after spending his winter in Boston working out is ready for ’10.  “A little bit of defensive consistency is all that is keeping him out of the Majors” according to Ron Johnson.  Assuming Natale returns to Pawtucket, he will continue to host his weekly radio segment “At Bat with Nat.” 

     Casey Kelly is one of the crown jewels in the Red Sox system.  Ranked as the #2 prospect in the organization by Baseball America, behind RI native Ryan Westmoreland, Kelly is the son of former Major Leaguer and minor league manager, Pat Kelly.  The senior Kelly was the skipper of the 2009 Syracuse SkyChiefs and I was the radio broadcaster for the team.  I have clear memories of PK bringing his son with us on the road and dining with them at a steakhouse.  Casey was set to accept a full scholarship at the University of Tennessee to play quarterback for the Vols before he was drafted by Boston in the first round in 2008.  After splitting time between shortstop and pitcher last season, he and the Sox have decided to devote all Caseys’ time to mound work.  He looks forward to a season with no big decisions to make.  “I only played football because it was fun.  I never thought I could do anything with it.  I just played it because I had a good arm and I liked football.  I started to get noticed, and have letters come in from big-time programs.  It was very exciting and when I signed with Tennessee, I was ready to go there.”  The Red Sox were able to change his mind.  “The draft came and it was something I couldn’t pass up.  Growing up around baseball, I knew it was my first love and from there, it was a no-brainer.”  So he picked baseball over football and with some prodding, pitching over shortstop.  “We kind of sat down during the offseason and talked about where we saw me and the path I’d take to the Major Leagues.  I sat for long lengths with my family and talked about what was my goal.  That was to be in the Big Leagues.  It really didn’t matter how I got there.  That was an easy decision.” 

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     Last summer, I had to be peeled off the ceiling when legendary writer and broadcaster Peter Gammons told me he enjoyed listening to me on the air.  Got just as big a boost on Friday when Gordon Edes, formerly of the Boston Globe, now with ESPN Boston.com told me he liked this blog.  Thanks Gordon.  The feeling is way more than mutual. 

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     I want to congratulate two colleagues.  Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal was named the state of RI’s sportswriter of the year.  I am honored to share the states’ sportscaster of the year award with Steve McDonald of WHJJ, who also serves as a sideline reporter for Cox broadcasts of PawSox games.  We will be heading to Salisbury North Carolina in early May for the annual National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association convention.  I’m fortunate enough to have won for the third time in the last four years.  No way it’s possible without my partner Dan Hoard, and  Ben Mondor and Mike Tamburro who graciously allow me to broadcast PawSox games. 

  

 

TOREY’S IN TOWN

     New PawSox skipper Torey Lovullo made his first public appearance in Pawtucket on Wednesday morning as a member of the “Nation”,  addressing the gathered media at McCoy Stadium.  Lovullo most recently served as the Triple A manager in the Indians system, first in Buffalo and then in Columbus.  After the gathering, he headed to Boston.  He’ll be back in Pawtucket by Friday afternoon for another media assemblage, prior to Saturdays’ Hot Stove Party at McCoy.  Lovullo, 44 is a veteran of 22 years in pro baseball, including parts of 8 seasons as a big league player.  Lovullo looks forward to getting started with the PawSox.  “I’m really happy to be here.  What I’m joining is such a great baseball tradition.  What goes on here in Pawtucket is pretty special.  As a visiting manager, as a visiting player, I used to enjoy coming in here.  The town, the chemistry, the community of people, the fan support…Now that I’m a part of it, it’s just too much for me to think about.  There’s so much excitement, I can’t wait for the season to get started.”

     Lovullo has a pre-existing relationship with several key members of the Sox organization.  He played for Terry Francona in Philadelphia and worked with pitching coach John Farrell and Director of Player Development Mike Hazen in Cleveland.  Those factors played a big role in his decision to join the Red Sox chain. “One of the major reasons  I came here was the family of managers and the family of people that are making key decisions.  That’s what I want to be around.  Great baseball people, great teachers and great friends.  John Farrell and Terry Francona fit into that category.”

     Lovullo is ready to cast his own shadow in Pawtucket.  He fills the considerable shoes of Ron Johnson, who will be the first base coach for Boston in 2010.  While he knows and respects RJ, he will make the job his own.  “I don’t want to try to replace Ron Johnson, I don’t want to try to be Ron Johnson.  He had a great run here and now he’s in the Big Leagues where he belongs.  It’s time for  me to step in and continue the tradition he started, developing players and sending them to the Big Leagues.  I don’t want to feel the pressure of having to replace him because you can’t.  It’s impossible.  He’s a great man, a great baseball man.  I want to go in there and develop Major League players to the best of my ability.  I want to teach them what my expectations are to help get them to that next level and be successful.”

     Born in Santa Monica, California, Lovullo’s father, Sam, was a legendary producer of the TV show “Hee-Haw.”  Torey once told me a story about himself and “The King”.  I made him tell it to me again.  “I didn’t know who he was.  I was 5 years old.  My family made a trip to Palm Springs where Elvis Presley had a home.  We walked in for a visit.  I migrated outside where there was a basketball hoop.  I was playing basketball with this giant figure.  I didn’t know who he was, but when we got in the car, my sisters told me I had just played basketball with one of the greatest entertainers of all time.  At that point I realized that maybe it was something special.  It really wasn’t until about ten years later that I realized what I did.”

     As a player, Lovullo was a part of 4 Governors’ Cup championships.  If he can bring the first one to McCoy since 1984, maybe we’ll refer to him as “The King”. 

TITO’S TAKE

     As Terry Francona enters the 2010 season, there is an air of a man who is comfortable in his own skin.  Why not?  Francona has guided the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles and will be the manager in Boston for as long as he wants.  At the Westin Hotel this Thursday for the annual Basebal Writers’ Dinner, Tito met the media and talked about a lot of different things.  He says there is a certain rhythm to his offseason, and he likes it  “There’s a lull every so often, but there’s always something going on.  Something to attend to.  Everybody has their own schedule, I’ve been here a while now, so I know what I want to get done.  I’ve known guys like (pitching coach) John Farrell for a long while now so we get it done when we feel like getting it done.”  Francona was optimistic about the club and his new players  “The more John Lackeys we go out and get, the smarter we’re going to look.  There’s a fine line Theo’s got to walk and I think he does a good job with it.  With a veteran team, there’s always the risk you’re going to go out there and look old.  I say all the time, ‘When you are winning, you’re ‘veteran’, when you’re losing, you’re ‘old’.  I’m real comfortable with the way our ballclub is set up.  I’m actually very excited.  I think every time you’ve heard me over the last six years about us having a good period where we’re playing good baseball, we’re playing clean baseball.  We’re pitching, we’re catching the ball.  I know we’ve got to score runs.”  Francona bases his theory on history.  “You go back to 2004, we kind of spun our wheels for three months, and then we started catching the ball and that’s when we were real good.”  According to Francona, history could repeat itself. “There’s a lot we believe in with what we’ve done this winter.  What happened to us in ’06 (not enough pitching) is going to stay with me forever.  We couldn’t survive and we were all miserable and we never want that to happen again.”  

     One way to ensure “survival” was the addition of John Lackey to a rotation that already boasts Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield.  Francona was like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning as he described what Lackey brings to the table.  “An aces’ mentality and a resume to follow.  A competitiveness.  Regardless of whether he pitches on the first day of the season or second or third, you put him in with those other guys and that’s six pretty good pitchers.  You send a good pitcher out there every night…you run good pitching out there every night and you have always got a chance.  Trying to be competitive every year and also not mortgage,  I don’t know if that’s the right word or not…Theo’s the caretaker and looking not only at this year, but next year and the year after that, the next wave of players might not be on the direct horizon, so we have to do things that aren’t going to interfere with that too.”

    

FEELING VERY OFFICIAL

     Thursday is the seventy first annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.  It is being held at the Westin in Boston and I came up early for the afternoon news conference that featured the likes of Terry Francona, John Lackey, Jeremy Hermida and Colorado skipper Jim Tracy.  I’m sitting in the work room, banging on my lap top, sitting between my good friend, Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal and one of the all time greats, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe.  First guy we ran into at the hotel this afternoon was former PawSox manager Ron Johnson.  Not surprising, he was scarfing down a huge burger drenched in his own special dressing of mayo and ketchup.  Sitting with his wife Daphne, we had a nice chat.  RJ is obviously excited about his appointment to the Red Sox staff as first base coach for Tito.  Francona said it was a promotion that was long overdue and well-deserved.  RJ said he was touched by the people who reached out to him when he got the Boston job.  Former Red Sox and PawSox manager Joe Morgan sent him a hand-written note that RJ said he framed and hung in his office.  Former players like Dustin Pedroia also called or texted.  “We were sitting there eating pizza one night, and the “Fonz”, Mark Kotsay, a first baseman, called.” Johnson told me.  “He got after me good, saying that after he got one of our guys picked off, he’d put his glove right in my face.”  RJ laughed at the thought.  Bigger than life in a Stetson cowboy hat, plaid shirt, jeans and boots,  RJ looked like he just got in from the cattle drive.  RJ and I were both given autographed copies of the Dustin Pedroia biography, “Born to Play”. Both of us were featured in the book.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how Pedey inscribed my copy.  Used the same words he greeted me with every morning.  I will treasure it always, but can’t show it to too many people.

     At he behest of my pal Dan Barbarisi, another in the fine stable of Projo writers, I will try to use paragraphs in this space.  Can’t promise it will always look or sound professional, but I’m willing to try.  Anyway,  I also spoke to John Farrell and Tracy about their respective charges.  Farrell spoke about new Pawtucket skipper Torey Lovullo.  The two men are well-acquainted from their days together in the Cleveland Indians organization.  Along with director of player development, Mike Hazen, they put Lovullos’ name up for “nomination” and it didn’t take much convincing.  “Mike and I weren’t the only ones who knew Torey.  He is a “players’ manager”.  He fosters good relationships with his guys and they respect him.  Tito  knew him, he played for Tito.  When a guy like Lovullo becomes available, it’s a no-brainer.”  Francona was honest.  “I’d like to say it was part of a master plan, but truthfully, he was available and we’d have been stupid not to get him.  He’s a great addition to our organization.”

     Rockies manager, Jim Tracy is in Boston to accept the National League Manager of the Year honors.  One of his players is Rhode Island native Chris Ianetta.  Tracy was effusive in his praise.  “When Yorvit Torrealba was catching for us in the playoffs, it wasn’t because we didn’t want or like Chris.  We have proven that this offseason.  We hope Chris will be an integral part of who we are for a long time to come.”  Tracy engineered an improbable turnaround for the Rockies, going 30 games over .500 after he was hired in early June.

 

     The dinner is still a couple of hours away.  I’m taking notes.  I’ll let you know who was here, who was interesting and who laid a egg. 

WE OUGHT TO REMEMBER GEORGE

Things have changed.  Well, maybe not.  We learned as children in school that when confronted about chopping down a cherry tree, a young fellow named George Washington stood tall and confessed- “I cannot tell a lie.”  Middle of the nineteenth century, we had a president named Abraham Lincoln.  I’m certain you’ve heard of him.  Tall, lanky fella.  On the five dollar bill.  Nicknamed- “Honest Abe”.  I’m certain that despite the example those two set, there have been liars throughtout the ages.  Brutus probably told Caesar there was nothing going on.  The Indians told Custer that it was just a little get-together at Little Big Horn.  Bill Clinton said he “didn’t inhale”.  I guess it’s just in peoples’ nature.  Why then, are we surprised to learn that our athletes are liars?  Mark McGwire finally admitted that he took performance enhancing drugs for a decade.  TEN YEARS!!!  That means he probably took them a lot longer.  Says he didn’t take them to help him hit home runs. YEAH RIGHT!!  Told Bob Costas that he felt he’d been given a gift and that he’d have hit the homers without the ‘roids.  Told old Bob he took them for his health.  What- to worsen it?  As a stupid young guy at UMass in the early ’80s, I took steroids for about a week until I read about their long term effects. Believe me, I was no Einstein, but I knew enough to flush the rest of the dianabol down the toilet.  As a shotputter, I might have gotten to 60 feet or so, but it was not worth it.  Why couldn’t McGwire come out and admit he took them to hit the home runs, make money and try to earn a spot in Cooperstown?  It is well after the fact, but at least we could respect him for coming forth and admitting his misdeed.  While we seem to have forgotten about George Washington and his honesty, we reward someone who has the ethics of renowned liar George Costanza of “Seinfeld”. (My whole life is a sham, Jerry).  Under the radar this week, is the lie told by Daisuke Matsuzaka. (A lie by omission is just as bad).  Dice neglected to tell the Sox about the groin injury he sustained at the World Baseball Classic because he didn’t want to be perceived as an “excuse-maker”.  He wasted an entire year after being sent back to Fort Myers for a “re-do” of Spring Training.  For the money he is being paid, he should be ashamed.  I thought there was supposed to some code of honor.  I guess not when you’re represented by Scott Boras.  Lying is easy.  But in this day and age of the internet, with everyone carrying around some kind of phone or recording device or camera, there is no longer any such thing as “off the record”.  Just ask Tiger Woods.  We are disappointed, but we shouldn’t be surprised.  Takes me back to one of the very first poems I learned on the playground…”Liar, liar.  Pants on fire!”  Somebody better get the hose.

A GOOD SIGN

This week, despite the snow on the ground and frigid temperatures, a thousand or so Red Sox fans will gather for the annual Boston Baseball Writers Association of America dinner.  They will shift their focus from shoveling to baseball.  It is the first harbinger of Spring, long before the first robin emerges.  This year the head table promises to be star-studded.  Scheduled to appear are our old pal Kevin Youkilis, recently acquired John Lackey, Colorado manager Jim Tracy, Jeremy Hermida, Casey Kelly, Terry Francona, John  Farrell, Dave Magadan and recently promoted first base coach Ron Johnson.  Never seen RJ in a tux.  I’ll be nice.  It is usually a very nice affair.  My problem with it in the past is that the guys you want to hear from make incredibly short speeches.  The guys you least want to hear (the writers) drone on and on.  The bbwaa dinner is the first of a string of events that will tempt and tease baseball fans.  At McCoy the following week, the local media will get its’ first look at new PawSox manager Torey Lovullo on Wednesday.  Two days later the media willl gather with some top prospects in Pawtucket as a prelude to the PawSox’ annual Hot Stove event.  Scheduled to appear  at the thirty third annual Hot Stove are Lovullo, Casey Kelly, Junichi Tazawa, Jeff Natale, Felix Doubront, Kyle Weiland, Randor Bierd and Ryan Kalish.  It’s your chance to meet the guys, ask some questions, get autographs and photos.  The PawSox will open the ticket office and the team store.  Refreshments will be served.  Opening Day at McCoy is April 8th and tickets will be available.  Don’t forget.  Saturday January 23d from 11:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M.  It is always a fun time and I look forward to seeing you there.

GOOD LUCK JEFF BAILEY

Some days, especially during the offseason, I sit at my laptop and wonder what I can write about. Other days, very little inspiration is required.  Today is one of the latter.  Dale Carnegie said that to be an effective speaker, you should speak on something you feel passionately about.  Jeff Bailey is no longer a member of the Red Sox organization.  He joined the PawSox at the tail end of my first year with the club, 2004.  He went from a young, part-time player to the teams’ elder statesman, respected by anyone he made contact with.  Along the way, he became the MVP of the International League, and a Major Leaguer.  Over the years, he and I discussed the triumphs and tragedies of being a professional athlete.  Frustrations, injuries, money, opportunities and a thousand other topics on our seemingly endless bus rides, or waits in airports.  “Bails” is a man of few words, so like E.F. Hutton, when he spoke, I think everybody listened.  Bailey joins the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, where he should get the chance to make the big club.  Jeff came up as a catcher, plays a good first base and leftfield and he can hit.  It won’t take the powers that be in Arizona long to recognize what type of guy he is.  A gentleman, who leads by example.  As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’ll never forget the day Jeff earned his first Major League promotion.  The PawSox were on their way back from a road trip.  It was late at night and we were about to stop for a food/bathroom break.  Just before we arrived at the rest area, Ron Johnson got a phone call from the Sox, telling him to tell Bailey to pack his bags and head to Fenway.  Sitting near RJ on the bus, I caught wind of the conversation and I stood quietly, near the two so I could see the reaction of the the realization of a lifelong dream.  It was typical Bailey.  He stood there, frozen like a statue,thinking RJ was playing a joke on him.  When Johnson finally convinced him it was legit, Bailey had a smile plastered on his face that was priceless.  Still he stood there, as if his feet were cemented to the floor.  As his teammates came by and congratulated him, it started to sink in. He was a major leaguer.  No one can ever take that away from him.  I went over to offer my congratulations and in typical Jeff Bailey fashion, we shook hands and he said “Thanks, Hyder.”  Now he gets the chance at age 31, to become a regular in an organization that has neither the depth nor the resources the Sox have.  In other words, Jeff Bailey could go to Spring Training and earn a roster spot in Arizona and play on a regular basis.  No matter how long I broadcast games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Jeff Bailey will always embody what I think a professional athlete should be.

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