April 2011

PUTTING ON THE FINISHING TOUCHES

     McCoy Stadium has started to come to life this week in anticipation of Thursdays’ season opener against the Rochester Red Wings.  On  Monday, Manager Arnie Beyeler was getting situated in his new office in the PawSox clubhouse.  He’d take time out to greet the players as they  filed in after their trip north from Fort Myers.

     Second baseman Nate Spears joins the PawSox after spending the entire Spring with the parent club.  Spears even accompanied the Bosox to Houston for their final tuneup.  Nate is an extremely likeable guy who I first met in Florida in the Spring of 2010.  He starred for the Portland Sea Dogs last season, hitting .272 with 20 home runs and 82 rbi.  Spears makes the transition from Portland to Triple A with Beyeler.  Also had the chance to say hello to new pitchers, Randy Williams and Matt Fox.  Williams, 35 and Fox, 28 are veterans in their first season with the Sox.  Those two were off for a game of catch as clubhouse manager, Carl “Goody” Goodreau put the finishing touches on the clubhouse and fitted guys with their uniforms.

     Trainer John Jochim, in his second season with Pawtucket, was setting up shop.  Jochim tends to all the medical needs of the players.  He and his intern, a young man named Carlos, who will eventually head to the Dominican Republic to work with Bostons’ entry in that league, were heading off to the store to stock up on supplies.

     On Tuesday, the PawsSox will hold their annual media day.  Reporters from all around “the Nation” will come into McCoy, some of them for the only time all year, and pepper the players with questions.  The men will pose for photographs, sit for interviews and, weather permitting, take batting practice.  Prior to the media day festivities,  Arnie will hold a team meeting and President Mike Tamburro will address the club.  One thing Mike always stresses, is courtesy to the fans.  We recognize that PawSox fans spend their hard-earned dollars at McCoy, and should be treated respectfully.  Starting Tuesday, I try to recognize our guys by my own, self-imposed “face test”.  My goal is to be able to name all the guys by just looking at their faces, not their jersey numbers.  Sometimes it takes a couple of days.  I met a lot of the fellas at Fort Myers, so I think I have a pretty good feel for who’s who.

     Wednesday, we load up a bus and head to Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, R.I. for the annual  Welcome Home luncheon.  It’s always a classy event and a really nice way to begin the season.  I have the privilege of introducing the team to the gathered fans and conducting a Q and A session with my partner, Dan Hoard.  Our “guest” is Arnie Beyeler. 

     Opening Night is Thursday and after a two game  series with Rochester, we will take a 7 day road swing through Buffalo and Syracuse.  Arnie broke the horrible news to me today.  The bus leaves McCoy Saturday at 5:15…A.M.  That’s early, no matter how you slice it.

     Anyway, it’s all good stuff and we are all very excited for this 2011 season.

THIS IS WHAT WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR ???

     OK, so we’re only a couple of games into the 2011 season.  The hype of the offseason is already a distant memory.  You know what this is like?  Christmas Day as a kid.  All December, you’re looking forward to Christmas morning.  You’ve written to Santa.  You’ve been extra good.  All you want is that shiny new bike, or,  in this day and age, a laptop or Wii…anyway you get the point.  You fly down the stairs and start tearing into the gifts.  Socks, bathrobe, a book, a game…no bike!  You don’t want to act like a jerk, so you feign happiness.  I can’t feign!  What a horrible start.  Boston has lost its’ first two games by a collective score of 21-10.

     You’re starving.  You’ve worked hard all day.  You can’t wait to get home for dinner.  You’re imagining one of your favorites.  Ribs, steak, pork chops.  You’re salivating as you pull the car into the driveway.  You open the door and boom, a punch to the chest. Something horrrible like lentil soup, beef stew or corned beef and cabbage.  Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, Jon Lackey and the rest of the bullpen has melted down.  The Sox are 0-2.

     You haven’t had a date in a while.  A friend says “I’ve got the perfect girl for you.”  “What’s she look like?” you ask.  “What a personality!”  “Great” you say.  “But what does she look like?”  “She sings like a bird”  your friend continues.  “Terrific” you perist.  “But what does she look like?” (yeah, guys are that shallow.  But so are women)  After the friend tells you “It’s a match made in heaven.” You relent.  You knock on the door hoping that Pia Toscano will answer (watch American Idol), but no, it’s Susan Boyle.  Carl Crawford is 0 for his first 7.  And to make matters worse, the Yankees are 2-0.

     On Thursday, as the PawSox open their 2011 season, I flip the switch and again, I’m a professional broadcaster.  I’ll still love the Red Sox and PawSox as well.  I’m just hoping that they’ll both love me back this season.  This is who I am.  An average Red Sox fan, who is really ticked right now.  I know it will get better.  But I didn’t want a book or lentil soup or Susan Boyle.

     I wanted to ride my shiny new bike over to Pia’s house for a steak dinner.

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     I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my condolences to the family and friends of Lou Gorman.  The former Red Sox General Manager died on Opening Day at the age of 82.  He was a really nice man, always willing to share his time and expertise.  Lou will be missed.

HEART, TALENT AND MOUTH

     I will always have a special place in my “baseball heart” for Dustin Pedroia.  Long before he became the American League Rookie of the Year or the A.L. MVP, I liked him.  The guy.  The brash, outspoken young man from California.  We marvel at how he can back up even his most outrageous claims.  In that he is smaller than most successful pro athletes, he has, in fact, become larger than life.

     When I first stepped into the Red Sox clubhouse in Fort Myers, this spring, as usual, Pedroia quickly put on a scowl, and shouted across the expansive room- “Get out of here Hyder, I don’t have time for you!!”  Trying to hold back the smile as I approached his locker, I told him, “Hey Pedey, you may have these other guys fooled into thinking you are a tough guy, but I know you.”  After hugs (fully clothed) were exchanged, we set up a time for a “sit down”.  At this stage of Spring Training, the guys have answered a million questions a million different times.  I appreciate the “one on one” time with a guy like him.  I watched him sweat through a batting practice session with hitting instructor Dave Magadan before he blurted out- “God Hyder, what are you a stalker?  let’s get this interview over with!!”

     As Opening Day 2011 arrives, Pedroia is chomping at the bit.  “It’s going good, it’s going good.  I’m excited about the season.  I can’t wait to get out of Fort Myers and get the season going.”  Especially eager after his 2010 campaign was cut short due to a  foot injury, the All Star second baseman is healthy, and ready to prove it to the rest of the American League.  “I feel great…we’re still working and getting ready for the long haul.”  He then went into further detail.  “I’m just trying to get ready.  It’s going to be a long season.  Every year has its’ ups and downs.  I’m just trying to get my swing ready, get ready defensively, get used to the speed of the game.”

     Pedroia looked back on 2010 and has no regrets concerning his ill-fated comeback.  “I tried to wait as long as possible.  It was one of those things.  Could I play through it, or would I need surgery?   I wouldn’t have done it any other way.  My foot just wasn’t able to take it.  It wasn’t healed all the way.  I had the screw (surgically) put in there to make sure everything healed up.”  Pedroia looks at his numbers through the 75 games he played and knows he was headed to another “Dustinesque” season.  “Yeah,  I was having one of my best years.  Power-wise, rbi’s, everything.  It’s part of the game.  Injuries happen.  You don’t plan for them.  It was tough, but it does make you more excited about this year, being healthy and taking off!”

     Dustin chuckled when he was asked about who he bugged more during his time on the disabled list. Was it manager Terry Francona, or wife, Kelly?  “It was tough.  Especially with that injury.  I couldn’t walk, so that makes it tough.  I tried to deal with it the best that I could.  I’m sure I was a pain in the butt for everybody, but I’m excited now.”

     With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez,  Pedroia is even more “amped” than normal.  “They’re great.  They’re great players.  They are on a team that wants to win.  We’ve seen Carl for a long time.  He’s been great in the league for a long time.  Adrian is a run-producing machine.  It’s going to be a fun season playing with these guys, not only this season, but for a lot of years to come.”  When pressed about anything less than a World Series title in 2011, Pedey made me read between the lines.  “I don’t make predictions.  We’ve got a good team.  We have to go out there and prove to people that we can play with anybody.  Once we do that, we’ll start looking ahead.”

     He may have a new hair style that manager Terry Francona said makes him look like actor Giovanni Ribisi, (Pedroia- “I don’t even know who the hell he is”) but he has the same work ethic, talent and maniacal approach that has made him one of the top players in the game.

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