Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the category “Other”

Where Are They Now?

Photo courtesy of bostondirtdogs.com

This is a blog that is driven by the present, the here and now. We look at what the Red Sox are doing off of the field and try to project how it will translate on the field. When the games begin, it’s all about wins and losses, what the Sox need to do or could have done to get a check in the win column. But baseball is a game that constantly reminds us it’s perfectly fine to temporarily abandon the present and turn our attention to the past. I mean, who doesn’t like to reminisce on the fall of 2004? If someone wants to chat about Pedro Martinez‘ performance in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS, sign me up. I’m in.

The point? Looking back is fun. So let’s take a peak in the past at some former Red Sox players and see what they’re doing now.

Bill Mueller is a professional scout within the Dodgers organization. Before that, he was a special assistant to the GM. Mueller will never have a place in Cooperstown, but he will always be a hero in households around New England. Fans tend to remember Kevin Millar‘s walk and Dave Roberts critical stolen base during the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. But it was Mueller’s sharp RBI single up the middle off of closer Mariano Rivera that tied the game and gave David Oritz the opportunity to do what David Ortiz does. Just one year before his ALCS heroics, Mueller led the American League in hitting, took home the Silver Slugger Award for his position, and finished 12th in MVP voting.

Dante Bichette was named the Rockies’ hitting coach this past November. Bichette will always be best known for his seven years in Colorado where he served as of one the Senior Circuit’s most feared sluggers. But on August 31, 2000, he was traded from the Reds to the Red Sox. In 137 games, between ’00 and ’01, with the Red Sox, Bichette would hit 19 home runs and get on-base at a .331 clip. He would spend the final year of his 14-year career with the Red Sox in 2001.

Mo Vaughn, once a force in the batter’s box, has evolved into a force in the real estate market. Vaughn is the co-founder of Omni New York LLC, a company that focuses on “bringing revitalization and development to various neighborhoods in New York and other states.” Given the amount of charity work Vaughn participated in during his time in Boston, it only makes sense that he would focus his business ventures on areas of the community that are in need of affordable housing.

In the interest of transparency, Mo was my first ever favorite player. If you’re a sports fan, you can probably point to the player you first fell head over heels for as a kid. The Hit Dog was my first. In 1995, I was seven. Vaughn won the MVP while posting a .300/.388/.575 line. He slugged 39 home runs and went on to have an even better season in 1996. It was around that time that my parents came home with a present for me. It was a plaque with a Topps baseball card of Mo in the middle of one of his signature swings. It is still hanging above my bed in my parents’ house. I’ll always remember that hunched over stance from the left side. Vaughn was big papi before Big Papi.

 Aaron Sele is a special assistant within the Dodgers organization. Sele is a former first round pick by the Red Sox–23rd overall–in 1991. He spent five years with the Red Sox. In 1993, Sele finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He went on to have a 15-year career in the bigs, but his most notable achievement may have been his beautiful breaking ball. Cause, damn. That was nice.

Manny Ramirez is in talks to play for the Taiwanese professional league. If you don’t believe me, here it is. Failed drug tests aside, Ramirez is probably the best hitter I’ve ever seen in play in a Red Sox uniform. Everyone loved the towering home runs to left field that cleared that big green wall, but looking back, I am most impressed by Ramirez’ ability to attack the entire field, to the spray the ball with ease to right center gap. There is a small fraternity of Red Sox players, past and present, who are part of the “first name club.” Think about it. We refer to Pedro Martinez as “Pedro” — not “Martinez.” Nomar Garciaparra is “Nomar” and Ted Williams is “Ted.” Manny, for better or worse, will always be Manny.

One Year Down

Photo via amazon.com

One year ago today, I wrote an article on this site about Daniel Bard and what to expect as he transitions from reliever to starter. It was the first post on a blog that I started as an outlet to express my opinions and thoughts about a team that means a great deal to me. Roughly six and a half years ago, I was a freshman in college who was determined to become a sports writer, earning a living by combining two things that I truly enjoy – sports and writing. It seemed like a natural fit. For me, it would have been counterintuitive to do anything else.

But who knew that the Boston Globe doesn’t just take any kid who graduated from a small Catholic school on Salisbury Street in Worcester, and slide him into Bob Ryan’s desk?

An internship, a collection of bylines from the Telegram & Gazette, a year as the Sports Editor of Assumption College’s excellent student newspaper, and a solid GPA only got me so far. Needless to say, it wasn’t to the chair behind Ryan’s desk. What it did get me was a job. A good one. One that I’m thankful to have. But one that is not in the field that I studied. More importantly, it is a position where I certainly do not get paid to discusss the successes and failures of the Red Sox’ offseason.

And that is okay. I made a very real decision about two years ago when I turned down a full-time reporter position at a truly great small newspaper in my area. So this is not a sob story about the kid who did everything right and still just couldn’t a get job. Nope. Instead, it is about a person who made a choice to take a different path. Ultimately, that path led that person to start a Red Sox blog that lacks a cool, baseball related name (Damn it. I seriously wish I made a better name. Talkin’ Sox with Dan? I mean, really?) because he simply didn’t want to put in his time covering community events or townhall meetings, making a small wage.

There is no doubt that that is what it would’ve taken–gaining experience at small publications, applying to some of the bigger outlets and hoping for the best. So I guess I wasn’t all in. I guess I didn’t have the drive to be the famous sports scribe that I swore I once possessed. One thing I do know for sure is that I love sports, especially baseball, and I enjoy writing about it. I could never imagine not writing about the game that so many of us grew up playing, following, and watching.

It really is the best.

———

I didn’t create this space for you, the reader. If I did, I would be in a great deal of trouble. There are a plethora of quality sources that you can go for your Red Sox news and analysis. This blog does not break any news. It is not the first to analyze a trade or acqusition. I never played professionaly or even made a romantic bid to play profesionally. I maxed out at the high school varsity level and was not particularly good at that. I’m not a huge stat guy who can perfectly dissect the different forms of WAR’s that are out there. If Red Sox blogs were to be assigned positions on the diamond, mine would be the super-utility man.

I created this out of pure necessity. It was an entirely selfish endeavor. But I do have a few acknowledgements.

Thank you to my family members who read my blog. You don’t really have a choice, and I know that.

Thank you to my friends who don’t have a real interest in baseball or the Red Sox but click on the site or follow me on Twitter because you’re just a good friend. It means a lot.

Thank you to my buddies who share the same love for the game of baseball that I do. The time you take to write in the comments section of my blog or just simply enjoy reading my pieces is greatly appreciated. You are the lifeblood of this space.

MLB Trade Rumors is an awesome site that I use daily. If it wasn’t for their “Baseball Blogs Weigh In” section each Friday, it would be accurate to say that I would have exponentially less views than I do on here. A big thanks to them.

Rob Bradford wouldn’t know me from a stranger on the street, but he took a few moments to shoot the breeze at Christmas at Fenway earlier this month. He was in the middle of doing an on-site radio show for WEEI. He’s also been kind enough to re-tweet arecent piece of mine that I wrote on Daniel Bard. It’s a couple of nice gestures that he certainly did not have to do. Thank you.

A similar act of kindness from Steve Buckley occurred earlier this summer. I wrote an article after the great Johnny Pesky’s passing in August. From afar, Pesky always struck me as someone incredibly similar to my Great Uncle Frank — full of kindness with a bottomless well of stories from the past. My Uncle Frank passed away in 2011, and I couldn’t help but think that somehow he and Pesky bumped into each other somewhere in heaven and shared a few stories about baseball, family, or their time in the military. I sent Buck my piece, and he was nice enough to share it with his followers. It was a very thoughtful gesture.

Brian MacPherson took time out of his evening, covering a game in Pawtucket this past summer to meet with me and talk about the Red Sox. A handshake a brief exchange doesn’t seem like much, but for some one as busy as Brian, it was very cool of him to do.

Finally, the individuals who have literally no connection to myself beyond my blog, a big thank you for reading and following on Twitter. It means a great deal.

As always, go Sox.

Remembering Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky passed away on Monday. He was a husband, a father, and a friend to more than just a small handful of people. He served his country admirably in the Navy during World War II. He was fiercely loyal to the people and the organizations in his life that he cared about. His smile was simple, genuine, and timeless.

And so was my Great Uncle Frank’s. All of it. Everything. It’s almost like he and Mr. Pesky had to have been brothers.

I lost my Uncle Frank in the spring of 2011. He was 90-years old. No, Uncle Frank didn’t play baseball at its highest level. He was not a career .300 hitter, and his number is not retired, never to be worn by another member of the Red Sox again. One of his closest friends was not the immortal Ted Williams. And no, my Uncle Frank’s name will not forever be associated with one of baseball’s greatest franchises.

Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky did have a lot in common, however. They were each married to their respective wives for more than 60-years. Both men were proud fathers. When their country called, my Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky answered. They each served multiple years during World War II–both were Navy men. Both individuals lived long, rich lives into their 90′s. Most importantly, spending time with my Uncle Frank, just having a conversation with him, made you feel enriched, a better person because of it. And after all of the stories that I have heard about Mr. Pesky, it is clear that he had the same effect on the individuals in his presence.

I don’t have any personal Johnny Pesky stories to re-tell. You won’t find a ball in my collection that has been signed by Old Number 6. I have only seen him from my seats in the bleachers on Opening Day or through my television at home. But really, that’s all I needed. You could see the reaction from people when Mr. Pesky was around. They were overjoyed at the opportunity to meet him, to talk about baseball, to talk about family, to talk about life. And Mr. Pesky was just as thrilled to talk to people as they were to listen. He got as much, if not more, out of these interactions as they did.

My Uncle Frank was the same way. He was a bridge that took me (and so many others) back to the 1930′s and 1940′s, to what life was like for the Greatest Generation. Similarly, Mr. Pesky connected us, as fans, back to the days of Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, to a time that truly made the game of baseball America’s first pastime.

I’m sure that I am just one of many, many people who, when they learned of Mr. Pesky’s passing, thought of a relative or a friend that reminded them of him or her. It’s a testimony to the life that Mr. Pesky lived.

As the line of folks Upstairs who are waiting for a chance to exchange words with the old infielder begins to thin out a bit, I’m sure my Great Uncle Frank will make his way over to Mr. Pesky–just to say hello and talk about the good old days.

A Diamond Near the Shore

Since I was a kid, baseball has played a very big role in my life. Aside from the obvious steps of tee ball, little league, and eventually evolving into an extraordinarily mediocre high school player–I have always found a way to experience the game of baseball no matter my circumstances . Tennis balls to bounce off the base of chimneys, simulating ground balls up the middle or in the hole. Baseball cards to sort, collect, and trade. Autographed balls and photos to brag about.

At times, it can be difficult to stay connected to the game. Friends lose interest. The shallow well of physical tools you once relied on begin to become especially unreliable. Ticket prices force you to second guess yourself before nabbing a pair on an impulse.

However, If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on Cape Cod for an evening or two during the summer months, baseball is never hard to find.

You can almost reach out and touch it.

Ten teams. Ten towns. Three months. Premier collegiate level talent. Free admission. Wooden bats.

It is baseball at its finest, cleanest, most pristine level. And still, as I sat in the crowded metal bleachers at Whitehouse Field in Harwich three Friday nights ago, amid a sea of regulars, I couldn’t help but think about what time I could safely leave the park, drive back to my hotel in Yarmouth, and catch the final segment of the Red Sox, Braves game.

I immediately felt like I was in the vast minority. The crowd of roughly over one thousand fans was immersed in the game at hand. Mariners versus Braves. It wasn’t Seattle taking on Atlanta. Instead, it was Harwich hosting Bourne, two small Cape towns who take pride in their teams, their boys.

So what was it then? Why aren’t these people more concerned with the Red Sox? Save the snide remarks about chicken and beer, about under-performing, overpaid players. It wouldn’t matter if the Sox had the most likable cast of farmhands who were paid three schillings every nine innings, had a six game lead in AL East, and were vegans. These fans on the Cape are invested in their respective teams, no matter what. But why?

Sitting in those bleachers, it hit me–much the same way it did when I was much younger. This league, its players, its managers, its coaches, its volunteers are all incredibly accessible. It’s unique. It is almost intoxicating.

—–

I went to my first Cape League game with my father, who grew up in Harwich, when I was in my early teens. It was a night game at Whitehouse in early August. I spent my time along the first base line among the trees, hoping to nab a foul ball along with dozens of other youngsters who had the same goal. Ultimately, my attempts proved to be fruitful. I’d like to be able to tell others that I tracked a high fly ball and made the catch with one hand. In reality, I somehow out ran a gaggle of other potential suitors, dropped to the ground, and snagged the white ball that had come to a peaceful rest against the base of a tree stump.

Boy, was I proud. And hooked.

Soon after, I was having a hard time putting down Jim Collins’ The Last Best League, an excellent read that chronicles the season of three Chatham A’s. It is a beautifully written narrative concerning the ups and inevitable downs of playing amateur baseball at its highest level. Immediately, I started connecting the dots.

John Schiffner, the long-time Chatham skipper, spent a great deal of his time coaching varsity baseball in Plainfield, CT., during the spring.

Just over eight years ago, I was a scared, skinny sophomore in high school playing shortstop for Tourtellotte Memorial High School in Thompson, CT. (Good luck finding it.) Twice during the short 20-game season, we would square off against a tough, gritty Panthers team. The guy with the can’t-miss-mustache hitting infield with a wooden bat, its barrel wrapped in tape? That was Coach Schiffner.

A year later, I was still a skinny, slightly-less scared second baseman, walking away from our home field after a game against Coach Schiffner’s Plainfield Panthers alone. I took a deep breath and turned towards Coach Schiffner and said “Hey Coach. When do you guys open up on the Cape?” In a raspy, eager voice he responded “mid June!”

“Good luck, Coach.”

“Thanks a bunch.”

I felt pretty cool.

—–

The best part of a decade later, just three Friday nights ago, I was back at Whitehouse Field. I made my way over to the visitor’s side of the field. Casually leaning up against the chain-link fence was Mariners’ assistant coach Pete Pasquarosa who has spent a lifetime surrounded by the game of baseball. He’s now in the middle of his ninth season with Harwich.

For quite sometime, I had been wondering about how teams on the Cape handle players who are participating in the Super Regionals and, ultimately, the College World Series. Ballgames on the Cape commence well before the collegiate season formally culminates. So what happens to the players who have an agreement to play for Team X on the Cape when their respective college team is in the CWS? Do they forfeit their roster spot? If not, who fills it in the interim?

Just as I had done years earlier, I took a deep breath. I approached Coach Pasquarosa. I began the conversation by apologizing for taking a moment of his time. Just as quickly, he insisted that I wasn’t a bother. I explained my question, and he was more than receptive.

Coach Pasquarosa explained that CCBL teams honor all agreements made with players, no matter how deep their teams go in the collegiate postseason. However, rosters still need to be filled. Players who may not have received a formal invitation to play on the Cape end up getting the opportunity to serve as fillers. Coach Pasquarosa admitted that it can be difficult when a fill-in player performs well, just to be dismissed when an individual returns who has been competing in the College World Series.

The conversation was both brief and informative. But it is that transparency, that accessibility, that pureness that continues to bring old fans back and new fans in.

The Cape Cod Baseball League is a diamond near the shore.

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