CATCHING UP WITH OUR OLD CATCHER

     Baseball is a wonderful world with an amazingly small, close-knit fraternity.  Tuesday at the minor league complex, the Durham Bulls, Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, came to town to face the PawSox.  Pawtucket had the daunting task of facing the flame-throwing lefthander, David Price.  Price, the former number one overall pick of the Rays, jammed it down the PawSox’ collective throats.  Price threw 7 shutout innings at the PawSox, en route to a 5-1, Durham win.  Price allowed just 1 hit, with a walk and 8 strikeouts.  Elliot Johnson accounted for most of the offense with a pair of home runs, a solo shot in the first off Kason Gabbard and a three run job in the eighth, courtesy of Ramon Ramirez.  Also at the game, at the Rays’ behest, was catcher Kelly Shoppach, who just 8 days ago hit a pair of home runs against Boston at City of Palms Park.  Shoppach, you may recall, is a former International League All Star, from his time with the PawSox.  After a couple of seasons in the Cleveland organization, Shoppach is now a Ray.  After he got over his initial shock that I write a blog, we discussed a variety of topics.

How does it feel now that you’re in Tampa Bay?

Having a job is always nice.  You take one whenever you can get it.  It’s been a real good experience for me.  In the clubhouse, the guys have been great.  They’ve welcomed me.  Kind of a breath of fresh air to get out here and be with a team that’s contending.  It’s definitely exciting for me to be here.

Did you feel a sense of irony last week when you and Victor Martinez were the opposing catchers, a year after you were teammates in Cleveland?

Definitely interesting.  We were great friends, teammates for four years.  There’s a lot of history between us.  We talked about a lot of things from over the years.  Last years’ World Series Game 1 starters, Cliff (Lee) and C.C. (Sabathia) (both former Indians) and here we are on different teams.  We all have different paths and it’s good to keep your friends, some lifelong friends that you make in this game that you’ll always love to see.

Can you afford to “wish” that you never left the Red Sox organization?

No, I can’t afford to do that.  As great as Pawtucket was, if I hadn’t left, I might have spent another three years in the minor leagues.  Moving to Cleveland was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I was able to get to the Big Leagues and learn even more and become a player that was able to provide something to a Major League team.  Getting out of Boston, as weird as it may sound, was great for me. 

You had the chance to catch another former Sox prospect at the end of last year.  How will Justin Masterson fare in Cleveland?

I think he can do a lot of things.  He’s a big, strong, tall kid.  He can do a number of things and I’m sure he’ll be able to do whatever they ask.

I know you met your wife in Fort Myers.  Does it bring back good memories coming here?

When we played the Red Sox, I left the stadium and drove down to my house, which I still have here.  Drove by her old work and waved.  We still joke about that pretty often.  Definitely a lot of memories here in Fort Myers.  I lived here for seven years.  Today when I came to town I visited Racquel (Ferreira- Director of Minor League Operations.)  It’s kind of strange being here on the “back fields” again, but you never forget where you come from. 

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