Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

HI-TEK

     With nothing really to play for, the 2010 PawSox limped into the finish line, getting swept in Scranton and splitting with Syracuse to end a forgettable season.  The one remarkable fact about the PawSox this year was the seemingly endless stream of Major League rehabbers that graced McCoy Stadium with their presence.  The final one of the year was catcher Jason Varitek.  The Red Sox captain played in the Syracuse series, catching one game and DH-ing in the finale.  I had the chance to spend some “quiet time” with the three time American League All Star.

     Varitek sustained a broken foot, but was happy to be behind the plate and playing again.  “I felt good.  I was anxious to get back out there on the field.  The body responded well and I’m ready to get after it again.”  Varitek was tested early by the Chiefs and their widely unpopular manager, Trent Jewett.  The consensus was that Jewett would try to “show up” Varitek in some way.  In the first inning, he had Michael Martinez attempt a stolen base and Varitek gunned him down by at least ten feet.  “We’ve done a lot to try to maintain arm strength from the time I was in a boot until now, so (Fabio) Castro gave me a chance and I made a good accurate throw.”  Varitek adds that he is ready to return to Boston.  “The foot’s good.  I’m ready to get some at bats.  Getting through the game yesterday, had a couple of balls in the dirt, a guy tried to steal, had a long inning behind the plate and got a couple of at bats.  I had a little bit of everything yesterday, so it was good.”

     Offensively, in two games, Varitek had two hits and a sacrifice fly that scored a run.  He was somewhat satisfied.  “In the grand scheme of things, I was pleased.  Especially in the third at bat, fouling off pitches, I was happy, staying in the at bat.  I felt good at the plate, period.

     Varitek has been in the game a long time, but even he couldn’t have envisioned the nightmarish injury plagued season his team would have to endure.  “It’s been a different experience for a lot of people.  It’s been that way all year, not just a month.  It’s given a lot of people an opportunity to play.  A lot of different people had to ask extra things of themselves.  Really, we are just a few one run games away from being at the top of the division.  Hopefully, we can find some favor and make a final push over these final few weeks, and make a run towards it.”

     Besides the injury, Tek has also had to adjust to a lesser role as a player, backing up Victor Martinez.  Despite what he says, it can’t be easy.  “It’s an ongoing adjustment, but it started in August of 2009.  It’s still adjusting, trying to find out what’s too much work, what’s not enough when you’re used to playing every day.  It’s still agrind, even when it’s not your gig 24 hours a day.  Whether you feel good, bad or indifferent.  You look for a different way to help when you are in here.”  Varitek keeps a close eye on “his” pitchers and the catchers, as well.  “I watch our guys throw from different angles, compare intent with results, provide feedback when need be, be there on the bench to support the guys.  It’s very important for me to keep an eye on what’s going on, so if I do go in, I’m prepared.”

     Varitek looks liike he could play linebacker for the Patriots.  At age 38, he’s still in peak physical condition.  “That’s one thing you can control as a player.  You can’t control the results on the field, but you can take care of the preparation.”

     The 18th captain of the Boston Red Sox, Varitek is still humbled to war the “C” on his chest.  “It’s been a great honor.  I haven’t had to do much more being the Captain, than before I was named.  My biggest responsibilities have been dealing weith the pitching staff and leading by example.  As I’ver gottern a little older, I’ve gotten a little more vocal and had a little more fun with it.  It’s evolved and it’s an honor and I’ve been blessed to be able to stay in the same place.”  Although he was a bit reluctant to name a name, he and I are on the same page as far as his potential successor as Red Sox Captain.  “There’s guys.  Guys like “Pedey” (Dustin Pedroia) that easily fall into that and I’m sure that thtrough the course of time, it’ll play its’ way out.”

     Varitek is eagerly looking forward to 2011.  He is quite motivated to keep playing.  “Absolutely.  I believe I’m at a spot where I can still compete at a high level and do very well.”   

JUST PASSING THROUGH TOWN

     We’ve all learned by now that the Red Sox are not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal.  Any deal that they think will help them win even just one extra game.  I’m sure it infuriates some of their minor leaguers, but hey, that’s the business of baseball in Red Sox Nation.  Recently they made a couple of acquisitions that I think might be very helpful today and in the long run.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and utility man Eric Patterson. 

     Today I want to talk about Patterson.  He is 27 years old and he’s the fastest guy this side of Jacoby Ellsbury.  “That’s not for me to decide. Speed is a big part of my game, as it is his.  I just try to keep it simple, find a way to get on base and when I get on, try to wreak havoc, get in scoring position and have the big guys knock me in.”

     Patterson was obtained from Oakland in late June as insurance for Dustin Pedroia.  Ironically, Eric has wound up on the disabled list as well with a strained neck. “It feels good”.  He told me.  “No ill effects.  I’m able to go out there and swing the bat with no problems, go out on the field with no problems and run the bases with no problems.  It’s been positive.  I’m just looking forward to playing and getting back up to Boston to help.”  Although not in Boston, Patterson has been happy to help the PawSox during their current winning streak, with offense, defense and speed to burn. “I am absolutely happy to help.  Being on a rehab assignment the biggest thing for me is going out and playing my game and doing the things that I’ll be called upon to do when I’m in Boston.  For me, that’s getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs.  For me to be able to get out there and contribute, it helps.  A lot of times when guys are on rehab assignments, they are just trying to take care of themselves.  I get it.  These guys have worked hard all year and if I can help, it doesn’t matter what level I’m at.  I’m trying to win too.”

     It seems as if the curse of the Bambino has returned this year, as the injury bug has bitten the Sox hard and quite often.  Patterson is no exception.  Before he strained his neck, he appeared in 29 games with Boston, hitting .254 (17-67) with 2 home runs and 6 rbi.  “It’s frustrating, but at the same time, injuries happen.  You have to keep a positive attitude, work hard to come back and when you return you want to contribute and not miss a beat.  That’s why it’s important to get my timing and rhythm back down here and when I get back, I’ll be ready.  I’m looking forward to it.”

     Patterson was an 8th round pick of the Cubs back in 2004 after an All-American career at Georgia Tech.  He’s played for both the Cubs and A’s before Boston and as a result has friends on the Pawtucket roster.  “Rich Hill and Gerald Perry.  I was with those guys over in Chicago.  I was a little behind Rich in Chicago.  I spent a lot of time with him.  He’s a great guy.  He has great ‘stuff’.  For him, it’s a matter of getting in his innings down here and getting another Big League opportunity.  With Gerald, I worked with him when he was the hitting coach with the Cubs.  He is really easy to work with.”  Patterson also has a friend from his Oakland days at McCoy.  “Jack Hannahan and I spent time together in Oakland and in the minor leagues.  Jack is just a guy who’s going to come to the ballpark and get after it every day.  He’s a great teammate.  It’s always nice to see familiar faces no matter where you are.  It makes you feel welcome.”

     Eric Patterson is the younger brother of Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson.  Eric says the two didn’t necessarily share the dream of becoming Big Leaguers as kids, but he admits to emulating him, whenever he could. “I think people always ask why I got into baseball.  I saw he had fun doing it, so I got into it.  The biggest thing I got from growing up in the same household with him was the work ethic.  He was a big time football prospect in high school and I recall him coming home from two a day practices and going straight to the batting cages to hit.  The hard work that he’s put in has helped me out, too.  Now our relationship..we try to keep it as light as possible.  We’re so consumed with baseball, day in, day out.  When we talk, it’s more about how we’re doing, what’s going on in your life other than baseball.  We can always check boxscores for the baseball stuff.  It’s the other things that we miss out on that we try to catch up on.”

     Not sure if it’s over for the Red Sox, but I am sure Eric Patterson can help.       

     

 

 

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

     This road trip has been eye-opening for the PawSox.  One of the worst road teams in the I.L. all year, the boys are 7-2 heading into Sundays’ finale with Rochester.  The Red Wings are the worst team in the league, by anyones’ standards, but the team in Buffalo that the PawSox beat 4 out of 6 times is in playoff contention, still fighting for a wild card berth.  Torey Lovullo remains proud of his club.  “They say winning cures a lot.  You come out here and play good, loose baseball.  It’s a great atmosphere.  This team, though, from a personality standpoint hasn’t changed all year long.  It’s been a great year for me to manage this group of guys, and it’s nice to see it finally pay off for them.”

     Lovullo was happy to put a damper on his former clubs’ playoff run.  He is a Buffalo Bison Hall of Famer.  “We took 4 out of 6 games there and I was very proud of that.  Believe me.  We had a conversation prior to that series and we decided that there was no way we were going to lie down and fold up and let these guys walk through us.  We have held ourselves to a high standard and it’s been contagious.  No matter where you play on the road, it’s tough.  I don’t care if Rochester is the worst team in the league or not, we’ve played good baseball.”

     Not surprisingly, Torey didn’t offer much when the topic of September callups arose.  “A couple of internal conversations, but at this point, nothing has been determined.  These guys are playing hard, they’re playing for a reason, they’re playing for a purpose.  We’ve outlined those things in the past.  I like what I’m seeing.  We have a number of candidates.  I’ve topld these guys, that 1-24, we all have an opportunity and that’s how I’m looking at it.”  I love Torey Lovullo and as you know, I love the Red Sox.  Please don’t try to make me believe that those decisions haven’t already been made.

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     As you know by now, Daniel Nava is one of the greatest success stories, ever.  The 4’9, 70 pound kid has blossomed into a Major League outfielder with the Red Sox.  Nava hasn’t forgotten his roots, so to speak.  he was kind enough to join me on “PawSox Insider” from St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Sox were preparing for Saturdays’ A.L. East showdown with the Rays. Nava says the Red Sox remain undaunted by the rash of injuries that has plagued the team in 2010.  “We don’t care who’s out on the field.  The attitude is ‘let’s just go out and win’.  I’m glad that I’ve done well, but we all try to put our personal numbers aside because we want to win.  We are all focused on going to the playoffs.”

     For you romantic types, here’s an Erin Andrews update.  According to Nava, himself, the two still have not met.  You may recall that months ago, I was the first to tell you that Nava left a ticket for the attractive ESPN reporter at every road game, kind of as a lark.  Google “Daniel Nava/Erin Andrews” now and you’ll be stunned at how many stories there are about the topic.  The tentacles of “Hydes’ Inside Pitch” spread far and wide.

THE PITCH FROM RICH

     Rich Sauveur is wrapping up his third season as pitching coach for the PawSox.  The 46 year old lefty spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors before retiring in 2000.  In all, Sauveur played for 18 years.  Since then, he has coached in the Brewers’ organization in Beloit (A) and Huntsville (AA).  Sauveur joined this organization prior to the 2008 campaign.  As we wrap up our last long road trip of the season, Rich admits the record hasn’t been great, but there have been some victories.  “We’ve had a good season, trying to help in Boston.  They’ve had a lot of injuries up there.  We’ve had guys go up there and fill in and do a very respectable job.”

     Most fans will recall the heroics of Darnell McDonald or Daniel Nava or Ryan Kalish when thinking  back on this season.  Pitchers have also contrinbuted to the success of the Red Sox.  “Felix Doubront going from a starter to the bullpen, I know is harder than doing it the other way around.  Felix has done a nice job.  He just has to learn how to get into a routine and prepare as a reliever.  He’ll learn that and be fine.  Whether it’s as a starter or coming out of the bullpen, they are still realizing a dream, pitching for the Boston Red Sox.”

     We have come to accept that the primary function of the PawSox is to develop players that are ready to help the parent club at a moments’ notice.  Sauveur says the I.L.’s reigning pitcher of the week has made great strides.  “Ramon Ramirez has done a great job for us.  He started out struggling a little bit.  His fastball command was not there.  We did some work with him early in the season, we’ve put him in the rotation and he’s done a fabulous job.”   

     Sauveur describes himself as a baseball lifer.  He’s spent his entire adult life in the game and he says he “loves” the game as much as ever.  “My father taught me the game when I was 7 or 8 years old.  38 years later, I’m still in it.  I come to the ballpark every day and the 30 guys that are here every day are my family during the season.  To go out on the field and play a game and now coach a game for a living is a fantastic feeling.”

     While a lot of guys look forward to winding down after the season, Sauveur is already looking forward to his next assignment.  “This winter I’ll be heading to the Dominican Republic to coach in Santiago.  They’re historically one of the strongest teams there, but had a tough season last year and let go their entire coaching staff.  (Former ML catcher and current Yankees coach) Tony Pena will be the manager and I’ll be the pitching coach.  We’ll be looking to take a few of our guys down there and we’ll see what happens.”  Sauveur added that it was too early in the process to name names, but he wanted to bring a couple of starters and a couple of relievers with him.

     Sauveur is a holdover from the Ron Johnson era in Pawtucket, joining first year manager Torey Lovullo on his staff.  Sauveur says the two men are a lot alike.  “They are both fantastic guys, no question.  I think Torey is a little bit more low key in his approach.  R.J. is rambunctious and raring to go all the time.  He’s such a positive guy, he can turn anything into a rose.  Torey’s done a great job too.  Going back to the injury situation in Boston, we’ve sent guys up there left and right.  Torey has done a fantistic job keeping these guys together.”

 

FROM CLAY TO CY?

     As the month of August draws to a close, it’s time to start thinking about postseason honors.  Other than maybe Adrian Beltre, there’s really only one Red Sox player with the chops to take home one of the big pieces of hardware.  Clay Buchholz has to be one of the top three candidtes for American League Cy Young honors.  This has been a great year for Buchholz.  Last winter, he married his sweetheart, Lindsay Clubine.  As sweet as she is beautiful, Lindsay was Girl #26 on the game show  “Deal or No Deal.”  Earlier this summer, the couple welcomed daughter Colbi to the world, too.  Off the field, Buchholz has anything a man could want.  He’s pretty close between the lines as well.  Clay is 15-5 with a league leading earned run average of 2.26 for the season.  There are really only a couple of other candidates who are in his league.  C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees is 17-5 with an ERA of 3.02 and  Tampa’s David Price is also 15-5 with a 2.97 ERA.  Buchholz hasn’t allowed an earned run in 23.1  innings and hasn’t surrendered a run at all in 20 innings.

     Not only did Buch beat the Blue Jays on Sunday, but he also whipped Mother Nature.  Clay outlasted rain delays of 1:44 and 59 minutes to fire 6 shutout frames at the Jays.  Having watched him grow over the last couple of years, I’m relatively certain he wouldn’t have been able to turn that trick in the past.  He is now among the elite in the American League.  I suspect that the modest Texan would refute that claim.  A Cy Young Award would confirm it.  It would also look very nice in his home with his new wife and baby. 

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     Sunday was a good day for the PawSox.  They swept a doubleheader from Buffalo 9-2 and 7-5.  The wins put a damper on the playoff hopes of the Bisons.  Buffalo is a staggering 17-5 in their last 22 games.  The PawSox can take credit for 4 of the 5 Buffalo losses.  After the game, the club  (and radio announcers) were treated to a delicious steak and lobster btail dinner, courtesy of Pawtucket Red Sox owner, Ben Mondor.  The feast came with salad, side dishes and luscious desserts.  Ben is extremely generous with the guys.  The radio guys are just happy to get the scraps.  In this case, it was far more than scraps.  Surf and Turf in Buffalo!  

 

LEADERSHIP IS ALWAYS NEEDED

     It isn’t always easy to be a leader.  When your ballclub is in first place and you’re cruising towards the playoffs, it’s much easier than when you’re 20 games under .500 and going nowhere fast.  Leaders aren’t always necessarily your best players, but they can be.  For example, Dustin Pedroia is clearly the leader of the Red Sox.  In this case, we’re talking about the PawSox.  Let’s face it, with roughly three weeks left in the season, the club isn’t going anywhere.  Tuesday night, we were treated to another “Are you kidding me” moment when Ryan Kalish belted a grand slam for Boston.  I guess we should be used to that type of thing by now, but it still seems very special to me.  Guys like Kalish, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden, at one point the meat and potatoes for Pawtucket are helping the Red Sox in their pennant push.

     There is always a danger that guys are just going through the motions this time of year.  Manager Torey Lovullo is well aware of it and he is ever vigilant for that.  “The day to day grind of baseball will never change for me.  My job is to help these kids get better every single day and help them get to the Big Leagues.  Plain and simple, that’s all I want to do.  I do my best and that won’t change from my standpoint.  What I’m concerned about, what tends to happen around this time every year is the ‘shutdown’ mentality of a player.  When I sense it or when I feel it, and I’ve sensed it a couple of times the last couple of days around here,  I’ve got to address the team and let them know that they are playing for a lot of different situations.  Some of them are playing for callups, some for Major League roster spots.  Some are playing for next year.  Some are auditioning  for other teams for next year.  And finally, others won’t be playing at all next year.  This may be the last time you get the opportunity to play professional baseball.  You have to make the guys understand that there’s a job to do, and they have to do it, even though the playoffs aren’t lurking.”

     If you consider the PawSox an army and Lovullo the general, he would have to have some officers to help him carry out his daily plan.  Not just coaches Gerald Perry and Rich Sauveur, but veteran players who can lead.  Lovullo singled out a couple of the elder statesmen on his squad who provide the leadership every team desparately needs.  “Chad Paronto and Gil Velazquez have been unbelievable.”  The PawSox have had a carousel of players rotating through the clubhouse all season long.  If Lovullo had to give the same speech to a “newbie” every day, he’d barely have time to do anything else.  “It’s a tremendous comfort to know that guys like Gil and Chad handle a lot of the business and they don’t have to be told.  They’re smart, good guys.  They’ve been around.  That’s invaluable to a manager.”

     Whether it’s Paronto with his humor or Velazquez and his business-like approach, these guys respect the game.  They play it the right way and they want others to do the same.  This season has had some very special moments.  Some you’ve seen.  Others you haven’t.  Leaders like these guys have helped hold it together. 

MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN EVER

     I think we all enjoyed the whirlwind of Dustin Pedroia.  Back at McCoy this weekend for the first time since winning Rookie of the Year honors and a World Series Title in 2007.  Back at McCoy for the first time since he was named the American League MVP in 2008.  Back to play in two games for the PawSox as he nurses his broken foot back to health and a return to the Boston lineup, scheduled for Tuesday.  Pedroia is listed at 5’9 and 180 pounds.  I doubt that either of those numbers is correct.  As guys make their way through Pawtucket, whether it’s up to the Bigs or out the door, you don’t always know if they’ll be able to make the final step. At first I wasn’t 100% positive about Pedey as he worked his way up the chain.  Two things were apparent about Dustin from the day we met.  I knew he had heart and I knew I liked him.  As we talked this past weekend, both on and off the record, those two things still hold true.

     Baseball-wise, he has me completely believing in the fortunes of the Red Sox.  He made such a convincing argument, that the kid has the cynic believing that 2010 will still be the year.  You can easily see why the Red Sox are Pedroias’ team.  He’s got it.  He’s got a room of grizzled veterans, including manager Terry Francona eating out of the palm of his hand.  People need leadership.  They want to be taken to the promised land.  Baseball or otherwise, they have a deep need to be lead.  Pedroia does it with the ease of a man twice his age.  He holds court.  People, teammates or not, rich or poor, younger or older hang on his every word.  Not just because of his predictions of “lasers” being hit all over the place.  That’s fun stuff.  People now believe in Dustin Pedroia.   They believe in him, because he walks the walk.  Lots of guys talk the talk.  He was out on the field, shortly after breaking his foot, kneeling down, fielding grounders.  He tried to take batting practice seated in a folding chair.  That wasn’t what is known as “eye- wash” in baseball parlance.  Something just put on for show.  It was Dustin Pedroia yearning and craving for another opportunity to help Boston win.

     Forget about baseball for a minute.  The throng of media has dissipated.  The interviews have all been recorded for the moment.  Two old friends catching up.  One lives a very public life.  Maybe the most popular man in Boston, or Massachusetts, or New England or anywhere in Red Sox Nation, for that matter.  Financially secure, a beautiful wife and a 1 year old son back at home.  The darling of an entire region.  After they run through all their old jokes, he asks his old friend, sincerely if there’s anything he needs.  It goes way beyond autographed  baseballs or anything like that.  They talk about both their ups and downs, the way a couple of guys who don’t see each other as much any more because  of circumstances, would.  You can’t do it justice, trying to explain it.  It was a feel-good moment.  You know it when you have one.

     I had interviewed Dustin and I had quotes ready to roll out.  Just not today.  Today is my day to tell you what a wonderful man Dustin Pedroia is.  Not because he can hit.  Not because he can field.  Not because he can run or throw.  Because he cares.  He cares about his teammates.  He cares about winning.  He cares deeply for his family and he cares about his friends.

HILL JUST GLAD TO BE ON THE HILL

     The Red Sox acquired veteran lefthander Rich Hill back on June 30.  The Milton Mass. resident  had come out of the bullpen for his first 13 appearances for the PawSox.  Things changed when the Red Sox decided to bring starters Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront and Robert Coello out as relievers, with the hopes that the trio could help the beleaguered Boston  bullpen.  If you do the math, you realize that you need to get starters from somewhere.   Enter Rich Hill.  Why not.  70 of his 78 Major League appearances had been as a starter.  Hill once started a playoff game in the Bigs for the Cubs.  He has a pedigree.  His career mark in the Majors is 21-20.  Converting back to a starter was no big stretch for the 30 year old veteran.  “It’s been a pretty smooth transition so far.  The other night went pretty well. (8/ 9 vs. Scranton 5 i.p., 2h, 0r, 1bb, 6k)  It’s been easy trying to get back into it.  When you’re trying to get back into the starting routine, you try to think back to what you did when you were having success.  That’s the big thing when you’re a starter.  Get into a routine, do the same things every five days.  It makes for more consistent starts.”

     Hill says it’s been relatively easy starting again.  He hasn’t been a reliever for all that long.  “The couple of months I spent in the bullpen, I had gotten into a routine out there.  Now switching back over, there are some things I remember and other things I’m relearning what to do between starts.  It hasn’t been years, it’s only been months since I was a starter.  The routine seems like it is falling into place.”

     Hill has been around long enough and has the right attitude and temperment.  He isn’t concerned with teammates like Bowden and Doubront and their switch.  He’s focused on one thing only.  “I think it’s a great opportunity to start.  It’s something I want to do and somewhere I want to be.  I’m not saying I don’t want to be in the bullpen to be in the Big Leagues.  That’s obviously where you want to be.  For me, the ultimate goal is to be a successful starter in the Big Leagues.  It’s not about where I’m going or where I was, but where I am right now, and that’s here.  I want to keep putting up quality starts every time I go out there.” 

     Hill was understandably pleased when he was told he was reverting back to a starter.  “I think it’s a really good opportunity.  When I was in St. Louis, they gave me somewhat of a chance to start (5 starts) With all the problems they’ve had in their rotation, you never know what could have happened.”

     Hill was enthusiastic when he returned to New England about 6 weeks ago and none of that has waned.  He seems happy. “It’s gone well.  I’m enjoying the time here.  I live 45 minutes from the field so when we’re home, I stay at home.  If the chance comes up to play in Boston, it’s only a walk away from our house.  I’ve enjoyed the organization.. Everything they do is very professional.  It’s something I was looking forward to.  My wife was looking forward to it too.  We’re enjoying it.”

     As far as what else Rich Hill might be looking forward to?  “I’m just looking forward to the next start to see what happens.”

POPS COMING TO MCCOY

     There won’t be playoff baseball at McCoy in 2010, but there is a big event coming to the park in early September that should pack the house.  Conductor Keith Lockhart is bringing the Boston Pops to the “house that Ben built” on September 4th for an All American evening of entertainment that will feature pop icon Kenny Loggins.  Lockhart looks forward to his trip to Pawtucket.  “We were approached earlier in the year to bring the Pops, en masse to McCoy Stadium on September 4th, with our special guest Kenny Loggins.  We’ll be working together with him for the first time.  We’ll be playing songs from our “Red Sox” album.  We think we’re gonna rock the place.  We think it’s going ot be a great concert.”

     While Lockhart looks forward to collaborating with Loggins, this is nothing new to the orchestra.  “We’ve had pretty much everybody walk on the stage with the Boston Pops.  Bono, Sting, Elvis Costello.  We’ve had great jazz artists, great Broadway stars.  You name it, they’ve been there.  that’s one of the greatest things about the Pops.  They play the widest range of music for a broad audience.  For this show, there couldn’t be a more perfect place than a baseball stadium.”

     Lockhart has led the Pops for 16 years, but he doesn’t come from Boston.  He grew up about 100 miles north of New York City, and quickly defends that.  I was about 9 years old when I became aware of baseball.  It was 1969 and 9 year olds can be fickle.  I switched my allegiance to the Mets.  It’s much easier converting from a Mets fan than a Yankees fan to Boston”. 

     While Lockhart was never a pro athlete, he began a love affair with music at an early age.  “Growing up, watching the early years of “Evening of Pops” with Arthur Fiedler, watching the Leonard Bernstein young peoples’ concerts…I was in a great place.  Growing up so close to New York City, I was able to take advantage of all that was going on.  I came from a totally non-music background and I struck out on my own in this direction and I’ve been very very lucky.” 

     Lockhart has been in Boston long enough to understand the legacies of two iconic franchises, The Red Sox and The Pops.  At Fenway, leftfield was passed from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice.  At Symphony Hall, the baton went from Arthur Fiedler to John Williams to Lockhart, himself.  “One of the great things about Boston and New England in general, is that it embraces a cultural institution like the Pops with the same passion that it embraces its’ sports teams.  There is no other city I can think of in this country where the conductor of the Boston Pops is just as familiar walking down the street as Kevin Youkilis.  I’ve been around long enough, 16 years, to experience the pain and pleasure of being a Red Sox fan.

     While Lockhart and many of his musicians love the Boston sports scene, the “Maestro” says it is a mutual admiration society.  “There is some crossover there.  Tedy Bruschi is a fairly active sax player.  Tom Brady brings his family to “Holiday Pops” a lot of the time.  We have a good relationship with Red Sox management and some of the players.  They did a lot to help us when the album came out.  It’s that kind of a town, where everyone pulls together and the great traditions are viewed as great traditions.”  

    Lockhart and the orchestra have performed on some of the biggest sports stages in the world.  That’s another reason he’s excited about coming to McCoy.  “I’ve been very fortunate to be at some great places at some great times due to my association with the Boston Pops.  We were the pre-game show, along with Paul McCartney for the 2002 Super Bowl, which was pretty amazing.  Five days later, I was on the field with the Utah Symphony at the opening ceremony for the Salt Lake Winter Games.  It was the most amazing week imaginable,”  He also has performed at NBA playoff games and Patriots games, as well,  Once, with Elton John.

     Lockhart has seen great athletes and heard great musicians.  He loves them both.  “Performance is performance.  Great performance of talent is beautiful to watch, and it should get you jazzed.”  For tickets or information about the Pops show at McCoy call 401-724-7300.

SALTALAMACCHIA

     There are dozens of great Italian restaurants in Providence and R.I.  Federal Hill is as good as any Italian section in any other city in the country.  If Jarrod Saltalamacchia has the type of impact the Red Sox are hoping for,  you may be able to walk into Camilles’ or Casserinos’ and order “Veal Saltalamacchia”.  “Pasta Jarrod” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  Got a note from “cahatfield” after my last entry that has me rethinking my choice for best name.  They point out that Red Sox farmhand Seth Schwindenhammer’s name is German for “swing the hammer”, and if he ever makes the Big Leagues, he will oust Saltalamacchia, as the player with the longest last name in history, with 15 letters.  Shoot for the stars!!

     “Salty” isn’t too worried about last names these days.  He is just trying to get his feet back on the ground after being traded to Boston from Texas.  “I was a little surprised.  My name wasn’t out there.  I found out about an hour after the deadline, so that was even more of a surprise to me.  They called me in, told me I got traded and had to report as soon as possible.  It’s exciting.”  The 25 year old catcher says he wasn’t necessarily looking to be moved, but welcomes the deal.  “I guess the organization felt it’s a better opportunity for me over here.  They made the trade and I’m glad they did.  That’s all I ever really wanted, was an opportunity.  I had a great time over there in Texas and I want to have a great time while I’m here.”

     It seems that the switch-hitter has been high on Theo Epsteins’ wish list for quite a while.  Jarrod says it’s nice to be wanted.  “For an organization with the legacy they have here and what they’ve done…It’s just a pleasure and an honor to be here.  Add to the fact that they really wanted me, it makes it that much more special.”

     Saltalamacchia says that he is ready for his journey.  He doesn’t expect anything to be handed to him. No promises were made.  He is ready to earn a spot with Boston.  ” Just get to Pawtucket, get acclimated, get your feet wet.  I don’t know exactly what they have in mind yet, but whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.  I hope to have a long career here.” 

     The knock on Saltalamacchia lately was that he had the “yips”.  The inability to throw the ball back to the pitcher.  Not fun if you are a catcher.  According to him, it was a physical problem, that got into his head.  “It was a tough year.  It started with the surgery.  It takes a while to heal.  I tried to come back from it too soon.  I wanted to get back for Spring Training and it obviously wasn’t the right thing to do.  Once I realized it was a physical thing thing and not a mental thing, my morale went way up.  It was a life lesson and I think I am stronger for it.”  The injury and following surgery would have made Cher proud.  Jarrod had to have a rib removed.  “The nerve and the blood vessels were going down my arm and the rib was impinging my ability.  It caused me to not have any feeling in my hand and arm, which in turn caused the throwing issues and the tiredness my arm felt after a game.  They removed the top rib, a small rib and that created some ‘flow’.  Luckily we caught it in time and it didn’t cause any nerve damage.”

     Getting back to his 14 letter moniker, Saltalamacchia says he has modified it for autograph purposes.  “It’s a simple autograph, short and sweet.  It’s something everybody talks about.  I’m proud of my last name.  It’s special.  I’ve obviously had it with me a long time.  I’m just glad people know me.”  Let’s hope we get to know Jarrod Saltalamacchia much much better.  And keep an eye out for Seth Schwindenhammer. 

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