After finishing the 2008 season 85-58 and earning a playoff spot, it looked like the PawSox would be primed for a repeat performance in 2009. It was not meant to be. The team will finish somewhere around 20 games under .500 for the year. There have been some highlights both on and off the field, however. I thought it might be fun to remember before we turn the page on the season.
BEST ON FIELD PERFORMANCE
1. Clay Buchholz’ near perfect game in Louisville. Buch went 8 and a third before surrendering a hit to Danny Richar. He faced just 28 batters. It was a defining moment for a guy who has already pitched a no-hitter in the Major Leagues. A memorable Memorial Day.
2. Daniel Bard strikes out the side on 9 pitches. Before being promoted to Boston in May, Bard was impeccable as the PawSox closer. 9 pitches!! You try it.
1. The collapse of 2009. Pitching carried the PawSox until their epic slide began in Scranton around the fourth of July. No hitting + no pitching = no wins.
2. Fans keep coming. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but despite the tough economy and the poor on-field performance, McCoy packed ’em in. The PawSox will again draw over 600,000 fans. Give yourselves a standing ovation.
1. Bowling with Mark Kotsay. The Big Leaguer footed the bill for the entire team (including yours truly) on a bowling outing in Louisville. It was a great night and a tremendous amount of fun, cutting loose away from the ballpark. Kotsay is a class individual.
2. Niagara Falls with my daughter, Carly. Took advantage of a day game in Buffalo and took the short ride to the Falls. Breathtaking. Ran into Jeff Natale, Sean Danielson, Mark Wagner, Junichi Tazawa and trainer Masa Kubota. Classic father/daughter day. Capped it off with an Italian feast at Chef’s in Buffalo.
If you listen to our broadcasts, you know food is IMPORTANT to us. Here are my favorite meals of 2009.
1. “The Beirut” in Toldeo. Being of Lebanese heritage, I have a discriminating palate. Had Kibbee, Tabouli and Hummus. Not as good as Lucille’s, but unbelievable for a meal on the road.
2. “The Dinosaur Barbecue” in Syracuse and Rochester. One night Dan and I had what we agreed were the best ribs we had ever eaten. The Dinosaur never disappoints.
3. “The Change of Pace” in Syracuse. Best chicken wings, EVER. Owner Steve Grilli (losing pitcher in the longest game in baseball history) has the recipe, and the PawSox fans who made the trip to Cooperstown all agree.
4. “Broad Street Grill and Deli” in Allentown. The best sandwich in the International League, bar none. Philly Cheese Steak (made with chicken) melted blue cheese, onions and pickles. Delicious!
5. “Chef’s” in Buffalo. We were treated to Easter dinner there by owner Ben Mondor. (Glad to say it was my idea). Went back with Carly. Spaghetti Parmesan is the specialty of the house.
6. “Packo’s” in Toledo. Always go there in honor of Jamie Farr, Corporal Klinger from M*A*S*H* fame. The Hungarian hot dogs are really very good. The pickles are delightful, as well.
7. “Daddios” in Buffalo. Owner Jimmy rolls out the red carpet. Pizza, wings and great atmosphere makes this place a new favorite.
Honorable mention- Anchor Bar in Buffalo and the Italian place up the street from our hotel in Bethlehem, Pa. (don’t remember the name)
FAVORITE BALLPARK EXPERIENCE
1. Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. They built a new park and they got it right. In the “Arena District”, we broadcast from outside. Plenty of amenities around make it a good trip. Nice hotel and the fact that my kids live there, make it my favorite stop.
2. Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio. The staff is extremely helpful. Excellent park and it’s always a blast hanging out with the “dean” of I.L. broadcasters, Jim Webber.
PERSONAL FAVORITE MOMENTS
1. Interviewing Peter Gammons. The ESPN baseball expert and Hall of Fame honoree was gracious with his time. He told me that he enjoyed listening to me. How about that!
2. At Bat With Nat. Infielder Jeff Natale batted .1000 with his weekly pre-game interviews with teammates. I always got a good laugh..every time.
THE FACE IS FAMILIAR BUT….
1. Robert Coello
2. Brad Wilkerson
3. Joey Gathright
4. Chris Duncan
THE NICE GUYS (VETERAN DIVISION)
1. Mark Kotsay
2. Paul Byrd
3. Rocco Baldelli
I guess I could go on and on. It has been a blast getting to know “new” guys like Billy Traber and being with old friends like Jeff Bailey. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the development of men like Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden. It’s great when former PawSox players like Kevin Youkilis come back for a rehab assignment and they’re still as good guys as they were on the way up. Regardless of where the pieces to the 2009 puzzle wind up, I’m pretty sure we’ll cross paths, again. I hadn’t seen shortstop Chris Woodward in about 10 years, since we were together in Syracuse in 1999. Same for Indianapolis catcher Adam Melhuse. When you spend a season(s) with these guys, you form a bond that isn’t easily broken. 85-58 or 58-85, this is a great job!