One of the highlights of the PawSox annual Hot Stove event is meeting the young men who might wear the Pawtucket uniform during the upcoming season.  Over the years, I have gotten a first glimpse of guys like Kelly Shoppach, David Murphy and Daniel Bard.  This years group included pitcher Stephen Fife, a 24 year old right hander out of the University of Utah.  Fife had recently participated in the Red Sox rookie development program and it meant an awful lot to him.  “It’s a tremendous honor.  To think that they bring 11 guys in and there are probably 150-180 guys in the system, that they think that highly of me to have me come in for two weeks.  I definitely take it as a huge honor.”  Fife continued.  “They bring in all kinds of resources to talk to you and teach you invaluable lessons that you won’t get anywhere else.”

      The 2008, third round pick says the program is an incredible bonding experience.  “No matter where you go in baseball, it is a bonding experience.  You’re in the clubhouse, building friendships, spending time together.  This just helps it grow deeper.”  One relationship that existed long before this months’ program, was the one he has cultivated with former #1 prospect, Ryan Westmoreland, the Portsmouth RI native who underwent brain surgery last March.  Fife says despite geographical challenges, the two manage to keep in touch.  “I try to be as close to him as  I can.  Obviously the distance between us makes it harder.  I’ll be staying with him at Spring Training.  He’s just a tremendous kid with a huge heart and a great family.  I really enjoy being around him.”

     Fife remains optimistic that his friend will lead a normal life and is confident that a career in baseball is still a distinct possibility.  “I believe that him getting back to normal is just around the corner.  He is progressing pretty rapidly.  He’s hitting balls out of the park right now.  His work ethic and mentality have never changed.  His personality either.  I fully expect him to be back on the field some time this year at some point.  Hopefully, he’ll break camp and go to Greenville or maybe even Salem.  Even if he gets to Lowell at mid-season finishing up his rehab, I fully expect to see him in uniform this season, in a lineup.”

     Stephen Fife is a young, strong athlete.  Like a lot of guys, he felt an air of invincibility.  After being around Westmoreland and cancer survivor Anthony Rizzo who was traded to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Fife realizes that nothing in life is guaranteed.  “You can’t take anything for granted.  Crazy things happen in this world.  Crazy things happen to people every day.  If it is all taken away from me tomorrow, I hope I can look back and say I didn’t leave anything on the field.  You have to live today for what it is. You have to enjoy life as much as you can.  Meet people and be as good a friend as you can.  That’s something Rizzo and Ryan have in common.  No matter how bad they felt or how down they were about not being on the field, they both continued to be the same guys, and they’ve both made it back .”     


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