It seems that the latest thing to do if you are a member of the Red Sox is to get out there and give your side of the story. After all, fair is fair. If you feel you’ve been misrepresented, clear the air. John Henry did it. Terry Francona did it. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and the list goes on.
I do have what I’d call a Red Sox bias. By that, I mean the men who came through the Sox system and spent time in Pawtucket. Every man currently on the Sox roster that played at McCoy, without exception, I know to be a good person. That was Jon Lesters’ message earlier this week, as he launched a media blitz, trying to clear his name and the names of his alleged beer-swilling, chicken-chomping, video game-playing cohorts.
Jon Lester is a very good pitcher, coming into his prime. Admittedly, we don’t speak very often, but when we do, it’s like we’ve reverted back to his days in a Pawtucket uniform. Lester was an unassuming young man with a boat load of talent. Pre World Series hero, Pre cancer, Pre everything. Before 99% of the world got to know him, I did. They say that you make your friends in the minor leagues, before the fame and fortune arrives. I would not go as far as to say that Jon and I are friends, but I like him very much. I vividly remember sitting in the bar of the hotel in Rochester, NY when Jon was just a pup working his way through the system. It was a cold Spring night and we were both looking for a late night meal. As we ate, we talked about a variety of topics, just getting acquainted. It was something I’ve done with hundreds of athletes ove the years. I had a broadcast partner once who never spoke to the guys unless he had the microphone on. Couldn’t have cared less about them as people. My philosophy has always been, if I get to know the player as a person, so will my listeners. That has served me well over the decades. I learned about Jons’ love of the outdoors, especially hunting. He’d head south to Georgia and test his skils with former Pawtucket third baseman Chad Spann. That’s the Lester I got to know.
I remember when Jon made it to the Big Leagues, one of the things they wanted him to do, was “follow” Josh Beckett around. Learn from him. Ironic, isn’t it? Lester defended Beckett and John Lackey and their “rally beers”. When Kevin Millar and the “idiots” chugged their Jack Daniels and went on to win the World Series, it was quirky, and it was celebrated. When the “Red Flops” of 2011 completed their epic collapse, Colonel Sanders, Anheuser Busch and X-Box took the hit. Hypocritical? Maybe, but we need someone to blame. A team with that much talent just can’t go 7-20 down the stretch. To his credit, Lester admitted that he “stunk”.
I am certain that in the coming days and weeks there will be other stories told by other members of the Sox. When I see Jon Lester, it’s always a positive experience. He treats me with a great deal of respect. We talk about our families and how we’ve been. My colleagues in the media may think I’m naive but I am giving Lester the benefit of the doubt. He’s a grown man. He doesn’t need to follow the example of Josh Beckett, or anyone else for that matter. He’s the ace of the staff. He can lead the Sox back to glory. On my refrigerator, there’s a photo taken a few years ago at McCoy Stadium. It features Jon standing between my daughters, Eva and Carly. It’s going to stay up on the fridge. You would be proud to have the Jon Lester I know as a friend, son or brother.