June 2010

GLOOM, DESPAIR AND AGONY

     As you might know, Torey Lovullo’s father, Sam was the executive producer of the TV classic, “Hee Haw”.  Each week, from the cornfield, they’d sing “Gloom, Despair and Agony on me…”  There’s a line in the song that goes “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…”  That has to be how the Red Sox are feeling right about now.  Three days in a row, major players in their lineup have suffered injuries.  Dustin Pedroia is out indfeinitely with a fractured foot.  Clay Buchholz hyperextended his knee the next day, and on Sunday, Victor Martinez broke his thumb.  As I write this, no word yet as to the severity of Martinez’ injury.  He was hopeful that he wouldn’t have to be DL’ed.  If he is, that is some crummy timing from the perspective of both Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner.

     Wagner has been on the D.L. in Fort Myers after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand.  He was progressing well,  but according to Lovullo, recently suffered a setback with his wrist.  Dusty Brown recently injured a ligament in his thumb and we have yet to be told how serious that is.  Both would provide more than adequate back up to Jason Varitek.  Catcher Gustavo Molina is still with the PawSox.  Boston has a day off Monday, so they have some time to do something.  Molina has caught 19 Big League games.  I am sure he could get the job done.   However, the Sox are not a team that sits idly by while “Rome is Burning”.  In the past, with guys like Kelly Shoppach and George Kottaras in the pipeline, they’ve gone out and acquired experienced veterans like Sandy Martinez and David Ross.

     Molina is a big solid guy who is a good receiver and in his limited playing time, has shown some pop in his bat.  He began the season on the “phantom DL”, not really hurt, but stashed away, just in case.  There have already been several “Cinderella Stories” this season, such as Darnell McDonald and of course, Daniel Nava.  Gustavo Molina would be another beauty.  Although he bears the same name, he is not related to the “first family of backstops”  Jose, Yadier and Bengie. Known to his teammates as  “Moli”, he is a presence and a very affable guy.  Currently, he is still with the PawSox as they wrap up an 8 game road trip in Syracuse.

     The Red Sox will have a decision to make and as always, there will be a PawSox player ready to answer the bell.   

OPEN UP THOSE GOLDEN GATES…

     Saturdays’ edition of “PawSox Insider” had a definite San Francisco flavor to it.   We were joined by Dave Flemming, former PawSox broadaster, now in his seventh season with the Giants and Don Nava, northern Californian and father of Red Sox outfielder, Daniel Nava. 

     Flemming was my predecessor with Pawtucket, working three seasons with Andy Freed in the radio booth.  He now teams with his childhood hero, Jon Miller.  Flemming used to listen to his Baltimore broadcasts as a boy.  Flemming told us that McCoy Stadium was the perfect place to prepare for his current job.  “Nothing gets you ready for Major League Baseball like Pawtucket.  If not for Ben (Mondor), Mike (Tamburro), Lou (Schwechheimer) and everyone else at McCoy, there’s no way I’d be able to do what I am doing.”  Flemming added- “Doing the PawSox games is the closest thing you can get to Big League baseball.”  When asked if there was a “dream job”  out there with his name on it, he was effusive in his praise for San Francisco and the Giants’ organization, likening it to “Boston West”.

     Flemming also serves as radio broadcaster for his alma mater, Stanford during football and basketball seasons.  As a young freshman in Palo Alto, he was  dorm mates with another 18 year old named Tiger Woods.  “He was a very serious and smart young guy.  His work ethic and effort was unmatched.”  Flemming added that he and Woods don’t stay in touch regularly, but Tiger did pop into the booth to say Hello and take a quick trip down memory lane, last football season.”  When we asked if there was any inkling that the golf “nerd” would eventually run into the trouble he’s in these days, Dave joked “We were only involved in good, clean fun!”

     The second part of the program was devoted to Don Nava.  Clearly on “cloud nine” after all that’s happened the last two weeks to his son, Nava proudly spoke of Daniels’ accomplishments.  “Daniels’ dream as a boy was to play outfield for the Giants.  We were always a Giants’ family.  We grew up with Mays and McCovey in the sixties.  When I looked out into leftfield Friday night, I asked my brother if that was really my kid playing left field for Boston.”

     Nava recalled the moment at Fenway when his son stepped into the batters box for the first time, facing Phillies righty, Joe Blanton.  Daniel Nava came up with the bases loaded, prompting the elder Nava to go into prayer.  “Please God, I’ll be a missionary in Antarctica, tell me what you want from me.”  Navas’ prayers were answered as the first pitch sailed into the Boston bullpen, caught by Manny Delcarmen.  “I’d have been thrilled with a sacrifice fly….but a Grand Slam!!”  Father, Don admitted breaking down.  “There was joy, tears, emotion.  Unbelievable!”

     The elder Nava concedes that there have been “several” movie offers for his sons’ story.  He says that would inspire people, young and old.  Fathers and mothers have approached him to tell the “Daniel Nava Story”  to their children who may be ready to give up on something. 

     While one of Daniel Nava’s dreams has come true, playing Major League Baseball, another still has gone unmet.  “Daniel hasn’t met Erin Andrews yet.  As far as I know!”  The ESPN heartthrob promised to show up at Fenway Park to meet the the young outfielder.  So far, hasn’t happened.  Knowing Nava and his persistence, it will.

LIFE GOES ON

     I have spent the last several days here in Scranton with the PawSox.  A trip I have made dozens of times in my ten years in the International League.  This trip has been a little different and quite enjoyable.  Our old friend, Jeff Natale is on the Yankees.  The host of “At Bat With Nat” in 2009 on the PawSox radio Network, he was a career .298 hitter in his five years in the Boston system.  Nat was released by the Red Sox at the end of Spring Training.  After returning home to Boston, he was eventually signed by the Yankees.  After a quick few days in Tampa, he joined the Scranton club.  While he seems happy in his new surroundings, a lack of playing time has to be extremely frustrating. It is better than taking off the uniform for good and trying to find a “real” job.

     Jeff and I had breakfast on April 2, the day the Sox had informed him that his services were no longer needed.  We are good enough friends that it wasn’t awkward, at all.  Two buddies having some coffee and discussing the events of the day.  Although he didn’t let it show then, there had to be some hurt.  “It was tough.  You come up in the system.  You know the guys, you know the coaching, and suddenly, it’s like the carpet is ripped from under your feet.  It was tough to get over, but it’s like any relationship.  You take a couple of days to be upset about it and then you move on.  That’s exactly what I did.  I stayed in shape, I got an opportunity with the Yankees and I was happy to take it.”

     Jeff admitted that there were some anxious moments as he pondered retirement and what might lie ahead.  Surely there had to a team that had a need for a player of his caliber.  “Why hasn’t a team showed interest in me?  You think about hanging ‘em up and finding another job.  Luckily I had great support from my family and Leigh (longtime girl friend, Leigh Foster).  Everybody around me was telling me to keep my head up and keep after it.  I stayed in shape and things worked oout the way they should.”

     Natale grew up in Connecticut and starred collegiately in baseball and hockey at Trinity.  Right there in the middle of the greatest rivalry in sports.  He once confided to me that he grew up rooting for the “bad guys”.  “I was a Yankees fan growing up, so it’s pretty great to wear this uniform.  My grand father was a huge Yankee fan and when I was growing up, I’d go over to his house and watch Yankees games with him.  It’s a huge honor to wear their uniform.  I’m proud to do it.”  For the record, Natale wears the #3, which has long been retired in honor of Babe Ruth.

     Nat was at the plate in game one of the series when Fabio Castro uncorked a wild pitch that ended the game and allowed Scranton a win.  Earlier he had knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly.  Unfortunately, despite their hurry to sign him, Jeff has been languishing on the bench.  He gets used to it, but definitely doesn’t like it.  “It’s a challenge when you’re not in there every day, but I feel like I’m filling the need they have.  It’s tough, timing-wise.  I just try to be ready every day.”

     There are new friends and teammates.  Natale lives with Rene Rivera, a softspoken Puerto Rican catcher and  Reid Gorecki, a gregarious outfielder from Queens.  All three began the season elsewhere.  Gorecki started in Double A and earned the promotion to Scranton. Rivera was plucked from the Independent League.  The former Major League catcher with Seattle caught the eye of the baseball world earlier this season when he walloped a home run off Stephen Strasburg, the phenom from Washington, while he was pitching for Syracuse.  They share a house a few miles from the park and seem to enjoy each others’ company.  Nevertheless, Natale still has friends in Pawtucket and he was glad to see them.  He was putting friendship aside when he came to the plate.  “It’s different.  I never thought I’d be at the plate looking out at Mike Bowden.  I always thought I’d be on the field behind him.  I have a great relationship with those guys.  You grow up rooting for each other.  It’s strange.  I found myself rooting for Jonathan Albaladejo when he was throwing against (Aaron) Bates.   I do root for them to play well and stay healthy, except when I’m playing against them.”

     Natale hasn’t ventured off into broadcasting in Scranton.  He would love to if the opportunity was there.  He freely admits that he has listened to “Hanging with Chad”, this years version of the teammate interview.  He says he is a fan of Chad Paronto.  “I went into it wanting to hate it, but I’ll be honest with you, I like it a lot.  I think it’s hilarious.  I got to know Chad during Spring Training.  His locker was next to mine.  He really is a hilarious guy.  Like I said, I wanted to hate it, but it’s really good.”

     It seemed a little odd to interview him, sitting in his Yankees dugout.  It was clear that the transformation was complete.  Clad head to toe in Yankees gear, he managed to fire off a volley at me and my XXL sized noggin..  “I was going to get you a Yankees hat, but Size 9 was was sold out.”  That’s the way guys talk to each other in baseball.  He adds that he is looking forward to his McCoy Stadium return next week.  It was great to be together with my boy, again. 

FROM THE HOME OF DUNDER MIFFLIN

     The city of Scranton has gotten a lot of attention thanks to the popularity of the hit TV show, “The Office”.  This place has been on the International League map for quite a while, though.  Before the Yankees invaded, the area was home to the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  When that was the case, back in 1999, the Red Barons  had an exciting player on their club named Torey Lovullo.  In his last season of professional American baseball (he played one more year in Japan) Lovullo hit .279 with 21 home runs and a team record 106 rbi.   The single season team mark for runs batted in still stands.

     Torey was immensely popular in Buffalo.  He was a standout player and manager in the city.  I understand that.  I was a little surprised, though as staff at PNC Field stopped by to pay homage to Torey.  They all had fond memories of a guy who played with enthusiasm and set the rbi record in his only year in town.  He clearly made an impact.  He’s that kind of guy.  Eugene “Jeep” Fanucci has run the stadium press box for over 20 years and he stopped down to shake Torey’s hand.  “Torey’s one of those guys who always has a smile or a nice word for you.  They’re not all like that.”

     Not that I’m dropping sainthood on the skipper, by any means.  When he was a visiting player coming to the area, he stayed at the Lackawanna Station Hotel, as we do now.  I’ve told you the stories of how the place is supposed to be haunted.  It’s an old train station and during World War II part of it was used as a morgue, so families could come and identify the bodies of their loved ones killed in action. 

     The stories have blossomed over the years and Torey shared one with me that he and a partner in crime perpetrated on another unsuspecting teammate.  Lovullo and J.T. Snow decided to get back to the hotel early after a game and infiltrate the room of a guy they knew would be staying at the park for a little while longer. (I have been sworn to secrecy, so I can’t tell you the players’ name.  After all these years, he still doesn’t know the whole thing was a hoax and I think Torey might be scared of the guy!) .

     Once they secured a room key, they snuck into his room, armed with fishing line.  They attached it to a coat hanger that had clips on the bottom of it (for hanging trousers) and ran it under the door.  In the dark of night, they banked on the fact their “friend” wouldn’t see it when he returned.  They waited a couple of hours and around 1:30 a.m. they returned to his room.  They listened through the door and could hear him on the phone with his wife.  “Pre-Cell Phone” days, so they knew he was at the desk or on his bed recounting the details of the nights’ game.  They also knew that their dupe was a superstitious type so they felt pretty confident.  As the conversation continued, Torey and Snow grabbed the end of the fishing line in the hallway and started to gently pull it back and forth, creating a rustling sound from the open closet.  They heard the victim say to his wife, “Hey hold on, I think I heard something”.  He went and checked but didn’t see the well-hidden line.  A moment later, they did it again.  “Whoa” the man yelled.  “This hotel is supposed to be haunted” he told his wife.  “I know I just heard something in my closet.”  Lovullo and Snow, meanwhile are in the hallway, holding each other up they’re laughing so hard.  The guy investigated and again found nothing amiss in his room.  He finally settled back into the talk with his wife, apparently trying to convince himself that he had imagined the noises.  Now, our two jokers were ready for the grand finale.  After a minute or two, they really started jiggling the line.  The hung clothing was rustling and creating a mini tornado in the closet.  Their victim started screaming and they could hear him get off the bed and run across the room.  With a good tug on the line, the hanger popped off the bar, and they dragged his clothes across the floor.  The screams from the room started to get louder.   They pulled until the pressure of the hotel room door forced the line to come free from the hanger, leaving  a pile of clothes in front of the door.  The culprits then ran like crazy for a place to hide, laughing hysterically.  Finally, the screaming died down and our victim settled down to try to sleep, no doubt, with one eye open.

     Torey said, with a great deal of pride, I might add, that a couple of years later, as stories of the haunted hotel were being told, someone recounted the tale of the clothing that jumped out of the closet and ran for the door.  He just sat there, silently, with a big smile on his face.

HAPPY FATHERS DAY

     Baseball and fathers and sons.  A timeless tradition that permeates clubhouses around the world.  The sanctuary at McCoy Stadium is no different.  We have fathers and sons and some guys who are both.  As the guys laced ‘em up on Sunday, no doubt, thoughts and memories were overflowing.

     Tug Hulett is the son of a former Major Leaguer.  His dad, Tim, played for the Orioles, White Sox and Cardinals from 1983-1995.  Tug does not take his dad or their relationship for granted.  “Any time you have a dad who wants to be around you and makes it easier…dad could have cared less if I played baseball or not.  But his influence…that’s what he did.  When dad went to work, he was going to the park.  As I grew up, I watched what my dad did.  He loved it.  I loved it.  It definitely had a big impact on my life and what I wanted to do.”  Tug himself, is not yet a father, but he does look forward to passing  along what he has learned from his own dad someday.  “Definitely.  I’d love to have a kid that grows up in a clubhouse, or a locker room.  To be around guys who know the game and love the game.  I’m looking forward to that, big time.”

     Catcher Dusty Brown is celebrating his first fathers Day as a dad, himself.  His son Jude was born last July and that has changed a lot of things for the 28 year old Brown.  “I get a little less sleep at home.  Seriolusly,  it’s great.  I love my son.  He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.  He has definitely improved my quality of life sine we had him.”  Brown appreciates all his dad did for him “from the time I played T-ball until the time I signed with Boston”.  He won’t force Jude into baseball, but he will support him in any endeavor. “He will do whatever he wants to do and I would be there for him.  I’m not going to insist he plays baseball, but if he wants to play, he’ll have all the resources to do so.  If he doesn’t, it will be totally fine with me.”

     Manager Torey Lovullo got all the love and support he needed from his father, Sam.  Torey, in turn tries to emulate the patriarch of his family both at home with his three kids, Nicky, Taylor and Connor and at the park, too.  “My dad is my hero.  That’s a no-brainer for me. Growing up he ran the household, worked very hard, gave nothing but love, Italian -Style.”  Torey describes his father as a “warm, fun-loving, roly-poly Italian man who always wants to be near his family.”  Lovullo says he is the same way.  He laments the lifestyle of baseball on days like this.  “In this job, you don’t get to spend Mothers Days and Fathers Days with your parents.  Luckily, they’re just a phone call away.  They know they mean the world to me.”    

    Torey is responsible for 24 players at a time.  he realizes that there are paternal aspects that come into play on a daily basis.  “Oh I know.  To a lot of the younger guys, I am a father figure.  We talk and when I meet the parents of the younger players, I let them know that I have their back.  I won’t let their kid run off and do anything stupid.  I’ll take care of them, let them have fun, let them grow up in this environment, but I’m watching ove them, just like my dad used to watch over me.”

     Whether you have sons or daughters or no kids at all.  I wish you a Happy Fathers Day !! 

FELIX DESERVES AN OSCAR

     Manny Ramirez returned to Fenway Park on Friday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but 22 year old Felix Doubront stole the show, leading the Sox to a 10-6 win over L.A.  The native of Carabobo (sounds like a fun place to live), Venezuela worked into the sixth inning, allowing three earned runs on six hits, rewarding the faith of Terry Francona in his Major League debut.  More than likely, Doubront will soon return to McCoy to continue to refine his game.  He did, however, make quite a first impression on Red Sox Nation.

     Think about what Doubront has done so far in 2010.  He has at least one win at three different levels of baseball.  At Double A Portland, where he began the season, Felix went 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA.  With the PawSox, he went 2-1 with a microscopic earned run  average of 1.08 with 16 strikeouts in 16.2 innings.  Now he’s 1-0 as a Major Leaguer.

     The one word everyone seems to use when describing Doubront is poise.  From Torey Lovullo to Tito Francona, that’s the common thread.  The 6’2 200 pounder has composure.  It’s not something you can coach or teach.  You can learn to keep cool under stress.  Doubront has already got it mastered.  He is cooler than Fonzie packed in ice.  His own teammates know it.  After a recent start at McCoy, catcher Dusty Brown told me that it isn’t something everybody has, but Doubront definitely is blessed.

     Think about what you were doing at age 22.  I was floundering down in Florida in my first post-college job.  Politics?  Didn’t get it.  Diplomacy?  Had no idea what that was.  Women?  Forget it.  I was a lost soul.  I look at this kid and I am absolutely amazed by him.  Sure, the pitching is terrific, but like most others who’ve come in contact with him, he blows you away with his maturity.  He has been at the business of baseball since he signed a free agent deal as a 16 year old in 2004.  He has slowly and steadily worked his way up the organizational ladder, winning awards and making All Star teams along the way.  It seems like 2010 is his breakout year.  Before the start of the 2009 season, “Baseball America” rated him the #27 prospect in the system.  “Sox Prospects.com” currently ranks him as #7.  Pretty good jump. 

     With Doubront starting for the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka, it has to be a very comforting feeling for the Sox brass.  Everyone thought the Red Sox had too much starting pitching at the beginning of this season.  Dice-K has been in and out and Josh Beckett has been a non-factor due to injury.  Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and John Lackey have been toting the mail for the resurgent Sox.  It looks like there is help available, and it is Felix Doubront.

     Seattles’ Felix Hernandez may already have the nickname “King Felix”.  So what.  He’s out on the west coast.  We have a “King Felix” ourselves, and he was coronated on Friday night.  As I said, he will probably be back at McCoy very soon, and if you don’t show up to watch him pitch, I will personally have you committed.

A NEW GUY TO ROOT FOR

     The seemingly never ending pipeline of players that come to McCoy Stadium through the Red Sox system has pumped out another “underdog” to cheer.  We are all well acquainted with the Lars Andersons of the world.  High draft choices who are ranked by “Baseball America” as “can’t miss” prospects.  We’re also now familiar with a guy like Daniel Nava, who defied the odds to make his M.L. debut this week.  There may be another feel good story around the corner for Red Sox fans, pitcher Robert Coello.

     Coello (pronounced Kway-oh) pitched an inning and a third early in 2009 for the PawSox.  He went 5-3 with an ERA of 2.05 for Salem after that.  He had been pitching well for Portland this season  (4-1) splitting time between the rotation and the pen.  Coello is pleased to be back in Triple A.  “I’ve worked really hard to get here.  I will continue to do that and we’ll see how the season ends up.”  Coello points to last winter as the key to his success this summer.  “Being in Mexico and then going to Venezuela for the playoffs helped me a lot.”  He said he was ready to fill any role.  “They stretched me out, in a long relief role, 4 or 5 innings.  We had  a young rotation in Portland.  After Felix Doubront was promoted here, I took over his spot in the rotation and it went well.  Now. I’m here.”  When Sea Dogs manager Arnie Beyeler told him about the promotion, the 6’5 righthander put forth a calm demeanor, but inside he was thrilled.  “I was really excited.  Like I said, I’ve worked hard and the organization has given me this opportunity.”

     Coello got his “feet wet” right away.  He threw 3 innings allowing no runs, and no hits with 4 strikeouts against Louisville.  A successful debut like that builds confidence.  “Oh, absolutely.  It felt good going in there with a little rust, but I wanted to pitch so badly here.  I got help from good defense.  A couple of plays by Gil (Velazquez) and the strikeouts.  I felt really good and confident and we’ll just build from that.”

     Coello’s “out” pitch is described by pitching coach Rich Sauveur as a “forkball with knuckleball movement”.  “It was a pitch we used to mess around with.” said Coello.  When the Angels converted me from a catcher to a pitcher, we joked with it, until they saw that it worked.”  Thus, the birth of a weapon.  Coello adds that it took a while, but he’s very comfortable with the pitch.  “It’s second nature.  The key is maintaining it, like any other pitch.”

     Coello’s odyssey began when he was drafted by the Reds in 2004.  He landed in the Angels organization in 2007 and they moved him from behind the plate to the mound.  It’s not that Coello was against the idea, it was just a little unsettling.  “I didn’t really know what to do.  I called my family, my agent.  It was a little upsetting, because like anyone, I wanted to have the opportunity to succeed or fail at something before it was taken away.  Ultimately, it was for the best.”

     Like Daniel Nava, Robert is an alum of the Independent Golden League, a spot where dreams can go to fluorish or die.  For Coello, they moved him into the Red Sox organization.  He looks at Nava and is excited to be a part of a team that scours the back lots and leaves no stone unturned.  “Nava’s a phenomenal person.  It couldn’t happen to a better guy.  Me, I’ve been in and out of organized ball.  When you feel you have ‘it’, you continue to fight.  Guys like Nava and me, it’s like anything in life.  You just stay with it.  We stood out in the Independent League and of course, we got picked up.”

     For Robert Coello, a soft-spoken Florida resident, a chance was all he ever wanted.  The cream has risen to the top.  He’s in Pawtucket, a phone call away from the Majors.  “I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing.  Work hard and keep my focus.”  It’s been a successful formula so far. 

 

 

 

HOW DID ELTON KNOW?

     I know that Elton John’s song “Daniel” was not written about Daniel Nava, but fans at Fenway will be singing his praises for a long time after his weekend debut in Boston.  The unassuming 27 year old outfielder announced his presence with authority when he he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw in a Major League game, off Phillies starter Joe Blanton.  That got the 35,000 in the Fens on their feet, and the countless others who know Daniel Nava cheering, standing and maybe even sobbing with joy.

     What Nava accomplished that day reaffirmed my love for baseball.  You’ve heard stories about petulant superstars, ugly contract negotiations, and steroid use.  All anti-Nava.  He is the kid next door.  The little guy who’d mow your lawn and say please and thank you when you offered him some lemonade.  His accomplishments brought tears to the eyes of even the most grizzled baseball veterans.  After the game, Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona was asked about the feats of Daniel.  Tito, choked up about the saga, admitted “I’m about to start crying.  I guess I’m getting old.”  Realizing the magnitude of his debut, Nava himself said “I will remember this day for the rest of my life.”

     And why not?  The story of the 70 pound high school kid who developed into a well-muscled professional athlete is really too good to be true.  His college coach at the University of Santa Clara, Mark O’Brien could not be more proud.  “I’m sure you could do a movie on him, man.”  The improbable rise from nowhere to the Bigs.  I said on the air the other day, that no one would believe it.  Too fake to be real.  It is real.  There have been others who have defied the odds.  The 2002 movie “The Rookie” chronicled the exploits of Jim Morris, who went from youth coach to Major League pitcher with Tampa Bay at age 35.  This story is as good, if not better.  Daniel’s father Don, a man who has trained the likes of Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice  told me that he always believed in his son.  He said if he didn’t have the ability, he would have encouraged a different career path.  He referred to his son as “Rudy, with ability”.

     We, in the PawSox family had already had an incredible moment this season, when Darnell McDonald homered and singled off the Green Monster to power Boston to a win on the day he was promoted while we were in Rochester.  We were huddled around Torey Lovullo’s laptop and erupted when D-Mac’s “wall-ball” won the game.  It was awesome.  He was with us that morning, and later that night, “The Nation” had a new hero.  Same with Daniel Nava.  He departed Indianapolis when Jeremy Hermida got hurt and Josh Reddick was optioned to Pawtucket.  He found himself in leftfield at Fenway.  Yeah, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice’s left field.  Lovullo has been in pro ball for more than half his life.  He has seen it all, yet Nava’s debut struck a chord with the skipper.  “Of all the special moments I have seen, this ranks first or second.”  Like Nava’s dad, Torey has faith in the young man.  “It was a no-brainer for us.  ‘G’ (hitting instructor, Gerald Perry, a former National League All Star) told me two weeks into the season that  Nava would be a Major Leaguer due to his ability to hit.  I paid closer attention and realized he was right.”  Lovullo was almost at a loss for words.  “Daniel deserves so much credit.  It’s a special moment for him and so many people.”

     From my perspective, I was sitting alone in the radio booth at McCoy when he hit the “Granny”.  I lost it.  Screaming repeatedly “Nava, Nava, Nava!!!”  As I’ve always said, you take absolutely no credit for their success, but you sure as heck revel in it.  He is one of us.  Sir Elton has probably never heard of Daniel Nava, but his lyrics definitely apply.  “Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky.” 

THINKING OUT LOUD

     Some things that have been rattling around in my size 8 plus head.  This a dreadful road team so far.  The PawSox are hovering around 7 or 8 games under .500 for the season.  Heading into Fridays’ series finale in Indianapolis, Pawtucket has dropped 21 of 31 away from McCoy.  If there is any hope of contending for a postseason berth, things have to change in a hurry.  It has been a bane for manager Torey Lovullo.  He has lamented the lack of killer instinct on his team, citing its’ inability to put teams away.  The PawSox will definitely enjoy some home cooking at McCoy against Louisville and Columbus.

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     Speaking of cooking, the team was treated to dinner on Wednesday night by owner, Ben Mondor.  The PawSox patriarch gave manager Torey Lovullo an envelope filled with cash and the instructions to take the club out for a nice meal after the matinee.  “Nice” does not do it justice.  We went, en masse to a Brazilian restaurant called “Fogo de Chao”.  It is a “Churrascaria”.  The waiters or “Gauchos” come to your table and serve you all the meat you can eat.  Sirloin, Filet, Pork, Ribs, Chicken, Linguica, Lamb Chops.  In all 15 different types of meat served with mashed potatos, fried bananas and cheese flavored polenta.  Before the main event, we dug into a sumptuous salad bar that featrued just about anything you could imagine.  we were warned not to go too wild on the salad bar, to save room for the entrees.  You are given a card that is red on one side and green on the other.  As long as the green side is up, the Gauchos will come to the table and slice off the freshest, tastiest meat you have ever had.  Many of the entourage “rolled” out of there.  Thanks, Ben.  It is greatly appreciated.

 

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     “Hangin’ with Chad” is apparently catching on.  The pre-game interview done on a weekly basis by Chad Paronto with one of his teammates has caught the ear of a New Hampshire radio host.  He recently contacted Paronto, who will now also co-host a weekly segment with another native of the Granite State , NBA Basketball player Matt Bonner.  Bonner plays for San Antonio.  He starred collegiately at the University of Florida.  Paronto is excited about the chance.  It’s got the wheels turning in the big guys’ head.  “What if we did a reality show?  I’d let a camera follow me around for the rest of the season.  It’d be great.”  I did get the ball rolling for Daniel Nava and his leaving tickets for Erin Andrews of ESPN every night.  That got “legs” and has been written about in many different places.  So, let the record show,  networks can start contacting Paronto about his reality program.  I guarantee it would be a riot.  The fact that I’ve been promised a co-starring role has nothing to do with my keen interest in the project.

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     Chads’ friend and mine, for that matter, Joe Nelson, has been designated for assignment by the Red Sox.  Scott Atchison has been promoted by the Sox to take the spot.  Nelson, who has had a couple of sub-par outings recently was not too enthusiastic about his future prospects.  In the heat of the moment, the 35 year old right hander said he “probably” wouldn’t accept an assignment to Pawtucket if he cleared waivers.  “But, that’s spur of the moment stuff.  Emotion.  I’ll make a more clear decision on Monday or Tuesday.  But if it were right now, I wouldn’t be going.”  Although he was emotional as he left the clubhouse, he added “These guys, it’s a first class organization and first class people here. ”  None of those guys is better than Nelson, himself.  His buddy Chad Paronto completely identifies with Nelson.  “When you get to our age (34 or 35) and you’ve already pitched in the Big Leagues, this is fun, but that’s all you think about.”  Paronto added- “I think Nelly will pitch for someone else.” 

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P.S.  I don’t care what ANYBODY says.  Nobody really cares about soccer or  the World Cup.  It just becomes fashionable for people to say that when it  takes place.  For the record- I hate soccer. 

 

 

JV’S BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK THIS SEASON

     There’s a decidedly Boston flavor to the Indianapolis lineup.  Pedro Alvarez was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2005 before deciding to go to Vanderbilt, where he starred for three years.  The Pirates made him a #1 pick in 2008.  Argenis Diaz came up through the Sox system before he was dealt to the Pirates last year for Adam LaRoche.  Of course, there’s Brandon Moss, traded to Pittsburgh in the Jason Bay deal.  And then there’s Jonathan Van Every.  JV was an All Star with the PawSox in 2008 and also made his M.L. debut that year.  He signed with the Pirates as a free agent before the 2010 season.  He has been able to do anything but settle in since the season began.

     He is, for the moment, living and playing in the capital city of Indiana. “Indianapolis is a great city.  There’s a lot of good guys on this team.  We have a great coaching staff.  We’ve won a couple of games here lately and hopefully it will continue.  I know PawSox fans won’t want to hear that, but we’re trying to put a good product on the field.”

     Van Every had to take a deep breath as he recounted his travels and many stops in the first few months of the season.  “Starting at Spring Training, there’s a lot of talented guys here, I got kind of pushed to the back burner a bit and wasn’t playing a lot.  The Red Sox had a need in the outfield and acquired me  (on April 28) for a player to be named later.  About a month later  (May 31) Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury came off the disabled list and I was the odd man out, as I knew I would be.  I got designated (for assignment).  I really didn’t know the logistics of the deal between Pittsburgh and Boston.  I sat around for a while and ended up flying home (to Mississippi).  As soon as I got there, I got a call from Mike Hazen telling me I was sent back to Pittsburgh.  I had to fly back to Boston, then drive to Indianapolis which is about 1000 miles.  I then had to hop a flight to Atlanta, hit leadoff and play centerfield that night against the Gwinnett Braves.  It was eventful.  I almost got traded for myself, so to speak.  Kind of crazy.  I’m happy to be back here with a great group of guys, playing every day.”

     JV has better than fond memories of his time in the Sox organization.  “The Red Sox will always be close to my heart because they gave me an opportunity, they saw some talent in me and they saw that I was capable of succeeeding at the big league level.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful, no matter how the rest of my career pans out.  I do have my jersey from my first game framed with a lineup card, just as a reminder.  Those guys up there- Tito, Theo and Hazen, I have the utmost respect for all of them.”

     There is no doubt that Jonathan earned his promotions to Boston in ’08 and ’09, but he admitted it was surreal finding himself back in the Fenway clubhouse this year. “It was beyond shock.  When I walked into the clubhouse and into Tito’s office, I was speechless.  I didn’t know what to say.  He sat there smiling, a big grin on his face and asked ‘what do ya think?’  I said nothing.  I told him words couldn’t describe my feelings.  It was great to be back there with a lot of the same guys.  Hopefully, they’ll win some games and I can get some hardware from it somewhere down the road.”

     When Van Every was with the PawSox, he played for Ron Johnson, currently the first base coach for the Red Sox.  Prior to that JV played for the Buffalo Bisons, where his manager is current Pawtucket skipper, Torey Lovullo.  Van Every loves them both.  “RJ’s a players’ manager and Torey is the same way.  I was coming up through the Cleveland system as a player and he (Torey) was coming up as a manager.  At every level, he was great.  Always had an open door policy.  Joked around, almost like one of the guys but was always in control.  Everyone had the most respect for him.  I’ve been lucky with managers with guys like Ron Johnson and Torey.  I’ve been blessed.”

     Jonathan Van Every is a good hitter and a tremendously gifted centerfielder.  He wasn’t going to have any mixed emotions, though, as he faced the PawSox for the first time since he starred for them. “It’ll be strange.  You play with those guys.  You get to know them on and off the field.  You get used to playing with them and behind them.  It’ll be different, but life goes on.  You have to compete, no matter who’s out there, and do your best.” 

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