I have broadcast thousands of baseball games over my career. Somewhere between 1700-1800 nights at ballparks all across the fruited plains. Every season has ultimately ended in a loss, until Thursday night, September 13, 2012. That was the night the Pawtucket Red Sox ended a 28 year drought. For the first time since Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office, The PawSox reign as the champions of the International League. Being there was a surreal experience.
As a broadacster, you’re really not part of the team itself, but you are recognized as a part of the entourage. You stay in the same hotels, eat at the same restaurants, ride the same busses and hang on every win and loss. One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen was the final out, a sharply hit ground ball hit up the first base line, smothered by Andy LaRoche. Andy waved off pitcher Josh Fields, stepped on the bag and the celebration began.
International League President, Randy Mobley made the presentation of the Governors’ Cup, symbolic of the I.L. championship to PawSox President, Mike Tamburro, General Manager, Lou Schweccheimer, Manager, Arnie Beyeler, and Red Sox Director of Player Development, Ben Crockett. As the trophy was being hoisted, PawSox players orchestrated a well-choreographed attack of champagne on the brass. The air was filled with foam and bubbles and plenty of smiles. Over the course of a 144 game season, there are a lot of games that don’t matter. This one clearly did. I know a lot of the people there thought about Ben Mondor, the late owner of the PawSox, Arnie Beyeler mentioned him, saying he appreciated the help Ben must have given his club, smiling down from above.
There has to be a catchy nickname for the Champion PawSox. This club, lead by Nelson Figueroa, who won the clinching game in the regular season, the first round of the playoffs and in the championship round, as well, defied the odds. A team decimated by promotions and defections and trades, had no business contending. Portland Sea Dogs, veteran free agent types and a few remaining from our opening day roster, banded together and won it all. In the long and storied history of the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise, these guys will forever be known as the PawSox team that won it all. For some, it may be the highlight of their career, for others, perhaps a stepping stone to greater heights. It can never be taken away.
The PawSox rampaged through the I.L. playoffs, going 6-1. That includes the first sweep in franchise history in the playoffs, taking three in a row from the completely overmatched Cahrlotte Knights. There is a bit of unfinished business. Tuesday night, the PawSox will face the winner of the Pacific Coast League title, either Omaha or Reno. It’s a one game, winner take all event, the Triple A National Championship. It will be played in Durham, North Carolina. Win or lose, this has been a special season. We are the Champions!