The Epstein/Francona tree is beginning to bear fruit

It took seven years, but the Red Sox tree has finally begun to shed a couple of its valuable leaves.

After building up one of the best organizations in Major League Baseball and winning a pair of World Series titles together, Theo Epstein and Terry Francona have constructed quite the baseball machine with structure and success working in concert on the field and an impressive collection of baseball minds putting the pieces together off it.

It was only a matter of time before Boston finally began to lose some of their coaching and managerial pieces to other organizations hoping to catch a little bit of the baseball lightning in a bottle the Sox have enjoyed since 2003. First, after several interviews with different teams over the last two years, Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer was hired last week by the San Diego Padres to run their small market organization.

The challenge will be a change for a baseball executive reared amid a big market atmosphere capable of absorbing a misstep here or there, but it's also an organization with some past history of success. Only four years ago, the Padres qualified for the playoffs out of a weak NL West Division for the second straight season -- and San Diego won 89 games as recently as 2007.

But the Padres had fallen off the table in the last two seasons, and Hoyer replaces outgoing Pads general manager Kevin Towers, who has reportedly been offered a position in Boston’s front office under Epstein. In a concurrent move, Ben Cherington has been named assistant general manager of the Red Sox replacing Hoyer. Hoyer and Cherington will be forever linked to Sox lore after they replaced Epstein as co-GMs when the Sox executive bolted the Sox amid a contract squabble and left his two most trusted advisors. The move also gives Jason McLeod and Mike Hazen complete autonomy in their fields of scouting and player development after Cherington had enjoyed a strong voice in both departments.

 “[Hoyer’s] combination of analytical ability, feel for the game, interpersonal skills and creativity helped make us tick, and he played a role in virtually every major decision we have made,” said Epstein. “His loyalty and friendship will be missed, and we know he will continue to make us proud.”

Just days later, the Houston Astros conducted a third interview with Sox bench coach Brad Mills and Francona’s right hand man since 2004 became the newest manager of a rebuilding Astros organization. Mills routinely carried out messages from Francona to the players, and it was also the Sox bench coach that called the famous Jonathan Papelbon pickoff play of Matt Holliday during the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies.

 "Whatever was supposed to get done got done,” said Francona during an interview on WEEI 850. “Millsy had a lot of responsibility here, and he earned that. And it was great. It was good for him and it was tremendous for me.” 

Similar to a well-run New England Patriots squad that has watched a bevy of assistant coaches’ move on to head jobs of their own; the Sox are new enjoying the ultimate form of flattery. Bill Belichick's assistants were wooed away from Foxboro with opportunities to run their own programs, and now Epstein and Francona must simply watch with pride as some of their valued consensus-makers start building their organizations. 

Opposing major league teams are now attempting to copy the kind of consistent success that Epstein and Co. have conjured up on Yawkey Way for seven years and counting -- and you can't really blame them given the Red Sox success story.
Posted by Haggs at 10/30/2009 8:34 AM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Delcarmen's Fifth Annual Bowling Event
Boston Red Sox Pitcher Manny Delcarmen to “Bowl Strikes for Schools” During Fifth Annual Charity Event
The Pride of Hyde Park to “Roll” With a Line-Up of Boston Sports Stars to  Raise Money for Boston Public Schools at Kings Back Bay
WHO: Boston Red Sox star Manny Delcarmen; members of the 2008/2009 Boston Red Sox team; local celebrities & personalities; children from Boston Public Schools; sports fans of all ages.

WHAT: The homegrown hero returns to host his fifth annual “Bowlin’ Strikes for Schools” fundraiser at Kings Back Bay. Manny will trade in his cleats for a pair of bowling shoes to roll out a day of fun, sports and entertainment when he bowls alongside friends, teammates, local celebrities, and die-hard sports fans to raise money for a good cause. 

In addition to bowling, the stars will participate in an audience Q&A session, mingle with the crowd, pose for photos and sign autographs. On top of a silent auction featuring sports memorabilia, everyone in attendance will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a pair of tickets to a 2010 Red Sox home game.   

Past “Bowlin’ Strikes for Schools” events have drawn some of the biggest sports personalities in the city including Red Sox players Kevin Youkilis and Curt Schilling and former New England Patriots tight end Christian Fauria.   

All proceeds from “Bowlin’ Strikes for Schools” benefit the Boston Public School system. 
WHEN: Saturday, October 31, 2009 
               Noon (registration)
               1 p.m. (bowling begins)
WHERE: Kings Back Bay
                  50 Dalton St.
HOW: Event pricing:
·$15      Kids General Admission (12 & under)
·$30      Adult General Admission
·$75      Individual Bowler
·$450    Bowling team (6 people total)
For tickets and more information log onto or call 617-268-0001.
The Boston Public Schools serve more than 56,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 135 schools, and in 2006 won the Broad Prize for Urban Education as the top city school district in the country. For more information, visit
Posted by Haggs at 10/23/2009 2:11 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Red Sox have plenty of work in store this winter

The Red Sox front office became well acquainted with the ballclub’s flaws during the 2009 baseball season, and then watched as they all mercilessly appeared while Boston was quickly swept by the Angels during the ALDS. Boston was prone to long, uninspiring slumps while away from Fenway Park and no longer bragged the kind of dynamic middle-of-the-order power bat capable of punishing Major League Baseball’s best pitching. 

Boston’s team defense isn’t quite what it used to be, and some of their aging stars – Mike Lowell and David Ortiz chief among them – aren’t able to carry the team offensively as they once did in their primes. The Sox experienced tremendous difficulties at the catcher position when it came to throwing out base stealers and controlling the running game was a major weakness that the Angels were able to exploit.

“If you look back at this year’s club, we weren’t the defensive club that we wanted to be – team defense and defensive efficiency – and offensively we didn’t hit on the road this year. The disparity in our offense between home and road was a bit extreme,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “We’ll take a look at see if we can improve that a little bit. Those are the two areas that we’re going to look at.”

These are challenging times in Boston as there aren’t many areas on the team where the Sox can free themselves of contractual obligations, and the one hitter they’d really like to retain – Jason Bay – is set to become one of the best offensive players available on the free agent market.

It was also fairly telling that the Sox organization handed the ball to 25-year-old lefty Jon Lester in Game 1 of the playoffs, and planned on coming back with the big southpaw again on short rest had the series made it a Game 4. In many ways, the raw-boned, durable lefty has surpassed Josh Beckett as the staff’s ace, and was the starter most entrusted with the team’s fate once the playoffs bullets began flying.

Jonathan Papelbon had another All-Star season pitching among a wildly talented collection of power arms in the bullpen, but trade whispers are cropping up and surrounding Sox closer after his numbers declined slightly from their past greatness. The question of trading Papelbon has more to do with his contractual status two years away from the big money of free agency than anything else, but the 28-year-old closer is clearly at a crossroads after finally proving himself all too human in blowing Game 3 of the ALDS.

Despite the problems and areas that cry out for repairs, the Sox are also in a very good spot on many different fronts. Lester, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are locked in to club-friendly long-term deals and J.D. Drew finished last season among the AL’s top five outfielders in OPS. Victor Martinez flourished in Boston amid the Sox’ collection of professional hitters, and also showed the kind of leadership qualities revered by Sox manager Terry Francona.   

Jacoby Ellsbury had his best season as both a leadoff hitter and centerfielder, and Clay Buchholz took a big step forward in his development as a No. 3 starter behind Beckett and Lester. Daniel Bard was another treasure from Boston’s player development machine that developed at the big league level last season, and could be the heir apparent once Papelbon has left the Fenway building.

Francona saw all that talent in action last season, and still has a hard time believing that Boston’s season has already come to an abrupt end.

“Every year I guess is a little bit different,” said Francona. “A couple years we've been fortunate enough to be celebrating. A couple years we've been heartbroken. This year's a harder one to figure.”

Things aren’t ideal within the walls of Fenway this winter after falling short of their World Series goals for the second consecutive season, but many of the pieces are in place for another 95-win team next season – the third straight year the club would reach their annual regular season benchmark. The team’s offseason “to do” list should be about finding that spark, that game-changing force, that will push the Sox over the top when the baseball titans begin colliding during the playoffs.

That elusive offensive force was the biggest missing ingredient in the just-concluded season, and it’s the top priority of the winter for those in the corner offices on Yawkey Way.
Posted by Haggs at 10/15/2009 11:34 AM | View Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Papelbon, Red Sox simply didn't get it done

Jonathan Papelbon had always been some sort of playoff Terminator throughout his career with the Red Sox.

The 29-year-old reliever entered Sunday’s Game 3 with a string of 26 scoreless postseason innings through his first 17 playoff appearances, and openly revealed that the record was “very near and dear” to the outspoken closer. Well, it’s time for the four-time All-Star to start a new record after sitting at the center of an epic Sox bullpen collapse in Sunday afternoon’s Game 3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

It wasn’t just the Boston closer, obviously, as the Sox fell with hardly a whimper to the Halos in a three-game ALDS sweep, and finished things off with a 7-6 loss before a stunned-silent crowd at Fenway Park.

The loss capped off a second-straight season with no World Series glory, and a rather unceremonious exit from the postseason after taking the Tampa Bay Rays to seven games in the ALCS last season.

Aside from the bullpen struggles on Sunday, the Sox offense managed only 14 hits in the entirety of three games and finished with the third fewest hits in the history of division series play. The problem was much more pronounced on the road where the Sox could do nothing while Jon Lester and Josh Beckett pitched effectively, and was just one facet of a very flawed baseball team ultimately coming to its demise. Jason Bay, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis were effectively silenced at the plate by Anaheim's pitching and magnified all of the other problems Boston was suffering throughout the three games.

“I don’t think anything that occurred in this series came completely out of the blue, either. There were times this year when we struggled hitting on the road,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “There were times this series when we struggled hitting on the road. There were certain things that went down this series were foreshadowed during the regular season as well.

“That said, I think we were a team capable of winning the World Series. Had we come out and played better, I think we’d still be playing right now.”

But they’re not playing right now. The season is over and it's time to diagnose the flaws that gnawed away at this team and revealed themselves over a 162-game assessment period.

Papelbon coughed up three runs and four hits in his inning of work, and saw his scoreless string officially end at 27 innings pitched, which was the longest stretch of playoff scoreless innings since Papelbon’s idol, Mariano Rivera, recorded 33 1/3 scoreless innings to begin his career.

The Sox closer wasn’t shying away from the tough questions following Sunday’s loss, and said that his outing came down to missed location and a little tough luck. Papelbon might have added that throwing a first-pitch strike to Vlad Guerrero – a notoriously undisciplined free-swinger.

“In postseason play, my job is to, when I get called upon is to get all the outs I’m called on to get,” said Papelbon. “I think things happened quick, more than anything. I wasn’t able to stop the bleeding.

“Your team fights and puts you in that situation, to call upon you, and you let them down. Your team expects you to pull through and preserve that win for you and then you don’t, it’s definitely not a good feeling.”

The Sox closer now has an entire winter to replay the eighth and ninth innings in his head while building toward next season, and use the rare playoff blown save as fuel for his competitive fire. Three times Papelbon had two strikes on a batter with two outs, and he simply couldn’t get out of the situations when the lead was still intact.

“[The Angels} scrapped hard in the late innings, and we weren’t able to put guys away,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “We had a lot of guys 0-2, two strikes, and just weren’t able to put guys away, didn’t make a couple plays.”

Papelbon is no longer an indestructible postseason force, and there’s little doubt that realization will make him only stronger and more determined when baseball in Boston begins anew next spring.


Posted by Haggs at 10/12/2009 9:03 AM | View Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Ortiz's simple message: "We are troopers"

David Ortiz has a couple of messages for his Red Sox teammates now that his team stands on the brink of elimination down 0-2 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The first is pretty simple: “Hit the damn ball.”

The second is more a team-wide rallying cry after things went about as bad as they possibly could have against an Angels team they’d dominated over their last three playoff meetings. Nobody is saying much about 9 out of the last 10 now. The Boston hitters looked eerily similar to the impotent outfit that carried a 31-inning scoreless streak into Yankee Stadium during the month of August, and went through maddening boom and bust stages during the season.

The Sox finished third in the American League in runs scored (872) behind only the Yankees and the Angels, but they’re hitting a paltry .131 (8-for-61) in the first two games of the postseason. The Sox averaged an American League-best 5.9 runs per game in their home ballpark this season, and are always a more dangerous offensive team within their home confines.

“We’ve been playing better at home all year-round,” said Ortiz to reporters in Anaheim. “Hopefully going back home can help us turn things around and get us back here [to Anaheim for Game 5]. 

“The pitching is good, man. Good pitching is going to stop offense. They’ve done a good job of holding us down.”

While the Red Sox hex over the Angels appears to be over and down with, the Halos still struggle at Fenway Park and a group of Boston ballplayers now have their backs hiked up against the wall. There have only been four instances when a team has climbed back from an 0-2 deficit during division series play, and the Sox own two of those teams after having pulled it off in both 1999 against the Cleveland Indians and 2003 against the Oakland A’s.

Many of Boston’s key players have been in this position before, and Ortiz is sending out the rallying cry that it ain’t over until Big Papi says its over.

“We are troopers. We just fight back. We don't really care about being like we are [down in the series] or whatever happened in the past,” said Ortiz. “This series isn't over until it's over.
“We just know how to feel things out and fight back, you know. It's like I tell you guys always, doesn't matter what we did in the past against these guys. They have a good team. We really need to focus on that and come out and play.”

 The Sox boasted the second-best home record in baseball this season with a 56-25 record at the Fens, and Ortiz and Co. will have to bring a lot of that home cooking into play if Boston’ season is to continue for another day.   
Posted by Haggs at 10/10/2009 8:16 AM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
A few thoughts from the TBS talking heads on Sox/Angels
Here are some earmarked takes from the on-air baseball analysts TBS is using for the American League Division Series between the Angels and the Red Sox. Pretty standard stuff, including Cal Ripken telling us "that you can't steal first" but not telling us that you "that you can steal money" as a TV analyst.

Added bonus: TBS has smartly supplied all of their on-air talent with Twitter accounts, so now you can check in on all the Eck-isms and caveman grumblings from David Wells. You can follow Eckersley at @MLBonTBSEck David Wells at @MLBonTBSBoomer and Cal Ripken at @MLBonTBSCal

Hopefully Boomer finds time to get in a gratuitous shot or two at his favorite target, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Here are the quotes from TBS's talking baseball heads:

Eckersley on Boston Red Sox’s John Lester’s pitching performance: “(Lester) has so many weapons to work with. He has a major fast ball, a change up and a curve ball that he uses occasionally.  But he’s absolutely dominant; a dominant left-hander. After the line drive to the knee, it still remains to be seen if he has fully recovered.  It remains to be seen if he is the Lester that he was before he got hit in the knee.”
Wells on Red Sox pitcher John Lester: “John Lester got lucky. He got hit right on the outside of his knee. You can’t go out there thinking you are going to get a line drive back at you.  You have to just go out there and pitch your game.”
Ripken on the Angels' overall performance for the series:  “They have a little bit more power in the middle of the line up now, believe it or not. They score runs really well. They do run the bases extremely well. The problem they are going to come into is that they can’t steal first. It all hinges on (Josh) Beckett and (Jon) Lester if they have shutdown stuff. If you start peppering them a little bit and they get on base, they can score runs."
Posted by Haggs at 10/9/2009 3:00 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Prediction: Red Sox will handle Angels in five games
There’s already been plenty of breakdowns and ballyhoo about yet another ALDS battle between the Red Sox and the Angels, so we’ll spare you the Brad Mills quotes about neutralizing the Halos running game. And we’ll let you off the hook if you were looking for indignant thoughts from Torii Hunter about Boston’s 9-out-of-10 game winning streak against the Angels in postseason games dating back to 2004.

Bottom line is these are two tremendously different baseball teams than the squads that met in 2004, 2007 and 2008. Much of the personnel has changed and some of the traditional figures are older and in much different stages of decline. The Sox had never thrown out an MLB-worth 13 percent of base stealers before this season and the Angels had never toted the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the American League during their other playoff editions. This is a very different series than each of the previos three go-rounds between the two teams.

Instead, I'll post a simple position-by-position breakdown between the Angels and Red Sox along with a key stat – and, of course, who the edge goes toward. Look for that later on tonight as the game is going on.

My prediction: Josh Beckett is going to be much closer to 2008 vintage than 2007 after getting three cortisone shots in his back just prior to the playoffs and Clay Buchholz might have few growing pains during his first playoff experience. Despite that, the Red Sox will take advantage of a leaky Angels bullpen and score enough runs to support a dominant Jon Lester. It won’t be as easy as in year’s past and perhaps the Fenway hex will finally be broken a little bit, but the Sox will eventually down the Halos in five games.

Then it's to the Bronx for a whole other headache. But that's a breakdown for another day.
Posted by Haggs at 10/8/2009 5:21 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Limited amount of Red Sox playoff tickets on sale
On Tuesday, October 6, fans who were selected from a pool of online postseason registrants will have the chance to purchase tickets to any 2009 American League Championship Series games that may be played at Fenway Park.  The random drawing for the opportunity to purchase ALCS tickets took place on Friday, October 2 and winners will be notified via email Monday, October 5.

For fans who do not have internet access, or those not selected in the online random drawing, a limited number of tickets will be set aside for purchase via our automated telephone ticketing system (while supplies last) beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6 at (888) RED-SOX6.  No tickets will be available at the Fenway Park ticket office.
Fans with disabilities may also call (877) RED-SOX9 beginning at noon on Tuesday, October 6 to purchase accessible seating (while supplies last).  Hearing impaired patrons may call the TTY line at (617) 226-6644.
Please know that we will continue to accept random drawing registrations for the World Series via  Fans who register after 12 noon EDT on Friday, October 2 will still be eligible for the World Series drawing provided that they have selected to be included in the ticket opportunity for that series. 

Please see the schedule below:

ALDS REGISTRATION PERIOD ENDS:12:00 noon EDT, Monday, 09/21/2009
ALDS RANDOM DRAWING:Monday, 09/21/2009
ALDS WINNERS NOTIFIED VIA E-MAIL:On or about Tuesday, 09/22/2009
ALDS SALE FOR WINNERS:12:00 noon – 9:00 p.m. EDT, Friday, 09/25/2009
ALCS REGISTRATION PERIOD ENDS:12:00 noon EDT, Friday, 10/02/2009
ALCS RANDOM DRAWING:Friday, 10/02/2009
ALCS WINNERS NOTIFIED VIA E-MAIL:On or about Monday, 10/05/2009
ALCS SALE FOR WINNERS:12:00 noon – 9:00 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, 10/06/2009
WS REGISTRATION PERIOD ENDS:12:00 noon EDT, Friday, 10/09/2009

Sale dates for potential 2009 World Series games played at Fenway Park will be announced at a later date. Such winners will be selected from the pool of registrants for each subsequent drawing and notified via email with instructions on the ticket purchase process including dates and times for these sales.
Posted by Haggs at 10/5/2009 10:54 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Reddick likes the taste of the Major Leagues

It’s been a whirlwind season for Josh Reddick, a southern Georgia boy that’s made some pretty big strides in only a couple of years of pro ball. Reddick was raking for the Portland Sea Dogs when he was called straight up to the big leagues after Jason Bay went down in July, and he’s managed to accumulate plenty of life experience this summer during his time hopping between Portland, Pawtucket and Boston.

Though he’s had to make due without his beloved Waffle House while playing in the Northeast corridor for much of this summer – and is already daydreaming of double chocolate chip pancakes when he gets home following the conclusion of the season – it’s been a year that’s given him a taste he eagerly wants more of. Reddick has sampled the big league experience in spot duty for the Red Sox, and will be working out in Fort Myers with Dusty Brown just in case anything happens to any of the players during the postseason.

That means he's one errant fastball away from potentially taking part in playoff baseball after starting the year at Double-A. Pretty heady stuff.

Reddick has big plans for bulking up and adding muscle to his athletic frame this winter, but is intent on finishing this one out string first. The 22-year-old took some time out and talked with Hacks with Haggs about life in the big leagues, his amazing family story and similarities to Kevin Youkilis that he’s trying to change.

What’s the big league experience been like for you after jumping from Double-A? JR: It’s unreal. I never realized how big everything is until I showed up here and experienced it first hand from the field and the dugout. I’d say it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.

Have many guys talked to you about what to expect, or how to handle things? JR: Not really. I think they’re just letting me take it all in myself and see how I handle everything myself. I’ve had some pretty good confidence issues in the minors and there are issues I’ve head to deal with in my life while I was playing, so I’ve found ways to cope with things. Take a few deep breaths and step back, and just try to enjoy the game like I have for so long.

What do you take away from watching and observing players at the big league level? JR: Probably the level of competition and the intensity that these guys have every single game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody as intense as Josh Beckett when he comes in after a bad inning, or what he says is rough inning but we got out of it. He comes in and starts yelling at himself and you’re like ‘Wow’. You don’t see that kind of stuff on TV and you don’t see that kind of intensity. That’s one of the biggest things you learn at this level is to see the ways guys are going about their way competing and the intensity that they do it at.

Does that raise your intensity level? JR: I’ve always had a bunch of different emotions going through me playing this game. If I feel like I miss pitches and I get myself out in an at bat, then I’ve always shown that frustration on the field after the at bat. I’ve tried not to do that here and I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who shows all this anger in the dugout. Just trying to see how these guys handle it and not be the loud guy in the dugout. Just come out and do your job.

Is that something that’s important to have success in the big leagues is to bottle up that emotion, and not show it in the dugout? JR: That’s been a big issue since I first signed. I had Gabe Kapler as a manager down in Greenville one of my first years, and he always used to pull me aside and tell me that I reminded him of Kevin Youkilis, who will get like that whenever he’s here. I’ve seen that so I know where he’s coming from.

It’s calmed down a lot for me because I used to hit a ball hard and get out, and I’d come in and slam my helmet and throw my bat. Now it’s like ‘Man, I hit the ball hard, but I hit it right at somebody’ or if I miss a pitch or hit a slow ground-out it’s really upsetting. But I’ve come up here and realized I don’t want to be that guy, and come up here and make Tito look bad by showing my anger back in the dugout. Especially when you never know when the camera is on you. If you need to [vent] some anger you can always go into the clubhouse or the batting cages, somewhere they can’t see you and you can take it that way.

What have you seen at the big league level that you want to take away from this experience? JR: For me, it’s basically about keeping my mouth shut and not trying to be the guy that talks too much. Just sit back and observe and watch the way these guys conduct themselves with the media and during interviews, and I’ve watched the guys walking around the locker room, and how they handle themselves. Get in, get my work done and then get out of the way for the big guys. Like if I’m about to take BP and I see five guys in front of me like David or Victor, I’ll come back in the locker room and wait and be that last guy. If they’re doing something, I’ll just be patient and wait.

Speaking of Youkilis, you seem to really have that all-out, bust your ass type hustle that he shows no matter what the score or situation in the game. Have you always been that way? JR: Yeah, that’s something I have to thank my father for. He always pounded it into my head that it’s not worth being on the field if you’re not going to give it your all. It goes back to that saying ‘leave it all on the field.’ That way you don’t wake up the next day, look in the mirror and realize that you didn’t give 100 percent. You never know when that infielder on a soft ground-ball might double-pump and you could beat it by a half-step or whatnot, and you never know if that could be the difference on a game-winning play when you bust it down the line. That’s just how I was brought up.

What’s your dad’s name? JR: Kenny Reddick.

Have you talked to him a lot about your time in Boston this summer? JR: They’ve come up to see me play in Boston, and they met me in Tampa. Our house is about six hours from Tampa, so I got to see a lot of the people from the family take it all in down there. I got to talk to him and get some stuff off my back. I talk to him pretty regularly. If not every day then every other day.

He’s coached all the way back from when I was young, and it’s amazing that I can tell him what I’m doing at the plate – like if I’m popping up -- and he knows exactly what’s wrong with my swing. He’s like ‘all right, you’ve got to keep your foot down and your down, and you’re jumping at it’ and I’m like ‘Wow’ he just loves the game and loves watching me play that much that he can break it down from hundreds of miles away.

He can break down your swing, I’m sure. Was he a ballplayer? JR: He was until shortly after I was born. He got hurt and he got electrocuted when I was a year old. He worked for the power company and he got electrocuted by a line and lost half his left arm and two fingers on his right hand. He has limited use of his fingers and no hand on his right arm, it’s just a nub. That happened five days before my first birthday, and he still had all the love of the game and taught me how to hit and play the game. It’s worked out for me.

So he passed down all of that love for the game right down to you? JR: That’s what he did. It makes for a pretty cool story because I know he has to feel an accomplishment for him to see me doing well. Because that’s a devastating injury and he’s in his mid-40s and it’s about to hit him hard. It has hit him hard already about not being able to work and get a job like normal people because he loved doing that job.

During rainstorms if it was thundering and lightning out and there was a power outage, he’d be the first guy that would want to climb that pole. He said he had a feeling of freedom up on that pole looking down on the world from way up high. It was kind of an amazing feeling. He’s coached my brother, me and my little sister and he’s still coaching my little sister in our home state.

Could you see the pride in your dad’s eye that first time he saw you play in a big league game? JR: I think it was during batting practice, actually. I saw him walking around with my brother and a bunch of his buddies, and he was kind of looking around. He didn’t say anything, but you could tell he was thinking to himself ‘wow, this is the real deal. This is a lot different than the other places I’ve been playing.’ He didn’t try to show it, but I could see it in his eyes. It’s hard to hide, and I could imagine that feeling.

Theo has talked a bit about you adding a little more “finish” to your game after watching you this season. What do you need to do this offseason? JR: I think I just need to keep working on my plate discipline, which is something that I’ve been working hard to improve during my career. I think I’ve shown improvement and getting called up is proof of that. I also need to add a little bit more weight and concentrate of hitting the gym with a purpose this winter when I’m working out. If I do that and control the anger, then I think I’ll be all right.


Posted by Haggs at 10/4/2009 12:13 PM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)
Red Sox roll out 'Fan Appreciation Series'
The Boston Red Sox today announced that the final series of the 2009 regular season will be celebrated as the Red Sox “Fan Appreciation Series” as a way to thank the team’s fans for their continuous support.  The Red Sox “Fan Appreciation Series” will take place October 1-4, 2009, during the series against the Cleveland Indians, before the Red Sox head to their sixth postseason appearance in the past seven seasons.
“This is a chance for us to say thank you to our most ardent fans,” said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino.  “John, Tom, Theo, Tito and I along with the rest of our organization and our players appreciate the dedication and loyalty we are so privileged to experience with Red Sox Nation.  It is no accident that the Red Sox have owned one of the best home records in all of baseball for the past few years.  It is due in great part to the passionate support of our fans who have been here throughout the season and will be at Fenway Park this weekend.”
Fans at Fenway Park will enjoy various giveaways and events on all four days of the series.  The Official Red Sox Team Store on Yawkey Way will offer a special 20% discount on all items (with the exception of memorabilia) purchased during the game (after the gates open two hours prior to the scheduled start until closing).  ARAMARK vendors will also be providing lucky fans, selected randomly throughout the ballpark, with complimentary peanuts and Cracker Jacks during the 7th inning stretch of each game.
The Red Sox will have the following special giveaways or activities on each of the four days during the series:
Friday, October 2 – On-Field Photo Day – Fans will have a chance to get a photograph with a player before the game during On-Field Photo Day.  Fans will be invited to head to the warning track on the field as soon as the gates open at 5:10 p.m.  Players will come out to the field and greet fans for approximately one hour.
Saturday, October 3 – Shirts-Off-Our-Backs – The players will take part in a Shirts Off Our Backs promotion where fans will be randomly chosen during the later portions of the game to receive an autographed Red Sox jersey immediately following the end of the game.
Sunday, October 4 – Run the Bases – On the final day of the regular season, kids will have a chance to Run The Bases after the game.   Throughout the game, announcements will be made reminding interested fans to line up in the Big Concourse behind the bleachers if they’d like to participate.  All participating fans will be brought out onto the field approximately 40 minutes after the final out of the game.
All promotions and giveaways are open only to ticketed Red Sox patrons for that particular game.  Any in-seat promotion will require fans to be in their own seats and have a valid ticket stub for that seat.
Posted by Haggs at 10/2/2009 7:30 AM | View Comments (0) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (0)