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PETROCELLI PART 2

     Here is part two of my conversation with Red Sox Hall of Famer, Rico Petrocelli.  While Rico was at McCoy for Legends Night last Friday, he spoke about the differences in the game , comparing now, to his day as an All Star.  “Free agency is one thing.  Salaries.  Marketing has changed greatly, too.  The Red Sox paid a lot of money for the club.  They spend more on advertising for the team.  Inside and out of the ballpark. There’s a lot more media.  National coverage and local coverage.  every time a player makes a mistake, or does something the wrong way, on or off the field, it’s big headlines.  We had some of that, there’s no doubt about it, but not like today.  There’s a lot of pressure on these guys and we expect a lot from them.  It’s probably because of the money.  They’re not going to have great years every single year.  Sometimes you have to be patient.”

     Petrocelli scoffed at the notion that todays’ Red Sox clubhouse was “toxic”.  He thought back and remembered the reports that he and his teammates didn’t get along.  Rico was quick to dispel the rumor, that in his day, the Sox were dysfunctional.  It was not ’25 guys, 25 cabs’.  “No.  Somebody made that up.  Somebody got mad at Rick Burleson one day in the clubhouse and the 25 cabs thing came out the next day.  Burleson was a fiery guy, kind of emotional.  They came in and someone tried to ask him a question.  He lost it and threw his glove and his helmet.  He cursed at him and the next thing you knew, he had cleared the clubhouse.  The next day, the cabs thing started.  Listen, I would tell you if it was true.  It was a lot of bull.  There were past years where there were problems in the clubhouse, but not with these guys.  That was foolish.  These guys eventually became the 1975 team.  We were very close.  Many of those guys- (Carlton) Fisk, (Rick) Burleson, (Fred) Lynn, (Jim) Rice, (Dwight) Evans.  They all came up together through the Red Sox minor league system.  They were good friends.” 

     After enduring two World Series losses himself (1967, 1975), Rico was thrilled when the Sox reversed the curse in 2004.  “It felt great.  I really was happy, as were all the other former players I talked with.  When they had the celebration after they won, nearly every guy, including the ownership said it was not only for this years’ team and fans, but also for the teams and players of the past who came so close.  There were great teams and great players.  This was also for them.  So I said My God.  I got chills.  I couldn’t believe it.  To include us in it was fabulous.”

     Some of his fondest memories included the silent leadeship of Carl Yastrzemski and the train trip to Kansas City that was necessitated by an airline strike.  “We had laughs.  Jose Tartabull and Jose Santiago…we were singing, going from car to car like little kids.  It was great.  It was a riot.”  Singing wasn’t Petrocellis’ only musical skill.  He once played the drums on a record album recorded by late Red Sox organist, John Kiley.  “I didn’t know it was going to be recorded.  We went in to have a little fun.  John started playing these songs and I was banging on the drums a little bit.  It wasn’t even a full set, no cymbals, or anything.  the next thing I knew, an album was out, with a cover and everything.  They sold it at the ballpark.  It was a thrill to play with him.  He was a great musician.  I played the drums for about 25 years.  Now I play piano.  I always loved piano.”  I can say with absolute certainty, that at least one album was sold.  I bought it at the souvenir stand at Fenway Park at least 40 years ago.

ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD HEROES

     I’ve been in this business a long time.  Nearly all of my adult life.  I’ve had the chance to meet everyone from Michael Jordan to Arnold Palmer to Johnny Unitas to Ted Williams.  Some have been positive experiences, others not.  My point is, I don’t get too excited about the chance to interview anyone.  It’s part of the job, a part that I thoroughly enjoy.  I will admit to being a little happy on Friday night, as I had the opportunity to sit down with Rico Petrocelli.  Rico played shortstop and third base for the Red Sox from 1965-1976.  He was a two time All Star and is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

     Petrocelli was at McCoy for Legends Night, which coincided with the unveiling of the statue of late PawSox owner, Ben Mondor.  Petrocelli, who managed the PawSox in 1992 has fond memories.  “Ben couldn’t do enough for you.  Every single day,’everything alright, ya need anything?’  More baseballs, food.  It didn’t matter.  You wanted to go out there and bust your butt for that man.”

   Rico reflected back on the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967, when the Sox lost the World Series to St. Louis in 7 games.  “We defied 100-1 odds  to win the pennant.  We were hoping to get into the first division (fifth place or better).  There were no playoffs, just the World Series.  It was a four team race.  We had so much fun that year.  Our manager, Dick Williams was very strict, very tough.  Maybe it got the guys closer.  We had fun on the planes and in the clubhouse.  Good, clean fun.  Playing in the World Series, what a thrill that is.  I’m so grateful I got to do it twice.”( ’67 and ’75)

     Rico reflected further  on that magical season and his long-time teammate, Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski, the last man to win the Triple Crown.  “It’s extremely tough.  Most guys that are sluggers, don’t hit for a high average.  There are exceptions, of course.  A type of player like Josh Hamilton might be able to do it.  It’s tough.  All the injuries.  A player has to almost go the whole distance, 162 games to put up those numbers.”

     Auguast 18, 1967 is a dark day in Red Sox history.  Outfielder Tony Conigliaro was hit in the eye by a pitch from Angels’ hurler Jack Hamilton.  It essentially ended the career of Tony C- one of the youngest and most prolific sluggers in Major League history.  “Tony had a home run swing. He was a power hitter.  A prototype.  I think with the DH in the American League, he might have hit over 500.  He was fearless up there.  Outside corner to the middle of the plate, forget it.  He’d kill it.  Inside, he couldn’t move quickly enough.  That’s what I think happened when he got hit in the face.”

     Petrocelli was no slouch when it came to the home run, himself.  He hit 210 in his career, all with Boston.  In 1969 he set an American League record (since broken) for home runs by a shortstop, with 40.  “I thought I could have had more, but there was a stretch late in the season I was pressing.  No doubt about it.  I struggled a while, but it was a big thrill.  I never thought I could do that.”  He quickly added, with a smile in his voice- “And no, I didn’t take steroids!  I had gained 20 good pounds, I felt strong.  It was a fun year.”

Next time, we conclude our visit with Rico Petrocelli.  Thanks for reading! Hydes”

REP-REPRESENTING

     As I’ve said so many times before, the best part of my job, are the people I meet as the voice of the PawSox.  You think you’ve met the nicest guy in baseball, then along comes an equal.  Jason Repko, rehabbing with the PawSox, coming back from a knee injury, currently holds the crown.  The former number one pick of the Dodgers has an amazing attitude, despite battling injuries throughout his career.  He was signed by the Red Sox during the offseason to help bolster the outfield corps.  After a long stretch on the disabled list, Repko is raring to go.  “It’s been a long couple of months.  I’m glad to start playing.  Played a week down in Greenville.  I’ve been doing everything.  I feel good.”  Repko has been outfitted with a brace for his wounded knee that he hopes will stabilize things.  “Yeah, I’ve got a brace.  It gives me good support, so I’ve got to trust that it works.  I’ve been able to resume all baseball activities, sliding, running, everything.  I trust it pretty well.

     Unfortunately, injuries have played a large role throughout his career, yet Repko perseveres, with a smile on his face.  “I’ve got experience going through this.  It’s never fun to be injured.  it’s definitely frustrating, but missing part of ’06 and all of ’07, I’ve learned how to be patient, get myself right and hopefully, contribute down the road.”  Jason chipped immediately, going 1-4 with a double and an RBI in his first game back.

     Repko made his Major League debut with the Dodgers in 2005 and hit a home run in his first at bat at Chavez Ravine.  He’ll never forget it.  “It was actually the first swing I ever took at Dodger Stadium.  That’s been one of the biggest highlights of my career.  Looking around and seeing 55,000 fans cheering for you.”  And immediately, you have 55,000 new friends. “It was good.  It was a great experience.”

     Fast forward to 2010, when Jason Repko signed with the Twins and split the next two seasons in Minnesota and Rochester.  “I was at Frontier Field for two and a half months before I got called up.  I enjoyed my time there.  The Twins work hard to bring good character people into their system.  It was always good there.”

     Repko joined the Sox during the winter and went to Spring training as a non-roster invitee.  He’s proud of earning his place in the “Nation.”  “I’ve always put myself into that situation, even early in my career.  I made the Dodgers in ’05, but in ’06, I approached it like I had to earn it all over again, even though I had been told that I was in good shape to makle it again.  I’ve always wanted to show what I could do, so it was no different this year with the Red Sox.”  Repko has made just one error in the Majors over the last 4 seasons, a source of great pride.  “I am proud of my defense.  I figure your offense can slump, but your defense never should.  No one likes making errors, but one error, I can live with that.”

     Repko had an abrupt end to his 2011 season, after being hit in the head by a pitch from former Pawtucket hurler, Justin Masterson.  Shut down by concussion-like symptoms, Repko is pleased with baseballs’ approach to handling such incidents.  “I think they’ve been doing a good job over the last few years.  It’s never a good experience.  I’ve had four or five of them throughout my career.  I was pretty messed up for almost a week. I was disoriented, felt dizzy and sick to my stomach.  Baseball definitely needs to stay aware and I think that heading into next year, they’re even doing something with the helmets.  Baseball is definitely hitting the right spots to try to prevent concussion injuries from happening.”

     It will be great to see Jason Repko stay healthy for the rest of the year and beyond.  For his sake, and for the sake of the Red Sox.

ARNIES’ ARMY

     The PawSox are sitting pretty these days, around 20 games over .500 for the season and alone atop the North Division by 5 or so games.  While the fandom is excited and thinking ahead to the playoffs, the manager, Arnie Beyeler, has to be very proud.  Beyeler managed the PawSox to the North title a season ago, and at the halfway point of the 2012 campaign, the PawSox look like a good bet to repeat.  Arnie was recently named to the International Leagues’ coaching staff for the 2012 Triple A All Star game in Buffalo.  Professionally, Beyeler is sitting at the top of the heap.

     After sweeping four in Buffalo, Beyeler said he was enjoying his front row seat.  “Yeah.  It’s fun to watch.  Even when we haven’t played that great, we’ve taken advantage of some breaks.  We’ll enjoy it while we caan.  We all know how baseball is.  It’s up and down and a week from now, we could be the guy on the other side of the fence.  The guys are playing hard.  They get their work in everyday and play a hard nine innings.  We see what happens, but these guys keep coming and coming, creating their own breaks, hustling on the bases and playing good defense.  It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

     Beyeler credits his pitchers with being a huge part of the PawSox’ success.  “We’ve found a way to pitch consistently, whether it’s been starting of the bullpen.  We really haven’t really gotten blown out that much this season.  If you give this group a chance, they’ll take advantage.  They’ll get some guys on base.  It seems everybody we send to the plate has a chance to hit the ball out of the park.  We’ve been fairly consistent throwing a home run or two up there almost every night.  They’re a hard working group.  I just sit back and watch them play.”

     Beyeler isn’t complaining by any means, but with the abundance of talent in the PawSox clubhouse, he’s got tough decisions to make everyday.  “It’s hard everyday.  We’ve got a good outfielder on the bench every night, a good infielder on the bench every night and a big lesgue catcher with 8 years time on the bench for us.  You’ve got to have that kind of depth to be competitive.  Our scouts have done a great job this year putting all this talent together.  I know some guys have outs in their contracts.  We try not to think too much about that.  let’s try to keep everyone together as long as we can and see where we wind up.”

     As we know, development, not winning, is the important thing in the minor leagues.  Ryan Kalish is a prime example.  Kalish missed more than a year battling neck and shoulder problems.  He played in 9 PawSox games, hitting nearly .400 with 4 homers and 10 RBI.  Kalish was promoted to Boston and arrived in Chicago in time to help spark a7-4 win over the Cubs.  Beyeler was a bit surprised at Kalish’s progress.  “He came back and was really locked in.  We have to give him more days off than we’d like, but you have to remember, he hasn’t played in a year.  It’s like Spring Training for him.  He’s done a great job.”  

     With a revolving door turning all the time and the cast of characters changing almost nightly, Arnies’ Army marches on.

DIGGING DOUG

     After a slow start to the 2012 season, starter Doug Mathis has hit his stride.  The 29 year old right hander is 5-3 for the PawSox after his tremendous outing in Buffalo on Thursday.  The former Texas Rangers pitcher handcuffed the Bisons for 6 innings, scattering three hits en route to a 5-0 victory.Making his twelfth appearance in a PawSox uniform, Mathis scattered three hits, walked one and struck out three.  He obviously felt pleased after his latest start.  “It was a good game to get through.  I actually didn’t feel too good early in the game.  In the bullpen, warming up for the game was terrible.  In the first couple of innings I got lucky.  I had some line drives hit right at some guys.  After that, I found a little groove and I felt pretty good.”

     Mathis got the win while highly touted Mets prospect, Matt Harvey took the loss.  Harvey is also 5-3, with two of the losses coming at the hands of the PawSox.  “He was throwing the ball great.  He was throwing the ball better than I was at the start of the game.  We ended up getting to him in the sixth, with two outs.  I was very impressed with him.  Even though he ended up with the loss, it was one of the better-pitched games I’ve seen all year in this league.”

     Mathis struggled out of the blocks in April.  He is a veteran and talked about the psychology of not letting it get to him and snowball.  “Obviously, you want to get off to a fast start, but you realize as you get older, it isn’t always how you start, it’s how you finish.  I would rather be a guy that finishes strong than start strong and fade down the stretch.  The first couple of weeks, I was terrible.  I’ve been working hard, working with Rich (Sauveur).  It’s all you can do to try to get back into it.”

     With the exception of Alex Wilson and Junichi Tazawa, this is a veteran pitching staff.  Mathis says that working with guys like Justin Germano and Brandon Duckworth is a pleasure.  “It helps because a lot of us are similar pitchers.  Myself, Duck and Germano, we’re not overpowering by any means.  We do similar things out there.  We feed off each other and talk about various things.  When guys are throwing well, you want to go out there and continue it.  Even though you’re on the same team, you want to be competitive with your teammates.”  Mathis doesn’t confine his praise to just the starting rotation.  He likes the Pawtucket bullpen and thought that Mark Melancon set a great example for his younger teammates when he was optioned to the PawSox.  “Mark was great when he came down here.  Great attitude.  He obviously pitched well while he was hee.  He was one of the more dominant relievers in the league.  He embraced his situation.  He didn’t feel sorry for himself.  That fed off onto others, as well.  Garrett Mock is throwing well.  Alex Wilson has been good.  I think that pretty much everybody is doing the job.  That’s the reason that we’ve been doing so well.  Without a bullpen like ours, we wouldn’t be doing so well.  Our starters wouldn’t have as many wins.  Having a strong staff and a strong bullpen goes hand in hand.”     

     Thanks to Doug Mathis, the PawSox are strong and deep on the mound.

ANOTHER TRIP TO SALISBURY

     I have been very fortunate in my career in a lot of ways.  I have seen great things.  I have made amazing friends.  I have also been lucky enough to attend the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Associatoion Annual Convention in Salisbury North Carolina.  Five times in the last six years, I have attended as the Rhode Island Sportscaster of the Year.  It’s an honor that humbles me, and I am extremely grateful to recognized by my contemporaries.  The incredible people of Salisbury roll out the red carpet to me and the other statewide and national honorees.  In particular, Dave Goren, a Massachusetts native, now the executive director for the NSSA and Dr. Joel and Joyce Goodwin, my hosts, are some of the nicest folks I have ever met.  I’ve used the analogy before and I hope it isn’t insulting to those people, but I feel like I’m in an episode of the old Andy Griffith show.  A trip to a bygone era, where the people of Mayberry (Salisbury) take the time to say “Good morning” or “thanks.”

    The annual convention this year was held over the weekend and I was as excited to be there as I was the first time I went.  I want to take a moment to recognize the Sportswriter of the Year from R.I., Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times.  Brendan won for the second straight year.  Along with statewide winners like Joe D’Ambrosio of Connecticut and Paul Keels from Ohio, and Dan Shaughnessy of Massachusetts, the National honorees and Hall fo Famers were there, as well.

     Dan Shulman of ESPN is the epitome of class.  The play by play man, a Canadian, brought along an entourage of color analysts that included  the great Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona.  Shulman is a humble and very nice guy and well-deserving.

     The National Sportswriter was Joe Posnanski, formerly of Sports Illustrated.  He is one of best story tellers that I have ever encountered.  If you’ve never read Joe, find him.  You won’t be disappointed.  Look for his book on the late Joe Paterno, out in the coming months.

     John Feinstein, who is currently writing a book on minor league baseball, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  He has already written 29 books.  He estimated that he had been fired from his job at the Washington Post 47 times.  He’s still there, by the way.  

     My personal highlight was seeing the amazing Bob Costas.  Overall, he’s been my favorite broadcaster for many years.  The guy is ageless and more talented than probably everyone else in that room, combined.  He is off to London, to host his ninth Olympic Games for NBC, more than anyone else, including the immortal Jim McKay.

     I was inspired and entertained.  I remembered why I got into this business years  ago.  For me, it was listening to Chris Clark doing Providence College Basketball and Ned Martin calling Red Sox games.  Those men transported me to places that I felt the need to see up close and personal.  Thankfully, in my career, I have.  My dream took me to Salisbury this past weekend.  It was another great experience.

SPECIAL DAY FOR SPECIAL K

     A lot of guys come through the clubhouse at McCoy Stadium.  Some are special.  You can tell that from Day 1.  They possess the talent and work ethic necessary to make it all the way to the top.  Talent alone usually won’t do it.  If a guy works hard, injury is really the only thing that stands in his way.  Ryan Kalish has endured more than his fair share of injuries over the last year or so.  Shoulder and neck issues have sidelined the gifted outfielder for more than an entire season.  Before the ills, he was ticketed for stardom, and now that they are hopefully behind him, he is on his way once again.   Kalish is still just 24 years old.  Ryan has worked his way up the system and after rehabbing in the lower minors, he made his PawSox debut on Tuesday night.  I had the opportunity to speak to him before the game and he was thrilled to be back.  “I’m happy.  I’m happy to sit here with you.  I’m happy.  It’s just great to play ball again.  It’s been a long time.  I’m happy to be back with my friends.”

     Kalish got off to a fast start.  He belted a two run homer in his first at bat, then added an RBI single and two walks.  He had one defensive oppportunity in centerfield and handled it with ease.  He didn’t feel he had any limitations.  “The shoulder sometimes kind of tightens up.  There’s still some scar tissue in the neck that you feel every now and then.  Once you get out there between the lines, it’s time to play.  It’s time to be an athlete again.  Get out there, have fun, play as hard as you can and help the guys win.  Right now,there are no limitations.  At the plate, I actually feel pretty comfortable.  In the outfield, I’m still trying to get my feet underneath me, as far as what I can do throwing.  I need to trust myself when diving for a ball.  It’s a process and that’s what I’m working towards.  I’m trying to get back to being the same athlete and player that I used to be.”

     His mature attitude is another reason Kalish will succeed.  When the Sox picked up Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney, he understood the reason.  Kalish said he didn’t own the rights to right field at Fenway Park.  He is, however, human and has the same emotions that we all do.  “I’ll be really honest, I’m past frustration.  I’m past any type of frustration that a man could have.  It was frustrating enough with my injuries and my own problems.  I can’t worry about other guys and what they’re doing.  I’m happy for all the guys that have gotten chances.  Lars, Nava, Lin.  All the guys that have gone up there are my friends and I’m just happy to see them do well.  Life is too short to be bitter.  It is what it is.  I’ve been dealt these cards and it’s my job to show some character and courage and get my mind right so I can come back and do my thing.  Nothing’s guaranteed.  If I come back and play well enough, I’ll have a chance somewhere.  That’s all I’m looking for. An opportunity.”

     Lars Anderson and Kalish are good friends.  Earlier this season, when I asked Lars for an update on Kalish, I expected a physical update, but he surprised me with an emotional and mental checkup about his friend.  He intimated that the saga had made Kalish a more mature and patient person.  Kalish agreed.  “I’ve had so much time off from baseball, that I’ve had a lot of time to work on myself.  Lars is totally right.  I wasn’t totally OK in Spring Training.  I was upset with my situation and I wanted to be out there.  It was hard, but those are the times that you can work on yourself as a person.  Respect the process, respect the people around me.  Really embrace life.  Regardless of how I got hurt, I’ve got a good life.  I’ve got my health.  I’ve got friends and family.  A lot of people love me and I love them back.  Life is giving me a different perspective.  Now I get to go out there and play every night.  If I struggle, I might get frustrated.  That’s just natural.  I think the turn around, getting over the humps, will be quicker.  I’m just happy being back out there.  I think that’ll go a long way in helping with my recovery and making me a better player.  You’re never going to be the same person you were.  In 2010 and 2009, I was who I was then, and this is a whole new time for me. There’s no sense in looking back.  it’s all about here and now.”

     With an attitude like that and his tools and work ethic, how can you bet against Ryan Kalish?  

SIMPLY REDD

     All Josh Reddick needed was a chance.  That’s all a lot of us ask for, the opportunity to show what we can do.  He had some chances while he was in the Sox organizaation, but now he is thriving as an everyday player with Oakland.  With closer Andrew Bailey on the disabled list, the A’s have clearly gotten the better of the deal that sent the Georgia native out west.  Reddick is thriving, with an average arouind .270, 14 home runs and nearly 30 RBI.  He loves his new life.  “Life in Oakland is great.  Playing every day.  I couldn’t be any happier.  Getting an opportunity to play, so that’s the important thing right now.”  Redd says that knowing he is going to be in the lineup every day makes all the difference in the world. “The level of comfort here is much greater than what I had in Boston.  There was always the chance of being sent down if I didn’t perform.  They’ve made it clear here in Oakland that I’m playing every day.  I’m their 3-hole hitter.  I don’t have to worry about the pressure of being sent down after every game.  I can sit there in my room at night and get mentally prepared for the next game.  I think it’s showing in the performance level and the numbers that I’m comfortable here, and I’m ready to be here as an everyday player.”     

     There were stretches when Reddick played for the PawSox that he could have been considered the hottest hitter on the planet.  He was asked if he was especially hot now, or if it was just a product of his new surroundings.  “I don’t think I’m red hot right now.  I get into stretches where I hit .400, like August 2010 (with Pawtucket) where I was unconscious for the month.  I went off.  I’m still waiting for that little stretch where I can really go off and put up some really good numbers.  I’m satisfied with the numbers right now.  I wouldn’t say I’m hot, but I’m doing OK.  It’s a big adjustment going from the 7-hole in Boston to the 3-hole in Oakland.  You’ve got to be more patient as a hitter and I feel I’m doing well with that.”

     Ironically, Reddick is working with the same hitting iinstructor in Oakland that he worked with in 2011 in Pawtucket, Chili Davis.  Davis was hired by the A’s during the offseason and that suits Reddick just fine.  “It’s great.  The trade was a little tough for me, I didn’t know how I was going to react with a new team.  Having Chili come over here has made me that much more comfortable.  Especially working with a new coaching staff, he can tell them what I can do.  We’ve got a young group of guys here.  Easy to relate to.   The average age here is 27 or 28, as opposed to 35 over in Boston.  We seem to get along really well.”

     The A’s have already played a series in Boston and Reddick savored the opportunity to come back.  “It was a blast.  I circled it on my calendar and couldn’t wait to go back.  I called some of the guys and made plans.  Coming home and taking two out of three was big for me.  I got some bragging rights, and being able to homer against my best friend on the Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) was huge for me.  It was a great experience for me to get Clay like that and that night we went out to dinner and just caught up.  It was a great time for me.”  When asked who bought dinner, Josh responded quickly, with a laugh.  “Oh, definitely not me.” 

     While Josh was with the PawSox he hosted a weekly segment on the broadcast called “The Chronicles of Reddick”.  It was an interview with one of his teammates, delivered “Redneck” style.  Josh admitted to playing it up a bit for laughs.  “Yeah, any time I’d get somebody on there, I’d jump up the accent and have a little fun with it.  I really enjoyed it.  I had a blast.  I was happy to be a part of it, to follow guys like Chad Paronto and Jeff Natale.”

\     Reddick has a mature attitude when talking about the Sox trading him to Oakland.  “It’s all part of the business.  They felt like they needed a closer.  Unfortunately, he (Andrew Bailey) is hurt.  Those guys have been in the business a long time and know how to run a team.  I was proud and honored that I was that well thought of by the Athletics.  They gave up their two-time All Star closer and former rookie of the year for me.  I can add that to my resume of good accomplishments.”

     Reddick is somewhat amused however, when he looks at the outfield situation for Boston. With all the injuries and callups, he figures he’d have gotten a chance to play at Fenway this year.  “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little amused.  I do chuckle a little bit.  I never want to see anybody get hurt, but I do get a little smirk every now and then when I imagine what they lost.”

     Reddick takes great pride in his improvement over the first part of the 2012 season.  Being kept in the lineup to face leftys like David Price of Tampa and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia means the world to him.  No platooning.  No hiding him.  He’s an everyday Major Leaguer.  “You become a better player when you’re in there, facing the best.”

     He admits keeping an eye on the PawSox and is happy for their success.  “Oh yeah. I hope they can keep it up all year.”  I bet they’re hoping the same thing for Josh Reddick.

        

DA-NA-NA, DA-NA-NA

     If you read this blog, it is likely that you are a sports fan and if that’s the case, you probably watch ESPN and SportsCenter.  Makes sense, right?  If you do watch SC you were treated this week to an unlikely occurence.  A top ten play that came directly from McCoy Stadium and specifically, Lars Anderson.  The folks in Bristol, Connecticut rarely dip into the minor leagues for their highlights.  With so much going on now, it’s especially surprising.  NBA and NHL playoffs, Major League Baseball, the French Open, Soccer, Golf, The Indy 500, you get the point.

     What did the 24 year old Californian do that earned him a coveted spot in the top ten?  He hit himself with a baseball.  Well, not actually himself, but his likeness on the giant video scoreboard in right centerfield at McCoy.  A homerun that travelled an estimated 450 feet hit “video Lars” in his left shoulder and knocked out a bank of light bulbs on the board.  It was pretty impressive.  The highlight premiered at number 8 and by the time I saw it the next morning, it was entrenched at number 10.  The typically laid back Anderson took it in stride.  “There’s been a few around the same distance.  I’m not really sure.”  Lars said it took him some time to figure out the damage he’d done.  “I didn’t really know until I got back into the dugout and my teammates were like ‘man, you just hit yourself on the scoreboard’.  It’s kind of hard to see when you’re running down to first, so I didn’t know until I got back to the dugout.”

     Always analytical, Anderson was flattered by a comparison to Robert Redford in the movie “The Natural”, when a home run by Redfords’ character Roy Hobbs knocked out some lights, but he found holes in my theory. “I always though it was funny in the movie because it took place in the 30′s or 40′s and they didn’t even play night games at that point.  But hey, Robert Redford is cool.  I’ll take the comparison.” 

     Lars admitted to geting a kick out of seeing himself on SC.  “Yeah, it’s always a trip, because it’s something that you see every day.  The Top 10.  It was cool.  People wanted to talk to me about it.  It was fun.”  Anderson added that he had heard from a lot of people after the national coverage.  “Yeah, a lot of texts and a couple of phone calls.”  Anderson has been bashing the ball lately and says he feels pretty comfortable at the plate.  “I’ve actually felt pretty good the whole month (May).  We’ve been winning and it’s been fun.  Not a whole bunch to complain about.”

     Anderson has been a first baseman for his entire career.  In an effort to increase his versatility, the Red Sox have had hm play in left field a little bit.  A fish out of water?  No way, says Anderson. “It’s been really fun for me.  I feel like a ten year old again, learning a new position.  I’m really excited about it.  I feel really comfortable.  It’s a joy to see my name on the lineup card in left field.”  Lars explains the new skill set he’s trying to perfect in left.  “Good outfielders get good reads.  It makes it a little easier.  I’m working on it every day, during batting practice and of course, during the games.  That’s a huge part.  I’m not the fastest guy in the world, so I’m working on angles to the ball and I don’t have the strongest arm either, so I have to hit the cutoff man.  Just play fundamentally, man.  The outfield is the last line of defense.  If you make in imprudent play in the outfield, it turns a single into a double, or worse.  Playing the outfield, you really have to keep your head on your shoulders.”  Anderson has been working on his arm strength and is pleased with the progress.  “My arm’s getting better.  I’ve been playing a lot of ‘long toss’ and learning to get on top of the ball a little bit.  I’m noticing improvement, which I’m proud of.”

     Let’s just hope that the next time Lars Anderson makes the SC Top 10, he’s in a Major League uniform. 

  

THE EX FACTOR

     It’s like old home week at McCoy Stadium.  The Norfolk Tides, managed by former PawSox skipper, Ron Johnson are in town.  RJ’s pitching coach is none other than Mike Griffin, formerly the pitching coach at Pawtucket.  Ex Red Sox utility man Bill Hall plays for the Tides and Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched briefly for the PawSox in 2011, is on the Norfolk pitching staff.  The Tides’ starting catcher, acquired on waivers after Boston designated him for assignment, is Luis Exposito.  Expo began the season in Pawtucket and was slated to share the duties with Ryan Lavarnway.

     Exposito is in the visitors’ clubhouse for the next few days, but he doesn’t mind.  “It’s nice.  It’s good to be back here and see faces that I haven’t seen in a while.  Just catch up with friends I haven’t seen.  It’s nice.”  Expo sounds very happy in his new surroundings.”It was probably one of the happiest times of my life.  It’s a good opportunity and the Orioles showed that they wanted me enough to put me on their roster.  I’m grateful for that.”

     Since his move, Luis Exposito has appeared in 8 Major League games for the Orioles.  he says it was a remarkable experience.  “It was awesome.  There’s no feeling like it.  It’s what you work for since the time you were a kid.  It’s where you want to be.”  Even a highlight on ESPN’s SportsCenter didn’t fade his enthusiasm.  It was him striking out against Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals.  “It’s OK.  He’s nasty, a tough guy to hit.”

     Manager Ron Johnson has known Exposito since he was a young kid in the Red Sox chain.  RJ told me that when the catcher became available, he advised the Orioles to snap him up.  Expo is pleased the Orioles took his recommendation.  “It’s magnificent.  It’s a really good feeling.  It boosts your confidence.  It’s a change and sometimes change is good.  Nothing against the Red Sox, but sometimes it’s business.  There are no bad feelings.  It’s part of the game and I’m happy with the change.”

     Even though Expo and shortstop Jose Iglesias were close as teammates, Luis explains that the two really haven’t kept in touch.  “I really haven’t talked to him at all.  You know, guys are busy.  I’ve had a lot going with my family.  Moving and all.  It’s been crazy.  Luckily, we’ve been blessed to get through it.  I’m glad he’s doing well.  I’m rooting for him and just go from there.”

     While Exposito seems genuinely thrilled in his new home, he laughed when asked about the biggest difference between the two organizations.  “The fan base.  It’s amazing here (Boston)  That’s the biggest difference.”  Expo adds that there is an adjustment to make.  “Red Sox fans care about everything.  They want you to excel.  It boosts your confidence.  It keeps you engaged consistently in the game.  It’s beneficial for the players and the team as a whole.”

     Exposito is excited for the future.  He hopes to rejoin the parent Orioles and stay this time.  He knows there is work to be done.  “I’ve got to get the bat going.  I had some good at bats up there.  I tried to make the most of it.  I feel like I caught well.  They told me to get down here and get to work.  They value me as a catcher and they want to see me play every day.  I can’t be mad at them for that.”

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