Category: Uncategorized

HOW SWEEP IT IS !!!!!

     I have broadcast thousands of baseball games over my career.  Somewhere between 1700-1800 nights at ballparks all across the fruited plains.  Every season has ultimately ended in a loss, until Thursday night, September 13, 2012.  That was the night the Pawtucket Red Sox ended a 28 year drought.  For the first time since Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office, The PawSox reign as the champions of the International League.  Being there was a surreal experience.

     As a broadacster, you’re really not part of the team itself, but you are recognized as a part of the entourage.  You stay in the same hotels, eat at the same restaurants, ride the same busses and hang on every win and loss.  One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen was the final out, a sharply hit ground ball hit up the first base line, smothered by Andy LaRoche.  Andy waved off pitcher Josh Fields, stepped on the bag and the celebration began. 

     International League President, Randy Mobley made the presentation of the Governors’ Cup, symbolic of the I.L. championship to PawSox President, Mike Tamburro, General Manager, Lou Schweccheimer, Manager, Arnie Beyeler, and Red Sox Director of Player Development, Ben Crockett.  As the trophy was being hoisted, PawSox players orchestrated a well-choreographed attack of champagne on the brass.  The air was filled with foam and bubbles and plenty of smiles.  Over the course of a 144 game season, there are a lot of games that don’t matter.  This one clearly did.  I know a lot of the people there thought about Ben Mondor, the late owner of the PawSox, Arnie Beyeler mentioned him, saying he appreciated the help Ben must have given his club, smiling down from above.

     There has to be a catchy nickname for the Champion PawSox.  This club, lead by Nelson Figueroa, who won the clinching game in the regular season, the first round of the playoffs and in the championship round, as well, defied the odds.  A team decimated by promotions and defections and trades, had no business contending.  Portland Sea Dogs, veteran free agent types and a few remaining from our opening day roster, banded together and won it all.  In the long and storied history of the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise, these guys will forever be known as the PawSox team that won it all.  For some, it may be the highlight of their career, for others, perhaps a stepping stone to greater heights.  It can never be taken away.

     The PawSox rampaged through the I.L. playoffs, going 6-1.  That includes the first sweep in franchise history in the playoffs, taking three in a row from the completely overmatched Cahrlotte Knights.  There is a bit of unfinished business.  Tuesday night, the PawSox will face the winner of the Pacific Coast League title, either Omaha or Reno.  It’s a one game, winner take all event, the Triple A National Championship.  It will be played in Durham, North Carolina.  Win or lose, this has been a special season.  We are the Champions!

Advertisements

THE CATCH HAS CAUGHT ON

     This is the latest version of “The Catch”. If you’re a Willie Mays fan, it may have come in 1954. If you are a San Francisco 49er fan, it may have been Montana to Clark. If you are PawSox fan, this might be your Holy Grail. Jason Repko made the catch of the season the other day at McCoy, leaping over the leftfield wall to rob Kosuke Fukudome of a Grand Slam. It was a miraculous play by a very gifted defensive player. “The Catch” got, not only our attention, but the attention of the folks at the “Today Show”, “Good Morning America” and ESPN, to name a few. Repkos’ gem is currently a three time winner of the SportsCenter Top Ten, Best of the Best. This means it has been deemed the best play in sports for three days in a row. That includes ML baseball, NFL, US Open Tennis, Golf, Soccer and the 2012 Paralympics. Very impressive.

      Repko takes us through what he saw off the bat of Fukudome. “I knew it was going to be somewhere in the vicinity of being near the wall. I didn’t know it was going to be a homer. I had a pretty good read on it. Running back, I knew I was going to try to make a play on it. I was running pretty quick and jumped up. Instantly, as I was catching the ball, I looked to see where I was. I was already up on the wall. I knew I was going over. Luckily, I stretched my right hand over to brace myself and I was able to twist myself onto my feet. Not hurt…so it was good stuff.” Repko scratched his arm on the play, so he checked that as he realized there were runners on base and that was the first out. He still can’t explain why he jumped back onto the playing field before making his throw. One run scored, but only one as he got a thunderous ovation at McCoy.

     A great defensive player, Jason ranked his heroics. “That’s right up there with some of my best, I think. I’ve made catches like that before, but the wall has never been four and a half feet high, so that adds to it, flipping over into the bullpen.” What flashes through your mind at a moment like that? “More than anything, it was trying to prevent myself from falling on my face. As funny as it sounds, I’ve looked behind that fence before to see if anything was back there. Pre-planning in my head. This was months ago when I first got here. If something like this happens, am I safe doing what I did. Everything looked good back there, so that’s what made me feel free about going for it.”

     Repko says the acclaim and notoriety has resulted in tons of tweets, texts and facebook messages. “It’s been pretty cool.” Repko isn’t the first PawSox player to make the coveted top 10 in 2012. In May, Lars Anderson peaked at #4 when his home run hit his picture on the giant video board at McCoy. Repko has taken it to a new level. Already a three day winner, this could receive an ESPY nomination as play of the year.

     As a conspiracy theorist and a guy who likes a little controversy now and then, I jokingly asked Jason if he really made the catch. His eyes bugged out and he quickly and emphatically replied. “Of course I did. The umpire asked me the same question.” If you don’t believe Jason, just check out the bullpens’ reaction. In unison, they raised their arms. You can’t stage that.

      In the end, “The Catch” may be overwhadowed by the Governors’ Cup playoffs and a possibhly an I.L. crown, but those who saw it, won’t soon forget it.

DANIEL BARD KEEPS WORKING AND LEARNING

      It occured to me the other day that no one has heard Daniel Bard speak in quite a while.  Probably not since he first joined the PawSox to iron out his mechanics and then rejoin Boston.  Things didn’t quite work out that way.  The PawSox are in the final week of the regular season, hunting down the Wild Card berth and Bard is a mainstay in the Pawtucket bullpen.  Bard was asked to assess 2012, both on the field and personally.  “I’ve learned a lot, to say the least.  It’s been a crazy season.  Not what I expected if you talked to me back in February.  At the same time, it’s part of my journey, part of my career.  I’m confident I’m going to come out a better person, a better pitcher.  I know I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place right now.  I finally have a sense of comfort out there.  I feel like I’m back in control.  I’m anxious to see what the future holds.”

     Bard says he can’t afford to waste time thinking “what if I hadn’t moved into the starting rotation”.  He was, after all the best setup man in the American League, if not all the Majors.  “I think it’s natural to wonder what might have happened if I’d moved back to the pen when (Andrew) Bailey went down.  I think it happened for a reason.  The way things played out, I think I’ve been put through these trials to make me better or make someone else better.  It hasn’t been all fun at times, but I think you can learn something from every situation.”

     Bards’ 2012 season has been a microcosm of the year the Red Sox have endured.  Nothing has gone the way anyone planned.  When asked about the blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, Daniel admitted to being stunned.  “I don’t think it’s really sunk in  yet, just how big that trade was and just what an impact it will have on our season and our future.  It’s going to change the landscape of baseball in a lot of ways.  It was something the Red Sox kind of had to do.  After this year, they had to make a fresh start.  I’m glad I’m still here to be a part of it and see what happens next year.  Still, it’s sad to see those guys go.  I was good friends with all of them.  I wish them all the best out there.  It will be interesting to see what they (The Red Sox) do with all the freed up finances.”

    Despite his struggles at times this year,  Bard has remained strong and has never entertained the idea of giving up.  “I never thought of shutting it down.  I’ve stayed healthy all year.  When you’re healthy, you can keep going out there and working on things.  I’ve been blessed to stay healthy.  For me, it’s just a matter of taking it one day at a time.  Each outing, each day.  Whether it goes the way I planned or not.  Each day I get a fresh start.  Don’t let the last day beat you.  I try to get it out of my system.  It doesn’t matter today, what you did yesterday.  That’s how I try to approach it.”  Bard adds that he rarely loses sleep over a tough outing, but it’s not because he doesn’t care.  “No, I rarely lose sleep, whether it’s going good or bad.  I’ve had some frustrating drives home, but I always try to leave it at the ballpark.  I don’t let baseball become the most important thing in my life, and that keeps things in perspective for me.”

     As a 23 year old coming up through the Boston system, the right hander regularly threw in the upper 90s.  His fastball these days is more often in the 91-95 mph range.  Daniel isn’t concerned.  “If you look back to the Spring, I’m over 100 or 110 innings.  That’s more than I’ve thrown in the last three years.  In the beginning of the season, I think it was mechanics.  I feel I’ve corrected that and cleaned it up for the most part.  My velocity isn’t where it was a couple of years ago, but then again, I’m not as young as I used to be.  I feel good.  My arm feels good.”

     Bard is eager for the offseason and getting a fresh start in Fort Myers in February.  First he has other things he looks forward to.  “I want to spend a lot of time in a deer stand (hunting) and after a couple of weeks, get back to working out and get back into the flow of things.” 

     Despite his travails, Bard has handled the entire season with class and dignity.  He has been nothing but a true professional.  The kind of guy you want to root for. 

YOU COULD DEFINITELY USE A PROGRAM

      Sometimes the ideas for these blogs flow freely.  Other times, I sit and stare at the screen of my laptop for a long time.  This morning, it was the latter.  I am amazed that we are on our final road trip of the season.  After we finish n Charlotte, we head further south to Gwinnett to face the Braves in Georgia.  Despite massive personnel changes, the PawSox are still chasing a postseason berth.  A few nights ago against Rochester at McCoy, the Sox starting lineup featured exactly one player from the Opening Day lineup from manager Arnie Beyeler.  Che-Hsuan Lin was the only man in the starting lineup from April.

     Off the top of my headhere’s who isn’t here anymore. (In no particular order)  Lars Anderson (Columbus), Aaron Cook, Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Clay Mortenson, Andrew Miller, Scott Podsednik, Junichi Tazawa (Boston),  Brandon Duckworth, Doug Mathis (Japan),  Justin Germano (Cubs), Ross Ohlendorf (Padres), Luis Exposito (Orioles), Josh Kroeger (releaased), Chorye Spoon (released), Justin Thomas, Darnell McDonald (Scranton).  Those are just the guys I remember while sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Pineville, N.C.  Yesterday I rode to the ballpark in a shuttle with 11 players.  Not one of them was an original member of the 2012 PawSox.

     We may make the playoffs.  We might not.  It’s that close.  These days, Alex Hassan (leg) and Reynaldo Rodriguez (hand) are on the disabled list.  Various ailments and injuries have also sidelined Jose iglesias (knee), J.C. Linares (hand), Will Inman (finger).  With this knowledge, you probably agree that manager Arnie Beyeler has done a miraculous job keeping the club in the hunt.  All 5 starting pitchers from the team that started out 45-25 are gone.  The DH, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman,catcher, rightfielder are all gone as well.  After the amazing start, the PawSox dropped 9 straight.  The last six weeks or so, they’ve played .500 ball.  This last week, the PawSox have dropped 5 of 7.  We were great, terrible, and average.  The same team? Yes, but not really.

     At this very moment, Nate Spears, Lin, Tony Thomas, Jason Repko and Alex Wilson are the healthy holdovers.  Thomas has played very well despite months on the disabled list.  Newcomers like Dan Butler and Mike Rivera behind the plate, Andy LaRoche and Jon Hee in the infield and Josh Fields and Pedro Beato in the bullpen, along with the “new” starting rotation of Zach Stewart, Chris Hernandez, Billy Buckner, Nelson Figueroa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are holding down the fort.

     You aren’t cheering for the same guys today that you rooted for in April.  However, there is a common denominator.  They all wear, or wore the Pawtucket Red Sox jersey, and that’s what makes them your boys of summer.   

YOU COULD DEFINITELY USE A PROGRAM

      Sometimes the ideas for these blogs flow freely.  Other times, I sit and stare at the screen of my laptop for a long time.  This morning, it was the latter.  I am amazed that we are on our final road trip of the season.  After we finish n Charlotte, we head further south to Gwinnett to face the Braves in Georgia.  Despite massive personnel changes, the PawSox are still chasing a postseason berth.  A few nights ago against Rochester at McCoy, the Sox starting lineup featured exactly one player from the Opening Day lineup from manager Arnie Beyeler.  Che-Hsuan Lin was the only man in the starting lineup from April.

     Off the top of my headhere’s who isn’t here anymore. (In no particular order)  Lars Anderson (Columbus), Aaron Cook, Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Clay Mortenson, Andrew Miller, Scott Podsednik, Junichi Tazawa (Boston),  Brandon Duckworth, Doug Mathis (Japan),  Justin Germano (Cubs), Ross Ohlendorf (Padres), Luis Exposito (Orioles), Josh Kroeger (releaased), Chorye Spoon (released), Justin Thomas, Darnell McDonald (Scranton).  Those are just the guys I remember while sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Pineville, N.C.  Yesterday I rode to the ballpark in a shuttle with 11 players.  Not one of them was an original member of the 2012 PawSox.

     We may make the playoffs.  We might not.  It’s that close.  These days, Alex Hassan (leg) and Reynaldo Rodriguez (hand) are on the disabled list.  Various ailments and injuries have also sidelined Jose iglesias (knee), J.C. Linares (hand), Will Inman (finger).  With this knowledge, you probably agree that manager Arnie Beyeler has done a miraculous job keeping the club in the hunt.  All 5 starting pitchers from the team that started out 45-25 are gone.  The DH, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman,catcher, rightfielder are all gone as well.  After the amazing start, the PawSox dropped 9 straight.  The last six weeks or so, they’ve played .500 ball.  This last week, the PawSox have dropped 5 of 7.  We were great, terrible, and average.  The same team? Yes, but not really.

     At this very moment, Nate Spears, Lin, Tony Thomas, Jason Repko and Alex Wilson are the healthy holdovers.  Thomas has played very well despite months on the disabled list.  Newcomers like Dan Butler and Mike Rivera behind the plate, Andy LaRoche and Jon Hee in the infield and Josh Fields and Pedro Beato in the bullpen, along with the “new” starting rotation of Zach Stewart, Chris Hernandez, Billy Buckner, Nelson Figueroa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are holding down the fort.

     You aren’t cheering for the same guys today that you rooted for in April.  However, there is a common denominator.  They all wear, or wore the Pawtucket Red Sox jersey, and that’s what makes them your boys of summer.   

NAVA’S BACK IN TOWN

     There are certain people that make you feel good, no matter what.  Daniel Nava is one such person.  The outfielder is back with the PawSox for a Major League rehab assignment (wrist).  He has distinguished himself this season in Boston, after not even getting an invitation to Major League camp this past Spruing Training.  Nava, who went 0-1 with a couple of walks on Sunday, talked about his ailing wrist.  “The status is, I’m good.  They’re better.  I’m here to see some pitches and get some at bats, and hopefully get back to Boston quick.”

     Nava made a huge splash in 2010.  In his very first Major League at bat, on the very first pitch he saw in the Bigs, he crushed a grand slam off Joe Blanton of Philadelphia.  Nava says this time around is different.  “I think anytime you do something for a second or third time, you have a better understanding of what to expect.  Things just weren’t a shock.  You knew what was coming.  What to expect and what not to expect.”  

     Nava doesn’t let the praise he’s received from management and media alike, go to his head.  “Of course it feels good.  It serves as motivation to continue the hard work.  Let’s keep it going.  Don’t get lackadaisical.  Arnie (Beyeler) and I had a conversation when I first got called up this year about that and it was something that stuck with me.”

     Nava has had a birds’ eye view inside the Boston clubhouse for most of the season.  He maintains that the Sox are still very much alive despite their struggles. “This team is still built to win.  It’s a really good team.  The positive is that  you go day by day to get a win any way you can.  That can be the best thing.  I don’t think that anyone on the team has thrown in the towel.  It has been a grind.  Every day is a grind, whether we’ve played well or not, it’s been challenging with all the injuries.  There’s nothing left to lose, so hopefully we can get things going back in the right direction.”

     Daniel adds with all the added scrutiny, the rumors and innuendo swirling about the Sox, his teammates are handling it well.  “A lot of the guys are used to it.  They’ve been around the game.  They’re savvy veterans.  You learn to separate that from what happens on the field.  This is the time to prove the doubters wrong and hopefully we can make a playoff push.”

     Tradition dictates that a M.L. player on a rehab, buys his minor league teammates a meal, or “spread” after the game.  Knowing Nava and his health conscious habits, infielder Jon Hee joked that it would probably come from “Whole Foods.”  “Yeah, he’ll get us a salad bar.”  Hee laughed.  Nava laughed harder when he heard Jons’ comments. “What’s wrong with that?”  Nothing…..I guess.

    

HASSAN AND PAWSOX BATTLE THE YANKEES

    If Tuesdays’ game between the PawSox and Scranton was any indication, this is going to be some stretch drive.  The two teams atop the North Division battled it out and the PawSox took it 9-7.  Pawtucket jumped out to a 9-0 lead and hung on for dear life.  Believe it or not, with 20 games remaining on the 2012 schedule, there are 8 left against the Yankees.  That includes a doubleheader on Wednesday night at McCoy.  It’s a two game swing every night, meaning if the PawSox lost last night, they’d trail SWB by three games.  Instead, it’s just one game.  It’s shaping up to be a fun final couple of weeks.  And by the way, just for good measure, the PawSox close out the regular season with 4 at home against the Yankees.  Talk about drama.  There are a couple of very familiar faces on the Scranton roster.  Manny Delcarmen and Darnell McDonald.

     One name that has become familiar to Sox fans, is Alex Hassan.  The native of Quincy Mass. has had a very good first season in Triple A.  He offered his thoughts.  “It’s been pretty good.  I’ve definitely had some ups and downs but this has been the most challenging level for me so far.  It has forced me to make adjustments for the better.  I’ve had my struggles, but those are what make you better in the long run.”  Hassan got off to a slow start in April, going 0 for his first 17.  “It was really tough, but that’s the name of this game.  It’s a game built on failure, especially if you’re a hitter.  There are going to be some tough times in this game, but that’s ok.  Everyone goes through it.  It’s tough but if you’re going to play baseball, you have to accept it and persevere.”

     When enduring a tough stretch, Hassan says there is really only one person that can help him.  “It’s me. A lot of people will say stuff to try to help, but ultimately it’s me that has to make the decisions and have a good attitude.  It’s hard to do.  The coaches here are really supportive, but it’s in your hands.  Ultimately, it’s up to you.”

     Hassan adds that he tries to be a good teammated to those who have followed him up from AA Portland.  “Just be supportive.  They’re all good players, so I don’t need to help them with that part.  We’re always there for each other.”  That could come in handy as they round the final turn.