The PawSox snapped an 8 game losing streak on Sunday afternoon in McCoy Stadium. They edged the lowly Indianapolis Indians, 3-2. Despite the win for Pawtucket, the last-place Indians took 3 of 4 and very nearly staged a ninth inning comeback that would have completely demoralized the club. Michael Bowden, T.J. Large, Javier Lopez and Fernando Cabrera combined to no-hit the Indians for 8 and 2 thirds innings, before Cabrera gave up a single to Larry Broadway and a home run to Tagg Bozied. Cabrera, who has been phernomenal this season, is struggling lately. At the Triple A All Star game he did earn a save, but only after giving up a home run. In his first appearaance after the break, he took a loss and then on Sunday, the hits to Indy.
Marcus McBeth has also had a great season for Pawtucket out of the pen. The multi-talented righthander was a high school football and baseball star. So good, in fact that he played both sports at the University of South Carolina. In baseball, he was a teammate of another former PawSox reliever, Lee Gronkiewicz. In football, he played for Lou Holtz. McBeth reminisced about his old coach on the weekend he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. “Playing for Coach Holtz was a lot like playing for RJ. His door was always open and he was a great motivator.” McBeth recalled a time just before his junior year when Holtz called his house. McBeth was at a crossroad in his career. Holtz asked him simply, “Marcus, is it going to be football or baseball?” Obviously, McBeth made the right choice and opted for baseball. He thinks Holtz was fond of him because of his cousin, Tony Rice. Rice was the quarterback who lead the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to the national championship in 1988. At that time, Holtz was the head coach in South Bend. Marcus says that Rice still lives in Indiana and has been successful in the mortgage business. Holtz was as good to his guys as you might imagine. “I’d go out of my way when I was on campus to stop by his office to talk. You never needed an appointment. He was always there for you. Even the season we were 0-11 (1999), he had us believing we could beat anyone.” McBeth looks forward to a return to the Columbia campus. “I haven’t been back for a while. I live in Arizona in the offseason and it’s tough, but I love it there.”
Ben Mondor seems to know when to pull out all the stops. The PawSox owner hosted a group of the “Little Sisters of the Poor” at McCoy on Sunday. I didn’t know if it was to bring the team good luck, or because maybe he thought they were a team the struggling PawSox could beat. My main man, infielder Jeff Natale caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown out by one of the nuns, then posed for a picture with the group. For some reason, it really cracked me up. I guess it’s a “good habit” to get into.
Despite his heavy workload, manager Ron Johnson always finds time to volunteer for the youth clinics held once a month during the season. In the midst of the losing streak, RJ was as jovial as ever, as he entertained and instructed the kids with a big smile on his face. He maintains that those clinics are his favorite thing to do. “We spend a lot of time with adults. This is great! The kids are so grateful..maybe it’s their first game…you never know. While he is always willing to help someone elses’ kid, he is extremely proud of his own. Son, Chris, is a third baseman in his first season at Triple A with the Houston Astros affiliate in Round Rock, Texas. “We keep in touch, we text regularly. When he’s going good, I hear from him all the time.” When asked if he takes advantage of his friends throughout the game to “keep tabs” on Chris, RJ is honest. “Heck yeah! I have lots of relationships and friends throughout baseball. I beg them to be truthful. I tell ’em I can take the truth”. RJ concedes that the reports are usually good, and that pleases him. “With Chris, I’m a father and fan first, a baseball guy, second.” Johnson admits that he looks forward to the day when Chris makes the majors, a feat RJ accomplished with Kansas City and Montreal. He also tries to be somewhat objective. “If he were with the Red Sox organization I think we’d want him to spend the whole season at Triple A.”