DOWN IN THE VALLEY
Every once in a while you lay an egg so big, that even the Easter Bunny couldn’t deliver it. That was the case on Friday night in Lehigh Valley as the Iron Pigs destroyed the PawSox 13-3. The Pigs banged out 18 base hits en route to the rout. Kris Johnson got roughed up, surrendering 8 runs in just two and a third innings. KJ had not given up a run in 10 previous inninngs in 2009. Julio Lugo played in his second rehab game for the PawSox, going 0-3 with a walk. Lugo is coming back from a knee injury and seems to have limited range at shortstop. I had the opportunity to sit down with him for a pre-game interview and Lugo could not have been more cooperative or accomodating. The perpetual scowl on his face melted away as he spoke fondly of his time with the Red Sox, his brother Ruddy (currently with the Toledo Mud Hens) and the house he bought for his mother. He assured me that David Ortiz would be fine and he would put up “Papi-like” numbers before 2009 was over. Perhaps his most interesting comments involved former teammate Manny Ramirez. Lugo, who has the bat that Manny used for home run #500 says Ramirez is one of his best friends, the best teammate he has ever had and a guy who cares deeply about the game. Lugo adds, that like a lot of geniuses, he is greatly misunderstood. Hopefully, Lugo will get the bat going and be able to contribute in Boston.
When the PawSox are in “The Valley”, we stay at the Hotel Bethlehem. It is a quaint, old-time place , that probably was the talk of the town when Eisenhower occupied the Oval Office. There are photos and placards throughout the lobby and elevators celebrating former guests of the venerable “old girl”. I wonder what it means when they’re still bragging about Bob Hope, a young Shirley Temple, President John F. Kennedy and the Dalai Lama? Anyone from THIS century staying there?
One of the best parts of this job is getting to know the players on a personal level. We spend a ton of time together. After a morning trip to work out at a local gym, (the players are required to spend a certain amount of time at a workout facility each week) we returned to our hotel. The centerpiece of the lobby is a grand piano. It is rigged to either be played by a person, or act as a “player” piano, the type that just plays without someone sitting at it. All of a sudden, piano music filled the lobby. Beautiful, melodic and soulful, it sounded like it came from the heavens. I figured someone had turned the Player piano. I turned and looked and was amazed to see right handed pitcher Marcus McBeth, masterfully playing a hit by Alicia Keys. It was magnificent. So good in fact, that it got an enormous ovation from teammates and passersby when he was done. The native of Spartanburg South Carolina credits his mother, who had him on this bench since the tender age of four.