It isn’t always easy to be a leader. When your ballclub is in first place and you’re cruising towards the playoffs, it’s much easier than when you’re 20 games under .500 and going nowhere fast. Leaders aren’t always necessarily your best players, but they can be. For example, Dustin Pedroia is clearly the leader of the Red Sox. In this case, we’re talking about the PawSox. Let’s face it, with roughly three weeks left in the season, the club isn’t going anywhere. Tuesday night, we were treated to another “Are you kidding me” moment when Ryan Kalish belted a grand slam for Boston. I guess we should be used to that type of thing by now, but it still seems very special to me. Guys like Kalish, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden, at one point the meat and potatoes for Pawtucket are helping the Red Sox in their pennant push.
There is always a danger that guys are just going through the motions this time of year. Manager Torey Lovullo is well aware of it and he is ever vigilant for that. “The day to day grind of baseball will never change for me. My job is to help these kids get better every single day and help them get to the Big Leagues. Plain and simple, that’s all I want to do. I do my best and that won’t change from my standpoint. What I’m concerned about, what tends to happen around this time every year is the ‘shutdown’ mentality of a player. When I sense it or when I feel it, and I’ve sensed it a couple of times the last couple of days around here, I’ve got to address the team and let them know that they are playing for a lot of different situations. Some of them are playing for callups, some for Major League roster spots. Some are playing for next year. Some are auditioning for other teams for next year. And finally, others won’t be playing at all next year. This may be the last time you get the opportunity to play professional baseball. You have to make the guys understand that there’s a job to do, and they have to do it, even though the playoffs aren’t lurking.”
If you consider the PawSox an army and Lovullo the general, he would have to have some officers to help him carry out his daily plan. Not just coaches Gerald Perry and Rich Sauveur, but veteran players who can lead. Lovullo singled out a couple of the elder statesmen on his squad who provide the leadership every team desparately needs. “Chad Paronto and Gil Velazquez have been unbelievable.” The PawSox have had a carousel of players rotating through the clubhouse all season long. If Lovullo had to give the same speech to a “newbie” every day, he’d barely have time to do anything else. “It’s a tremendous comfort to know that guys like Gil and Chad handle a lot of the business and they don’t have to be told. They’re smart, good guys. They’ve been around. That’s invaluable to a manager.”
Whether it’s Paronto with his humor or Velazquez and his business-like approach, these guys respect the game. They play it the right way and they want others to do the same. This season has had some very special moments. Some you’ve seen. Others you haven’t. Leaders like these guys have helped hold it together.