April 2010

REDDICK’S BACK, MOSS AND GABBY, TOO!

     Baseballs’ carousel never stops turning.  Very evident at McCoy stadium this week as Josh Reddick returns from his stint in Boston, Kason Gabbard is up from extended Spring Training and old friend, Brandon Moss is in town in an Indianapolis uniform.  Moss was an All Star in Pawtucket, both on and off the field.  Easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever known in any walk of life.  Brandon was part of the trade that brought Jason Bay to Boston and sent Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles.  Moss played for Pittsburgh in both 2008 and ’09.  Last season he hit .236 with 7 homers and 41 rbi.  This season, he begins with the Triple A affiliate of the Pirates in Indy.  Saw him in the visitors’ clubhouse this afternoon.  He had an ear to ear grin, returning to the scene of so many successes.  The report on his 6 month old son Jayden was concise. “He’s a stud.  Alli (his wife) has her hands full.  He’s a lot like me.”

     Gabbard last appeared in a PawSox uniform in 2007, when he and David Murphy were traded to Texas for Eric Gagne.  The Sox bought him back last April.  Since then he has been struggling with injuries.  Today he told me he was fine physically, but still was working on his mechanics.  Gabbard had been at extended Spring Training in Fort Myers when he was called to take the roster spot of Fabio Castro, who was promoted to help bolster the Red Sox’ beleaguered bullpen.  Gabby, who was married this past winter was glad to head north.  “I’m usually done with my work by 10:00 a.m. every day, so there’s a lot of down time.  I spend a lot of time with my wife, and playing golf.”  Gabbards’ name may ring a bell.  He threw a 3 hit shutout for Boston back in July 2007 against the Royals.

     Reddick, meanwhile is back after appearing in three games with Boston.  He went 1-6 with a 2 run double in the comeback game on the 20th against Texas.  He was modest about his results. “Nothing much really changed.  Still trying to get on track.  It’s been a really slow start and I don’t feel like I’m doing much to help any team right now.  I kinda got lucky with my double up there.  It got pushed back and (Josh) Hamilton misread it.  It went in my favor.  I just have to come back here and get locked in.  That’s all.”  Reddick admits that his comfort level is much better this year, playing in Boston, given his 2009 debut and his success this Spring in Florida.  “It’s a lot better feeling this year.  I’m not afraid to talk to the guys, and they come up and talk to me, too.  It’s much better communicating with them, than sitting there by myself.”

     Reddick had a front row seat when the Sox staged an epic comeback, lead by teammate Darnell McDonald.  In fact, Darnell hit his home run that night, while pinch-hitting for Josh.  He remained in the game and also had the game-winning hit, a wall ball single that scored the deciding run.  Both PawSox outfielders had been summoned that morning, while the club was in Rochester. “Before the game, we were joking that the “B-squad” was going to come and help to win the game.  When he did his thing, we were laughing because it came true.  Goes to show you, different guys can come through and do it on any given night.” 

     Reddick summed up the onfield celebration in one word. “Fantastic.  We all went out there, running towards him.  I’m pretty sure he woke up the next day kinda sore.  Papelbon and Youkilis tackled him out there in leftfield.”

     Reddick is clearly ready to get back to work at McCoy and it sounds like he knows exactly what he needs to do. “I need to calm things down at the plate.  I’m still trying to do too much.  My timing’s still off.  I need to get my foot down.  That’s a really big thing.  Easier said than done, but I have to make that adjustment.  Making adjustments in baseball is a really hard thing to do, but I have to do it if I want to go back up there and perform where I want to be.”  

  

THE FORCE IS WITH HYDER AND HOARD

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RELIEF (COMIC AND OTHERWISE)

     As we become more familiar with the 2010 PawSox, one thing is apparent.  It is a really good group of guys.  Whether they win the Governors’ Cup, or finish in last place, (hope it’s the former) there are some “top shelf” characters on this club.  One gentleman that I’m enjoying getting to know is reliever, Chad Paronto.  Paronto, a resident of Pittsfield Mass. and a graduate of Woodsville High School in New Hampshire, is a long time Red Sox fan, and is very pleased to be in the organization. “It’s great.  It’s easily one of the best organizations I’ve played for.  Even though I’m here in Pawtucket, I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of playing for Boston.  Ever since I was a kid, hearing ‘now batting for Boston…’ I really hope to have the opportunity of putting on the uniform at Fenway.

     An All-State performer in baseball and basketball, the 6’5, 250 pounder has pitched in the Majors for Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta and Houston.  Before that, he starred at the University of Massachusetts, leading the Minutemen to the regionals in 1995 and ’96.  That coincided with the John Calipari era in Amherst.  Coach Cal lead the Minutemen to the final four in New Jersey in 1996.  Unfortunately that spot had to be vacated, due to NCAA violations.  Paronto remembers his college days fondly- “It was an absolute zoo, obviously.  As far as baseball went, I was fortunate enough to play with some great, great players.  We had some great teams and in 1996, we fell one game shy of going to Omaha (for the College World Series).  It would have been a great story.  The basketball was insane.  Marcus Camby was the national college player of the year, it was a great time to be there.  The campus was always buzzing, especially around the basketball season.”

     Along with fellow veterans, Alan Embree and Joe Nelson, Paronto provides leadership to the PawSox bullpen.  “It’s important for us to show the young guys.  We always say-’don’t do anything differently here than you’d do in Boston.’  Preparation and routine are really important over the course of a long season.  Sometimes you don’t even realize it but what you’re doing, what you take for granted because you’ve been doing it so long, rubs off on the other younger guys.”

     Paronto is blessed with a very good, dry sense of humor.  You don’t get too far along in the conversation without learning that.  He says if a guy messes up, he renders his own “Kangaroo Court” justice.  “I’ll throw their clothes in the trash, tape all their stuff together, freeze their underwear. I hold my own court.”  He joked that he’d like to be called “Lady GaGa” by manager Torey Lovullo.  The skippers’ response- “He’s really out there, isn’t he?”  Paronto and Nelson have chosen some questionable songs for their warmups on the mouind.  When you learn why, you understand.  They are both fathers of young girls.  Don’t expect to hear the Dropkick Murphys or AC/DC for these guys. Nelson enters to the Miley Cyrus hit “Party in the USA”.  I will admit, I really like it, too.  “Nelly kind of beat me to the punch.  We both made promises to our daughters.  We’ve both had some pretty serious dance parties with our girls to Miley Cyrus music.  I talked to the music guy and I’ve got a special little treat of my own for when I enter a game.”  We have learned his entrance tune is “TikTok” by Ke$ha.  Also very catchy.

     The other day, for the flight to Buffalo, Paronto was the only member of the entourage to wear a necktie.  It accompanied a nice sleeveless sweater for a “collegiate” look.  He took a pretty good ribbing about his ensemble, and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, he explained it.  “Jealousy is a huge part of what people feel towards me.  I really am the total package.  They get on me about how great and handsome I look.  It’s just guys’ jealousy rearing its’ ugly head.”

     Chad Paronto does not lack confidence.  If he weren’t a baseball player, he’s sure he would be a hit in the entertainment industry,.  “When I do sing, it’s good.  It’s really good.  I listen to a lot of music.  I know a lot of lyrics.  I wish I had known my school work as well.  I’ve always loved to sing and dance.  You get so bored in the clubhouse sometimes, it makes guys laugh, it keeps guys loose, so I just keep doing it.”  Aware of the age limit imposed by a popular Fox Network TV show , Chad added one final thought .  “If I were young enough, I would win American Idol.”

     Look out Adam Lambert.

 

MANUEL LABOR

     One of the new additions to the bullpen this season is Robert Manuel, a 26 year old Texan who made his M.L. debut with the Reds in 2009.  Manuel’s off to a great start.  “I wanted to get off to a good start at Spring Training, and carry it over to the season.  I think I’ve done that, capitalizing on the opportunities I’ve been given by the coaches, to show what I can do.”  The numbers so far, back him up.  In 6 appearances (7 innings pitched) Manuel (0.00 ERA) has not surrendered a run.  He is 1-0 and 1-1 in save opportunities.  He has been stingy, scattering five hits with no walks and 6 strikeouts.  “It’s very important to get off to a good start (with a new organization), you don’t want to give the impression to them that they made a mistake getting you.  Hopefully I can continue this throughout the year.”

     Manuel appeared in his first Big League game last July with Cincinnati.  The debut coincided with his birthday and that made it even better, although he says he didn’t know it at the time. “It was pretty crazy.  I didn’t think about it until I was on the bus after the game.  People were telling me it was my birthday.  I really didn’t have any clue beacuse the last couple of days had been pretty crazy.  It was very special making my debut on my birthday.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.”  In three games with Cincy, Manuel worked 4.1 innings and didn’t allow a single run, giving up just 5 hits.  It was the realization of a dream.  “All the hard work and dedication.  All the people that helped me behind the scenes that don’t get credit.  I get all the credit for what I do on the field, but there are a lot of people who deserve the recognition.”  Manuel added he had a slight regret about the debut.  “I wish we could have won the game, but I threw a couple of scoreless innings out there.”

     In his brief tenure, he was befriended by veteran pitcher Aaron Harang of the Reds.  Incredibly to Robert, one day Harang called him and invited him to the mall for a shopping spree, on him.  “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.  He took some of the rookies out and bought us some clothes.  He told us that someone had done it for him when he was a rookie.  It’s hard when you get your first callup.  You don’t know if you’ll be here tomorrow, so you don’t want to spend a lot of money.  Financially, he helped us out, getting us the right clothes.  We bonded.  It seems that nowadays it’s tough for the veterans to relate to the young guys.  Age, and the times…it was hard, but you know it was fun.  A really good experience.”  Manuel added that he hopes to pay it forward.  “I’d like, someday to do that for a rookie myself.”

     Manuel has a great sense of humor and says that he used his time at Spring Training to bond with his new teammates in Fort Myers. “It was very important.  I get to know them, they get to know me a little bit, my personality.  It’s good to get to know the guys on your team.  Get a feel for where they are, pick their brain a little bit, they pick mine too.  Feed off that a little bit and take that into a game.”

     In 2008, while with the Mariners organization, Milb.com recognized Manuel as the “best relief pitcher ” in all of minor league baseball.  Manuel was proud of the distinction. “It was amazing.  I started off strong in the Spring and carried it to the season.  I had a lot of people to attribute that to.  (Pitching  Coach and former major leaguer) Chris Bosio really helped me with the mental side of the game.  The physical side has always been there.  The mental approach, finding the right routine that worked for me.  I never really pay attention to the numbers.  I focus on keeping my team in the game with the innings I’m given.  The award was really just icing on the cake.”

     He has continued that solid approach and has become a “go to” guy for Torey Lovullo.

      

 

  

ONE OF US HITS IT BIG

     I don’t care if you are a player, manager, coach, trainer or even a broadcaster in the minor leagues.  We are all in it together.  Long bus rides, crummy coffee, fast food meals.  The whole deal.  We all have a hope.  If anyone denies it, they are lying to you.  We all want to get to the Major Leagues.  When one of us does, it’s special.

     On Tuesday, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald were noticably missing from our PawSox entourage.  They were called up to Boston to replace Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, both on the disabled list.  A Reddick callup is inevitable.  Gifted beyond belief and just 23 years old, Reddick was the last man cut by the Red Sox at Spring Training.  It’s a no-brainer.  31 year old McDonald, on the other hand, gambled a bit when he signed with Boston.  He has now played for 7 of the 14 teams in the Internaational League.  The Sox have Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall on their roster as reserves and guys like Reddick and Ryan Kalish lurking in the minors.  The gamble paid off in a big way on Tuesday.

     Our trip to Rochester (one of McDonalds’ former teams) began with us eating in the same lousy restaurant on our first night in town, and ended up with “D-Mac” becoming the toast of the town in Boston.  McDonald, one of the nicest guys around, brings good karma.  When asked by reporters before the game in the Fenway clubhouse, who’d play outfield for Pawtucket with he and Reddick in the “show”, he stoically replied, “Mike Roose, our strength coach.”  Although he was kidding, he added “He says he can swing a bat.”  When I relayed the story to Roose, a Pawtucket native and a veteran of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was all smiles.

     The Red Sox fell behind early to Texas, and trailing 6-2, Reddick hit a ball to the opposite field that Josh Hamilton misplayed.  It brought home two runs.  That was awesome, but there will be many days like that down the road for Reddick.  McDonald came on as a pinch hitter in the eighth and promptly tagged a two run home run to tie the game.  In the interim, after a disappointing 4-3 loss, PawSox players and staff were showering and preparing for the nights’ ride to Allentown, Pa.  As word spread that McDonald had provided the Sox with that lift, there were smiles and high fives all around.  The consensus was summed up by hitting coach, Gerald Perry.  “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

     Little did we know that Darnell wasn’t through.  Tied at 6, the Sox loaded the bases in the ninth and with two outs, McDonald came to the plate.  In the thirties and forties, families might have gathered around the radio to listen to Bob Hope or Jack Benny.  In the sixties, they watched Ed Sullivan on TV.  In the year 2010, our “family” was gathered around Torey Lovullos’ laptop to watch the feed of the game.  Torey, Perry, Rich Sauveur, the training staff, Alan Embree, Joe Nelson, Dan and I crammed into the tiny office and cheered as Jason Varitek drew a walk, setting the stage for Darnell.  Nelson was confident in his teammate.  “No way he doesn’t come through!”  McDonald immediately rewarded that confidence, and in the process became a houisehold name in Red Sox Nation.  He lofted a drive off the Green Monster that scored the game-winner, snapping the Boston skid.  He was mobbed by his grateful teammates as the celebration began.  Back in Rochester, we were cheering wildly and high fiving each other.  Lovullo had a paternal smile on his face.  We got to watch as one of us made a difference. 

     It might not sound like much to outsiders, we are used to the steady parade of PawSox players becoming stars in Boston.  Let me tell you, for all of us, it was anything but ordinary.  Our guy, Darnell McDonald of the Pawtucket Red Sox hit it big!

TOREY-TEN GAMES IN

     We are 10 or 11 days into the “Lovullo Era” in Pawtucket.  To the naked eye, the results on the field have been mediocre. But according to the PawSox new manager, things are just fine. “Things are moving well.  I think we are still getting a feel for one another.  Trying to figure what our major strengths are, what our weaknesses are, and address those weaknesses to get better each and every day.  I’m very pleased, although we’ve lost a couple of leads late- two or three losses you turn into wins and we’re sitting right where we want to be in the standings.  So, overall, I’m very pleased.  We just have to learn some things.  How to win on the road, finish games..we’re a young team, we’ll see things get better.”

     Completelty understanding that development of players is his main job, Lovullo admits that the early struggles bother him.  “It certainly does.  We want to go out there and develop winning players.  By in large, what we’ve done is go out there,  get the right players the right amount of at bats, get some manuveurability in the infield.  There are some young guys we’re trying to get ready for the eventuality of a big league callup.  They’ve been playing all three infield positions.  It’s a different environment you create.  Much the same way, we’re trying to create and develop roles in the bullpen.  I think that’s why at times we’ve had hiccups in the pen.  We haven’t yet really defined roles for the guys because we’re mixing and matching so many things.  Once we’ve had time to develop those roles, things will be much better.”

     Win or lose, there is one thing that has pleased the skipper- “The effort.  I think these guys are getting out and playing hard every single day.  Yesterday, we went out and won a baseball game for a couple of different reasons.  It’s great that we won 6-3, and that Fernando (Cabrera) walks off with the save.  Angel Sanchez hustling down the line with two outs and beating the throw.  We end up scoring two runs that inning on Josh Reddicks’ home run, when they (Rochester) should have been out of the inning.  Little hustle moments like that, please me a whole lot.  It’s been a collective effort.  I can’t pinpoint one thing, but overall, I’ve been pleased.”

     One thing you cannot control is April weather in the Northeast.  Very often, it’s been cold, rainy or windy.  Lovullo says that it takes some adjustment, especially after a couple of months in Fort Myers. “Very tough.  You know, that first couple of days in Pawtucket, it was warm.  We really got teased.  It was tough going into Buffalo as it got chillier and chillier every day we were  there.  We get here to Rochester  and it’s freezing.  We know, as baseball players, it’s going to happen.  The weather doesn’t miss anybody.  It doesn’t just happen here in the minor leagues.  No matter where you are as a player, you have to learn how to grind through it.”

     Lovullo enjoyed his first trip of 2010, through his adopted home of Buffalo.  A city where he excelled as both a player and as a manager.  He did sound relieved to have that trip behind him.  “It’s always great.  I’m going home.  I enjoy the time.  I’ve learned to separate it though, in the time I’ve been going back as a manager.  By the time pre-game starts, I’ve got all the personal stuff taken care of, because I’ve got a job to, go out and manage a bunch of young baseball players.”  Torey was forced to explain why he didn’t join the rest of the staff as they dined at “Chefs’”, an Italian tradition in Buffalo.  “I gave you the recommendation.  I was going to join you guys, but my mother-in-law is a tough German woman.  I went out with her that night.  If I had missed that dinner, she would have never forgiven me”

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     I don’t often speak for Dan, but I know I can in this case.  We dined the other night at “Sticky Lips”, a rib joint in Rochester.  That may seem like blasphemy, when there’s a Dinosaur Barbecue in town.  We tried it, and it was good.  Shared an incredible appetizer- “Jacked up fried green tomatoes”.  Laden with a mixture of crabmeat, cheese, and hot sauce…an absolute winner!  The sides were great, as well.  My favorite was grits mixed with cheese and chorizo.  The ribs were very good, but not near the caliber of the “Dino’. 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

     Today marks the 29th anniversary of the longest game in baseball history.  An epic, 33 inning battle between the PawSox and (coincidentally) todays’ opponent, the Rochester Red Wings.  Somewhat ironic that last night, the Mets prevailed 2-1 over St. Louis in 20 innings at Busch Stadium.  Yesterdays marathon started the same time as the Pawtucket/Red Wings game.  Our game lasted 3 hours and 9 minutes.  Their game went an additional 3 hours and 44 minutes. An amazing 6 hours and 53 minutes.  That’s long, but it pales in comparison to the McCoy Stadium Classic.  The first part of the game was finally halted at 4:07 a.m. on April 19th (Easter Sunday) as league president Harold Cooper was finally reached for a verdict.  The 19 fans that remained in the stands were given season passes to McCoy.  When the game resumed on June 23, it took just one inning to complete, 18 more minutes.

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          Mike Maroth might be a familiar name to Red Sox fans.  He was originally drafted by Boston in 1998 and traded to Detroit in 1999 for pitcher Bryce Florie.  Maroth, Rochesters’ starting pitcher on Sunday against the PawSox , is probably best remembered for losing 20 games for the Tigers in 2003.  The former University of Central Florida standout was Bostons’ third rounder in ’98 and pitched for the GCL team and Lowell.  Lifetime, he is 50-67 as a Major Leaguer.  His 9-21 mark in ’03 really doesn’t help the career stats.  Since 2006, the 32 year old Orlando, Florida native has had three surgeries.  In 2006, he had an arthroscopic procedure to remove bone chips from his elbow.  He underwent shoulder surgery in 2008 then missed all of 2009 after he sustained a knee injury on the second day of Spring Training.  He had the ligament repair operation in April of last year.  

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     One place where Rochester has an advantage over Pawtucket, and in fact, the whole league, is Fred Costello.  Costello just celebrated his thirty-third opening day with the Red Wings as the stadium organist.  Fred recently penned a book- “A lifetime of nightclubs and ballparks.”  It details his years of playing in bands in spots like Las Vegas, as well as his time at the yard.

    

TOUCHING BASE

     Let’s see.  The PawSox were “fogged out” Friday in Buffalo.  That means we’ll play 6 games in 5 days in late August at Coca Cola Field.  Should be fun.  We got an early start for Rochester and a good rest.  Before leaving, we were treated to steaks, courtesy of Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Manager Torey Lovullo was kind enough to invite us to dine.  On the bus ride over we watched the comedy “The Hangover”.  Funny every time.

     On Thursday night, after the loss to the Bisons, Dan and I attended the Sabres/Bruins Stanley Cup playoff game.  Great atmosphere at HSBC Arena.  Unfortunately, Boston was shaded 2-1.  Both goalies, Olympic hero Ryan Miller of the Sabres and the Bruins’ Tuuka Rask were outstanding.  Followed it up with a pilgrimage to the “Anchor Bar” for their world famous chicken wings.  The Buffalo Wing was allegedly invented at the place in October of 1964.  Nothing like drowning the sorrow of a loss in hot wing sauce.

     Heard a great story from long-time “Providence Journal” sportswriter, Paul Kenyon.  I have known and admired “PK” since I was a kid in high school.  (Not intended to be a slam).  Paul was covering the RI Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships, ready to do a story on the Rogers High team that was lead by a senior shotputter, who the year before was merely a member of the schools’ marching band..  (Yes, me).  Anyway, Bishop Hendricken won the last two relays and edged Rogers for the crown, so the story never came to be.  Nonetheless, that was my first encounter with Paul, back in 1979.  He was at McCoy the other day, fresh from a two week vacation.  He and his wife of 35 years, Pauline, had just celebrated their anniversary on a cruise through the Panama Canal.  They had travelled on the “Island Princess”, a sister ship of the “Pacific Princess”.  The latter was the ship that was featured on the old TV series, “The Love Boat”.  One channel on the TV of the ship, was devoted solely to reruns of the old classic.  Kenyon told me that the main characters of the show Captain Stubing (Gavin McLeod), Yeoman Purser Smith (Fred Grandy)  Isaac Washington (Ted Lange) and Cruise Director Julie McCoy (Lauren Toews) were all named when the shows’ creator, Aaron Spelling took a Baseball Encyclopedia randomly pointed at names in the tome.  For example, Captain Stubing was named after ex-big leaguer, Moose Stubing.  A good story. 

THE ROAD…DAY ONE

     To do what I do, you have to love baseball.  You must embrace it, and every aspect of this life.  If you don’t, it makes for a long miserable year.  Fortunately for me, I do enjoy the road portion of our season.  It began on Wednesday in Buffalo.  The Bisons stuck it in our ear, beating the PawSox, 8-2. As the voice of the PawSox, I am biased.  I root for our guys every day, every night, every at bat.  However, I’m not going to lie to you either.  There is a very human emotion that goes along with my job.  You become close with some of the players, and that friendship doesn’t change because a man might be in the uniform of another club. 

     Chris Carter served the Red Sox organization with distinction from the day he arrived in the Wily Mo Pena deal, until the day he left us for the Mets, in the Billy Wagner trade.  That being said,  I was very proud of Chris’ performance on Wednesday.  The lefthanded batter went 4-4, with 4 rbi to lead the rout against Pawtucket.  “CC” is an intense individual.  He takes things very seriously.  I learned that in our years together.  With Mets’ “brass” on hand for Opening Day in Buffalo, Carter wanted to make sure he was “locked in.”  He was.  A triple, two doubles and a single against ex-teammates Adam Mills and Kris Johnson proved former manager Ron Johnsons’ theory that a former player will ALWAYS come back and hurt you. He did, and it was only the first time we’ll encounter Carter and Buffalo this year.

     Carter possesses the type of “matinee idol” looks that make the girls swoon.  He is also extremely intelligent (Stanford grad) and a great person.  His interest in others has always floored me.  When we met on Wednesday, the first thing he asked me about was my daughters. 

     I really hoped when he went to the Mets, there’d be an opening day roster spot for him.  Despite hitting .393, with 4 home runs in Grapefruit League action, he was optioned to Buffalo instead of Fernando Tatis and/or Mike Jacobs.  Hopefully, at some point soon, he’ll have a shot.  I hope it’s real soon.  I don’t want him to destroy us again.

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     Opening Day ceremonies have become mundane and trite in my mind.  Maybe because I’m a veteran of so many of them.  I will admit, it was neat to see Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler, a western New York native throw out the first pitch on Wednesday.  Mesler won the gold at the recently completed Canadian Winter Games, in the bobsled.  Sporting a Bisons jersey, the prized medal dangled from his neck as he made his pitch.

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     First feast of the year is in the books.  We ate at “Chefs” after the game Wednesday.  Dan Hoard, hitting instructor Gerald Perry, Training staff members John Jochim and Mike Roose, PawSox V.P. Bill Wanless, Head of Security Rick Medeiros and I “carbo loaded” on the sinfully good specialty of the house, spaghetti parmesan, along with veal, chicken, eggplant meatballs and sausage.  Absolutely delicious.  The Boston Bruins open their Stanley Cup playoff series against Buffalo tonight at the HSBC Arena.  Faceoff is at 7:00 and if all goes well, we’re hoping to get in to see some of the game.  You can actually see the hockey rink from our seats in the baseball press box.  Last night, we got together with dear friend, Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com, who is in town to cover the hockey playoffs.  Also saw an old boss of mine who has remained a good friend over the last 25 years.  Pete Lonergan, formerly the regional manager for Jostens.  Pete hired me after we met on a flight from Washington to Providence in 1985.  If the name sounds familiar to basketball fans, good job.  Pete was the head basketball coach at Niagara University in the Mid-’80s, when the Purple Eagles shocked the world by defeating then, #1 St. Johns University.  The RedMen, coached by legendary Lou Carnesseca, featured 8 future NBA players, including Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson.  

 

SHUFFLING OFF TO BUFFALO

     After Tuesdays’ 12-0 whupping at the hands of Lehigh Valley, the PawSox head to Buffalo New York for their first road trip of the season.  It’s a good trip, but one of us is REALLY looking forward to getting there.  Manager Torey Lovullo considers the city his “home away from home.”  Lovullo excelled as both a player and manager in the city of Buffalo.  He met his wife, Kristen there and as you can imagine, the place holds a special place in his heart. “My dad was born and raised there.  My family, my wifes’ family…It’s like I’m going home for the next three days.”  Despite the fact that he has  many friends and relatives in the city, Torey will stay with his ballclub in our team hotel.  “I really love my in-laws and all my friends, but I have to focus on the job at hand.  I need my space.  That being said, it will be really nice to see everybody.  It’s also kind of strange for me to stay in a hotel in Buffalo” 

     Other than visits with close ones, Torey says there are a couple of essential stops he has to make.  One is a pilgrimage to “Chefs” Italian restaurant.  You’ve read about that place here in this space before.  A terrific stop on the International League Chuck Wagon Tour.  Torey also mentioned a hot dog stand named “Teds’”.  I suspect I’ll give it a try.

     Although he’s not sure just who his friends will be rooting for, Lovullo already has fielded some 35 ticket requests for game one of the series (Wednesday afternoon at 3:05).  One man he’s sure he’ll see is Bisons’ superfan, Mark.  An extremely boisterous fan, Mark sits behind homeplate and taunts visiting players and staff.  Torey says he’s not concerned.  “Mark and I became very good friends while I was in Buffalo.  He’s very close with my wife.  I don’t think he’ll try to get on me.”  Mark is visually impaired and has some difficulty communicating verbally.  That’s no problem for Lovullo.  “We’ve had lunches together, dinners together.  I can speak “Mark”.  He’s a really sweet guy who loves baseball and the Bisons.”  One of his trademark moves is to point to one of his underarms then point to an opposing player and shout “You stink.”   It’s always good for a laugh.  Torey says that’s only one side of Mark.  “He’s had a tough go of it, but he has a good heart.  He works in the community.  I look forward to seeing him.”

     Lovullo adds that he also looks forward to seeing the front office memebrs in Buffalo who worked with him for so many years.  “It’s gonna be great.  I can’t wait.” 

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