You shouldn’t be surprised to know that professional athletes are sports fans. Fans of sports other than the ones where they earn their living. That rings true in the PawSox clubhouse these days. With the Celtics ready to square off against the Lakers in the NBA finals, there’s no shortage of trash-talking at McCoy Stadium.
I begin by saying that I am, and have always been a Celts’ fan. I did get a little disgusted during the year, when some of the C’s claimed they were “bored” with the regular season. They’ve flipped the switch, dispatched Dwyane and the Heat, LeBron and the Cavs and Dwight and the Magic. Up next- Kobe ad the Lakers. While Red Sox skipper Terry Francona is a big fan of Doc Rivers and the Celtics, PawSox manager Torey Lovullo is not. “I grew up in ‘Cally’ and I’ve always been a Lakers fan”. While we all know, thanks to Pete Rose, that betting on baseball is illegal, there is no rule that prevents two colleagues from making a friendly wager on the series. I have Boston. Torey has L.A. Loser takes the winner out to dinner…….Hmmmm, somewhere on Fedeal Hill might be nice. Lovullo is greatly outnumbered in his own clubhouse. Leading the attack, with a “BEAT LA” bumper sticker on his locker is New Englander Chad Paronto. The big reliever sums it up nicely- “There’s one thing that wins championships- Heart. And that’s what the Celtics have!!” Tuesday, as several members of the PawSox sat in the dugout during an afternoon thunder storm, Paronto compared a lightning bolt to a Ray Allen jump shot. “It’ll kill you.” Chad is definitely the most vocal Celtics fan. Decked out in a C’s t-shirt, he high-fived any teammates who agreed with him and admonished those who didn’t.
An informal exit poll was conducted that afternoon and of the 25 men asked a simple question- “Boston or L.A.?” eighteen had the good sense to respect the “Mystique”. There was an almost universal response after they said “Celtics”. Most of the time, it was quickly followed with “I hate Kobe!” Instead of listing all the “smart” guys, I’ll rat out the Lakers fans. It’ll be much quicker. Besides Torey, pitching coach Rich Sauveur says the Lakers will win. Sauveur is joined by pitchers Randor Bierd, Fabio Castro, Robert Manuel, and infielders Lars Anderson and Gil Velazquez. It’s always fun. Game one is set for Thursday.
It’s always interesting to talk with Lovullo about his father, Sam, who was the executive producer for the old TV show “HeeHaw.” Torey said his dad was such a great baseball fan, that occasionally, he’d invite stars of the game to appear on the country music program. “Dizzy Dean, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Stan Musial all came on the show.” Lovullo remembers how Deans’ appearance got hin into trouble. ” I was a young kid. We were playing ball outside and we lost the ball. I ran into the house and grabbed the first baseball I could find. We continued to play and when my father got home, he noticed we were playing with the ball Dizzy Dean had autographed for me.” Torey said his father never usually got too angry with him, but that day was an exception. “Oh, was he mad! He took the ball. He was ticked!”
After Mickey Mantles’ appearance on the program, he forged a friendship with co-host, Roy Clark. The two developed such a close bond, that Clark sang at the Micks’ funeral in 1995. As much as I hate to admit it, and I did ‘fess up to Torey, despite my hatred of the Yankees, I got a little emotional as Clark, with his guitar, crooned- “Yesterday, when I was young….” I’ll always remember Clarks’ words as he got ready to pay tribute to his friend. “A promise is a promise. it just wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.” Torey added that Clark has come to the ballpark where he’s been managing before and taken batting practice.” I’ll keep you posted.
One final thought for the day. With the health of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron still so “iffy”, you might wonder if the Red Sox are “fast-tracking” Ryan Kalish. The 22 year old prospect had played just 7 games in center for Portland, while playing at least twice as many at each of the corner spots. Kalish played center on Tuesday night for the PawSox. He went 0-4, but made a couple of nice sliding/diving catches in center. We’ll keep an eye on that for you, too.