August 2009

They Pay Me For This?

Fenway Park.

 


Fenway_Park resize.jpgIt is the world’s best-looking 97-year-old (and yes, that includes Dick Clark) and today, the Pawtucket Red Sox have the incredible privilege of calling it home.

 

You never forget your first time right?  My first trip to Fenway was on a high school band trip in the early 1980′s.  Growing up a baseball fanatic near Buffalo, NY, I couldn’t wait to see The Green Monster in person.

 

The entire Southwestern High School band was scheduled to attend a game against the Chicago White Sox.  Unfortunately, it got rained out!  I was devastated, but somehow convinced Ray Pappalardo – the band director – to allow me and 3 friends to skip the scheduled group activity (Faneuil Hall I think) the following day and go to Fenway on our own for the make-up doubleheader.

 

Yup, three high school punks were allowed to leave their group on an out-of-town trip to attend a baseball game.  Mr. Pappalardo probably would have been fired in this day and age, but we hopped in a cab at headed to Fenway.

 

From what I’ve read, Roger Clemens and I apparently had the same experience when we saw Fenway for the first time.  We both climbed out of a taxi in front of a short brick building that blended into the surrounding neighborhood and said, “Where’s Fenway?”

 

In Clemens case, the cabbie pointed out the light towers as proof that he had taken him to the right location.

 

I’ve been to Fenway dozens of times since and have the sense of awe and wonder every time I walk through the gates.

 

The broadcast booth high above home plate is not a great place to see the action – imagine trying to describe a baseball game from the Space Shuttle – but Saturday’s game will be the highlight of my summer regardless of what happens.

 

We’ll have a magnificent view of the Green Monster, the Citgo Sign, the skyline of Boston, and that beautiful green field.

 

Don’t tell Ben Mondor or Mike Tamburro, but they don’t have to pay me to do my job for this game.  In fact, I would gladly pay them.

 

* * * * * 

 

I can’t thank you enough for reading my blog and sending me your observations to dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

The July numbers are out for mlb bloggers, and thanks to you, “Heard it from Hoard” has climbed 9 spots in the ratings to #34 in the MLB pro category.  As far as I can tell, that’s #2 in that category for blogs related to the minor leagues.

 

It’s awesome to know that you’re checking it out.

 

* * * * *

 

After Friday’s dramatic 6-2 win over Norfolk in front of 10,000+ at McCoy Stadium, the PawSox have a 50-61 record with 22 games to go.

 

That means they would need to go 17-5 to finish with a winning record at 67-66.

 

Let’s face it, that’s unlikely, but with a lineup that started with Jeff Bailey, Jeff Natale, Chris Carter, Brian Anderson, and Mark Wagner in the top 5 spots, the PawSox are suddenly looking formidable offensively.

 

And I’m really hoping that John Smoltz elects to come to Pawtucket to work out of the bullpen for a few weeks with the goal of pitching in relief for Boston in September.  As badly as he pitched for the Red Sox, Smoltz was usually effective on his first trip through the order.  I don’t know that I’ve ever met a star athlete whom I respect more than Smoltz, and I hope his Hall of Fame career can still end on a positive note.

 

* * * * *

 

Don’t forget to tune in early for Saturday’s “Futures at Fenway” game.  The PawSox are scheduled to begin at 4:05, but it all depends on the length of the Portland-Bowie game.  The 2nd game of the doubleheader will begin approximately 45 minutes after the first game ends.

Anderson Is Ready If Needed

So all of a sudden the Red Sox are dropping like flies.

 

 Rocco Baldelli is on the disabled list with a bruised ankle.  Jason Bay is nursing a sore hamstring that could force him to miss the Yankees series.  And now Jed Lowrie is experiencing numbness that runs from his left forearm to the end of his hand that could be related to the wrist surgery he had earlier this season.

 

Good lord.

 

If Boston needs a shortstop, Ivan Ochoa is the only available option in Pawtucket.  Gil Velazquez – who would have been the obvious choice – was designated for assignment on Wednesday to make room on the 40-man roster for Billy Traber and hasn’t cleared waivers yet.  Ochoa did play in 47 games with San Francisco last year, but is only hitting .220 for the PawSox this season and missed 2 months with a hamstring injury.

 

As for outfielders, Josh Reddick is already back with Boston after spending less than 24 hours in Pawtucket.  He arrived after midnight on Wednesday and was driving to New York at 2:00 pm on Thursday.  I blogged yesterday about how eager I was to see him play . . . I got a quick handshake instead.  His Triple-A debut will have to wait.

 

Jeff Bailey had 3 hits on Thursday night but his injured ankle still isn’t 100%, and he has not played a full game yet on his current rehab assignment.

 

Then there’s Brian Anderson.

 


Anderson resize.jpg 

Because of many current crises in Boston (Big Papi’s positive drug test in 2003, John Smoltz’s 8.33 ERA, etc.), Anderson is totally off the radar, but he’s looked great for the PawSox since coming over in a trade for the White Sox for Mark Kotsay.

 

In 10 games with Pawtucket, Anderson is hitting .303 with 3 doubles, 3 HR, and 6 RBI.

 

“I’m really excited that I got to come down here and work on my game,” Brian told me on Thursday.  “Obviously you want to put the ball in play with authority, but I’ve tried to stop thinking so much about mechanics and I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit and do the best I can with that particular pitch.  It’s tough to put a good swing on a bad pitch, so if you can get a strike you try to do some damage with it.

 

“When he hits a ball it’s a little different than a lot of guys – the ball stays hit,” manager Ron Johnson said.  “That’s the difference between major league players and guys who will battle in the minor leagues to try to get there.” 

 

Anderson was 24-years-old when he won the starting centerfield job with the White Sox in 2006.  He batted .225 that year in 134 games and struggled to live up to the potential he displayed in being the 15th overall pick of the 2003 draft.

 

“I was ready as a player but maturity-wise I might have been a little underprepared,” Brian admitted.  “I definitely wanted to play the game but I was not expecting the emotion from the fans and how much was riding on my performance on a daily basis.  But that’s not an excuse, I should have been able to go out there and perform better than I did, but it was a learning experience, that’s for sure.”

 

He’s a seasoned 27-year-old now, and hoping to play a role in Boston this year after being traded for the first time in his career.

 

“Some of my buddies who have been traded in the past told me that it’s a nice change but that it’s definitely going to be weird.  When all you’ve ever known is one organization it’s a big difference,” Anderson said.  “It’s great over here.  I have a lot of respect for my past organization, but the Red Sox have a great tradition and it’s a lot of fun playing over here.”

 

With injuries mounting in Boston, he could be needed soon.

 

* * * * *

 

Friday is PawSox Replica Jersey Night at McCoy Stadium as the first 5,000 fans will receive a #15 red jersey.  If you can’t make it out to the yard, I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Ready For Reddick

Unless Jason Bay’s injured hamstring requires him to rejoin the parent club, the latest sensation in Red Sox nation is expected to make his PawSox debut tonight at McCoy Stadium – 22-year-old outfielder Josh Reddick.

 


RJ and Reddick resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Reddick, who entered 2009 as Boston’s #5 prospect according to Baseball America, has had an incredible year.

 

He began the season with Double-A Portland.  After going 0-for-4 in the season opener, he proceeded to hit home runs in each of the next 4 games.

 

Unfortunately, his powerful swing proved costly as Reddick strained an oblique muscle on a home run swing on April 29th (his 6th HR of the month) and was out of action for 5 weeks.

 

That makes his overall numbers with Portland that much more impressive, as Reddick had 17 doubles, 3 triples, and 13 HR in only 256 at-bats for a .520 slugging pct.

 

On July 31st, he leapfrogged Pawtucket and went directly from Double-A to the major leagues.  After going grounding out as a pinch-hitter in his first big league at-bat, Reddick had a pair of doubles in his first start, and two hits including a home run off of Baltimore’s Brian Bass in his second start.

 

Josh credits his success to his father Kenny who was seriously injured on the job before his son’s first birthday.  Kenny Reddick was electrocuted while working for the power company in Georgia and lost half of his left arm and two fingers on his right hand (you can read Joe McDonald’s account in the Providence Journal here).

 

No longer able to work for Savannah Electric, Mr. Reddick dedicated his life to helping Josh realize his dream of becoming a pro baseball player, and one can only imagine what it must have meant to him when the Red Sox promoted his son last week.

 

I can’t wait to see Reddick in action, although I’m slightly disappointed that he went to Boston first because the PawSox are getting the clean-cut version.

 

Before getting the call-up from Portland, Reddick was rocking a Mohawk.

 


Reddick mohawk resize.jpg 

 

And a less-than-flattering mustache (and least in this blogger’s opinion).

 


Reddick stache resize.jpg 

 

With a roster than includes Reddick, Jeff Bailey, Brian Anderson, Chris Carter, and Chris Duncan, I can’t imagine the PawSox offensive woes are going to continue in August.

 

* * * * *

 

The Norfolk Tides are managed by Gary “Muggsy”Allenson who was named the International League’s MVP while playing for Pawtucket in 1978.

 


Muggsy resize.jpg 

That year, Allenson batted .299 with 20 HR and 76 RBI, and he tells a great self-depreciating story about his batting average.

 

We all know what Ted Williams did on the final day of the 1941 season.  He was batting .39955 going into a doubleheader and manager Joe Cronin gave him the option of staying on the bench to finish with a rounded-up average of .400.  Williams opted to play and went 6-for-8 to finish at .406.

 

Allenson was the anti-Ted.  He was hitting over .300 going into the final day of the ’78 season and PawSox manager Joe Morgan gave him the option of sitting out to preserve his average.  Allenson gladly took him up on the offer.

 

Unfortunately, minor league stats were not as reliable in the 1970′s, and a mathematical error was discovered several weeks later that dropped his average to .299.

 

The moral of the story?  When in doubt, do what Ted Williams did.

 

* * * * *

 

We certainly have an interesting pitching matchup to look forward to on Thursday night as Randor Bierd squares off against former PawSox pitcher David Pauley.  They were traded for each other on January 17th.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Marcus McBeth In A Word

The Boston Red Sox called-up Marcus McBeth on Friday and sent him right back to Pawtucket on Saturday.  The 28-year-old righty did not get to pitch in a game.

 

So what word do you suppose he used to describe how he felt after being shipped out so quickly?

 

“Blessed,” Marcus told me.

 


McBeth 2.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

That’s all you need to know about McBeth who ranks among the most likeable and humble players to wear a PawSox uniform since I became one of the team’s broadcasters in 2006.

 

Marcus told me it was a tremendous thrill just to be in the Red Sox clubhouse with so many talented players, including his childhood hero John Smoltz (I wrote about his admiration for Smoltz in a previous entry.  You can read it here).

 

Although he did not get to pitch this time, the Red Sox had to add McBeth to their 40-man roster in order to promote him to the big leagues.  That makes it more likely that he’ll get called-up again when big league rosters expand in September.

 

Let’s hope he’ll be feeling blessed again.

 

* * * * *

 

One of the highlights of my broadcasting career has been the opportunity to call games at Fenway Park as part of the “Futures at Fenway” event.  Here’s a shot of Hoard and Hyder from where Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien weave their magic.

 


H and H at Fenway resize.jpg 

I am really looking forward to this year’s event coming up on Saturday afternoon as Portland faces Bowie in the opener, followed by Pawtucket vs. Norfolk in the nightcap.

 

My only complaint – and it’s a small one – is that we won’t get to watch the Single-A Lowell Spinners in the opener this year, because I’d love to see DH Ryan Westmoreland and RHP Alex Wilson in action.

 

PawSox fans are keeping close tabs on Westmoreland since he’s the most highly-touted prospect to come out of the state of Rhode Island since Rocco Baldelli. 

 

Westmoreland extended a hitting streak to 8 games on Monday night.  For the season, he’s hitting .288 with 6 HR and 25 RBI and he’s 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts.

 

Wilson was the Red Sox second round draft pick this year (#77 overall) and is off to a phenomenal start.  In 18 innings, he’s allowed 6 hits and 1 earned run for a 0.50 ERA.

 

It’s hard to believe there were 76 better prospects in this year’s draft.

 

* * * * *

 

Monday’s 2-1 loss to Scranton/WB was Pawtucket’s 59th defeat of the year, meaning the PawSox have topped last year’s total with 36 games to go.

 

Last year, Pawtucket set a franchise record for regular season wins and finished the year with an 85-58 record.

 

After losing 23 of their last 29 games, the 2009 PawSox are 48-59.

 

* * * * *

 

Don’t forget to tune in bright and early on Tuesday as the PawSox face Scranton/WB at 12:05 pm.  Our coverage will begin at 11:50 am on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

A Weak Week On The Road

The PawSox 7-game road trip wasn’t a total disaster.

 

I got to see my dad in Buffalo.

 

I enjoyed an epic feast at Daddio’s Pizza with Hyder, his daughter Carly, and the PawSox Director of Security Rick Medeiros.

 

And . . . that’s about it.

 

It was a rough trip for the team as the PawSox went 1-6 and got outscored 27-8. 

 

That’s not a misprint; the team scored a total of 8 runs on a 7-game trip.

 

Pawtucket got shutout in the last two games and has been blanked in 15 games this season (10 times in the last 56 games).

 

As a result, the PawSox are 10-games under .500 for the first time this year at 48-58, and a season-worst 12 games out of first place.

 

So why is manager Ron Johnson feeling optimistic these days?  Because on paper, the lineup is starting to look pretty formidable.

 

Jeff Bailey is expected to be in the lineup on Monday night at McCoy Stadium as he begins a rehab stint with the PawSox.  Bailey has been out of action since suffering a high ankle sprain on the 4th of July.

 


Bailey first resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

When Bailey was called-up by Boston on June 30th, the PawSox were 6 games over .500 and 3 games out of first place.

 

“He brings a veteran presence to the ballclub and it’s a positive, business-like approach that I think the club has missed,” RJ told me.  “At the same time, I love when he’s in the big leagues, but I’m just happy that he’s playing again.”

 

The PawSox have averaged fewer than 3 runs a game while losing 23 of their last 29 games, but RJ expects the scoreboard to start lighting up soon.

 

“With the acquisition of Brian Anderson to go with Chris Duncan, Chris Carter, and now Bailey, you might be looking at me strange, but I really think this last month at McCoy we could do some fun stuff,” Johnson said.

 

Monday night would be a great time to start.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox have tinkered with the rotation, as Charlie Zink has been penciled in to start Tuesday afternoon’s game against Scranton/WB.  If Michael Bowden, Billy Traber, and Kris Johnson follow in the first three games of the Norfolk series, that would put Junichi Tazawa in line to start the “Futures at Fenway” game next Saturday afternoon.

 

If that happens, I suspect it would not be a coincidence.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox open a 6-game homestand on Monday night against Scranton/WB with Enrique Gonzalez on the mound.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

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