The PawSox annual Hot Stove party takes place this weekend at McCoy Stadium. On Friday we got together with a bunch of the Red Sox top prospects in Pawtucket and looked ahead to the 2010 season. New manager Torey Lovullo, and his wife Kristen are still in town and will preside over the festivities Saturday. Also present were Director of Player Development Mike Hazen, who good naturedly threw a beat down at former manager Ron Johnson. “Torey won’t want to use the office that RJ had until it’s been disinfected.” Jon Jochim is the new athletic trainer, replacing Greg Barajas, now with the Red Sox. He joins the staff after a year with the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. Mike Roose will also join the staff as the strength and conditioning coach.
It will be interesting to see which of the prospects begins the season in Pawtucket. On hand were 21 year old Ryan Kalish who split 2009 between Salem and Portland. He combined for 18 HR and 77 RBI. The native of New Jersey was a ninth round pick in 2006. Juinchi Tazawa, no stranger to PawSox fans, was accompanied by translator Masai Takahashi. Tazawa made his M.L. debut in ’09. 25 year old Randor Bierd, acquired last season in the trade for David Pauley says he is healthy and ready to go. Lefty Felix Doubront had the second best ERA in the Eastern League last year. The 22 year old could be a good bet for a summer in Pawtucket. Kyle Weiland was a third round pick in 2008 out of Notre Dame. He spent last season in Salem and could be a year away from McCoy. Jeff Natale, looking fit and trim after spending his winter in Boston working out is ready for ’10. “A little bit of defensive consistency is all that is keeping him out of the Majors” according to Ron Johnson. Assuming Natale returns to Pawtucket, he will continue to host his weekly radio segment “At Bat with Nat.”
Casey Kelly is one of the crown jewels in the Red Sox system. Ranked as the #2 prospect in the organization by Baseball America, behind RI native Ryan Westmoreland, Kelly is the son of former Major Leaguer and minor league manager, Pat Kelly. The senior Kelly was the skipper of the 2009 Syracuse SkyChiefs and I was the radio broadcaster for the team. I have clear memories of PK bringing his son with us on the road and dining with them at a steakhouse. Casey was set to accept a full scholarship at the University of Tennessee to play quarterback for the Vols before he was drafted by Boston in the first round in 2008. After splitting time between shortstop and pitcher last season, he and the Sox have decided to devote all Caseys’ time to mound work. He looks forward to a season with no big decisions to make. “I only played football because it was fun. I never thought I could do anything with it. I just played it because I had a good arm and I liked football. I started to get noticed, and have letters come in from big-time programs. It was very exciting and when I signed with Tennessee, I was ready to go there.” The Red Sox were able to change his mind. “The draft came and it was something I couldn’t pass up. Growing up around baseball, I knew it was my first love and from there, it was a no-brainer.” So he picked baseball over football and with some prodding, pitching over shortstop. “We kind of sat down during the offseason and talked about where we saw me and the path I’d take to the Major Leagues. I sat for long lengths with my family and talked about what was my goal. That was to be in the Big Leagues. It really didn’t matter how I got there. That was an easy decision.”
Last summer, I had to be peeled off the ceiling when legendary writer and broadcaster Peter Gammons told me he enjoyed listening to me on the air. Got just as big a boost on Friday when Gordon Edes, formerly of the Boston Globe, now with ESPN Boston.com told me he liked this blog. Thanks Gordon. The feeling is way more than mutual.
I want to congratulate two colleagues. Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal was named the state of RI’s sportswriter of the year. I am honored to share the states’ sportscaster of the year award with Steve McDonald of WHJJ, who also serves as a sideline reporter for Cox broadcasts of PawSox games. We will be heading to Salisbury North Carolina in early May for the annual National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association convention. I’m fortunate enough to have won for the third time in the last four years. No way it’s possible without my partner Dan Hoard, and Ben Mondor and Mike Tamburro who graciously allow me to broadcast PawSox games.