October 2010

Talking Shop With Ryan Kalish

Ryan Kalish admits to being an “impulse shopper.”  He’s Ron Popeil’s dream customer because he’ll see something advertised on TV or displayed in a store window and desperately have to have it.

 


Kalish smiling.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

But even though the 22-year-old outfielder spent roughly two months in the big leagues this summer, earning approximately one-third of the $400,000 minimum MLB salary, he didn’t go crazy with his credit card.

 

“I got an iPad – which is more like a necessity nowadays – and I got some really good headphones,” Kalish told me.  “They’re awesome, but they were a little bit ridiculous to buy.  That’s really about it.  I was pretty good about just hanging out and playing baseball.”

 

Kalish ranks as one of Boston’s biggest success stories in 2010.  He spent two months at Double-A Portland and two months at Triple-A Pawtucket before making his major league debut on July 31st.  After batting .294 (.382 OBP/.502 SLG) with 13 HR and 25 stolen bases at his two minor league stops, Ryan batted .252 (.305 OBP/.405 SLG) with 4 HR and 10 SB in 53 games with Boston.

 

“The atmosphere of playing at Fenway and playing with the guys who play here every day was an incredible experience,” Kalish said.  “I hope it never ends.”

 


Kalish follow thru.jpg 

With Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron due back from injuries, there’s no guarantee that Kalish will even begin 2011 in Boston.  But he’s likely to go to spring training in the mix for a major league roster spot, and possibly a starting position in the outfield.

 

“I don’t like to look ahead and put too many expectations on myself,” Kalish said.  “Obviously, I got a pretty good taste of what it’s like to be here and that’s always a plus.  I don’t really know what I expect for next year.  I’m just going to go into the off-season, work hard, and get better – and get ready to help this team if they call on me to help them win.  That’s what I plan on doing.

 

“I’m going to spend two months at home and around December I’m going to head to Arizona to workout at API (Athletes’ Performance, Inc).  Then I’ll come home for the holidays and go back out there after the New Year.  I had a really good experience out there last year, so I’m definitely going to go back.”

 

Since Ryan mentioned that he would be spending time at home in New Jersey, I wondered about the status of one of his early-season impulse buys.  As I described in a previous blog entry (read it here), Kalish purchased a violin at a music store in Portland with the intention of learning how to play this off-season.

 

Now that he’s a big leaguer, does Ryan still plan to take up the violin?

 

“I think so,” Kalish said.  “I’m going to have a good 2 months at home and I know that I’m going to get really bored, so yea, I do think so.  It’s sitting there in my room, so if I feel like it I’ll go for it.  It was probably a worthless buy, but who knows?”

 

I guess we’ll find out in Ft. Myers.

 

I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

The Year of Chad Paronto

2010 will be remembered as the year of “Guest Appearances” at McCoy Stadium.  The list of major league stars who had rehab stints with Pawtucket included Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Hideki Okajima, and Jason Varitek.

 

But now that I’ve had a month to reflect on last season, do you know who stands out?

 

Chad Paronto.

 


Paronto with belt.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

On this year’s final episode of “Talkin’ PawSox” on Cox Sports, my colleague Melanie Pellowski quizzed several members of the team on a wide variety of superlatives and Paronto was named “Best Dancer,” “Funniest,” and “Best Teammate.” (watch the segment here)

  

“It is an honor coming from your teammates, but I’m actually quite shocked that I only won those three because I think there were about 10 categories,” Paronto told me with a straight face.  “Maybe next year I can win 10 out of 10.”

 

That is vintage Chad Paronto.

 

Paronto is one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met and reminds me of the characters that Will Ferrell often plays.  He’s completely unafraid to make a buffoon of himself and you never quite know what he’s going to do next (here’s Chad as Hulk Hogan).  We capitalized on his sense of humor on our radio broadcasts with a weekly “Hangin’ With Chad” segment that featured Paronto interviewing his teammates (you can listen to them here).

 

“One of the most unbelievable guys that I’ve ever been around,” Ryan Kalish said.  “He is so funny off the field – and shoot, sometimes on the field – but he really helped me progress as a player by teaching me balance.  We play a game every day and you have to joke around sometimes.  He’s really good at doing that.”

 

“Chad and I go way back,” said Darnell McDonald.  “We came up together in Baltimore and the guy hasn’t changed one bit.  He’s a great teammate who keeps the clubhouse loose and he keeps you on edge because you never know what Chad is going to do.  I’ve loved playing with him throughout the years.”

 


Paronto.jpg 

But Paronto isn’t only the Class Clown – he’s an outstanding pitcher.  This season wasn’t one of his best statistically, but the 6’5″, 255-pound right-hander led the PawSox with 54 appearances and finished 3-5 with 2 saves and a 4.22 ERA.

 

“He’s an intimidating figure on the mound,” said Daniel Nava.  “He’s a guy that you would never charge on the mound unless you had a bazooka in your hands and he had a blindfold on.”

 

Everybody on the team probably had a favorite Chad Paronto story, including manager Torey Lovullo.

 

“I would say the day that he made everybody on the bus wait and then walked on carrying a ‘Meowy Christmas’ sweatshirt,” Lovullo said.  “I got a kick out of that because my son was on the bus and he said, ‘That guy is weird man.  What’s going on?’  I had an internal laugh knowing exactly what Chad was doing.”

 

Paronto purchased the sweatshirt late in the season and awarded it to the star of the game after PawSox victories.  Perhaps it was no coincidence that shortly after the ritual began, Pawtucket put together a season-long 8-game winning streak in late August.   

 


 
Player of game sweatshirt.jpg 

 

“It’s 100% cotton, pre-shrunk,” Paronto bragged.  “We stopped at a rest area or truck stop one day and since Rich Hill has three cats – I’ve said a million times I don’t know why anybody would want to have three cats but he does – I thought this would be great.  Whoever was the MVP of a game that we won got the sweatshirt and had to sign the back of it.” 

 

The thing that consistently cracked me up about Chad was his over-the-top love of all things New England – such as Dunkin Donuts and Larry Bird.  Near the end of the year I asked the New Hampshire native how much Dunkin Donuts coffee he had consumed during the season.

 

“Anywhere between 20 and 45 gallons, I’d have to say,” Paronto said.  “There are about 75 of them between my apartment and the ballpark and I think I’ve been to every one of them.  It is something special.  I love Dunkin Donuts – it’s my favorite restaurant.”

 

As for a certain Celtics legend . . .

 

“The greatest sports hero in any of the four major sports is Larry Bird,” Paronto said.  “He’s the greatest basketball player, by far, and if he were to play football he might be a step ahead of Tom Brady.  If he played hockey, he would probably be a tiny bit better than Bobby Orr.  If he played baseball, probably Babe Ruth would come to mind if you asked me.”

 

That’s high praise, but one Pawtucket teammate had similar comments about Chad Paronto.

 

“You mean the man, the myth, the legend?” Daniel Nava said.  ‘He’s 6’5″ with the brains of Einstein and the steel of Iron Man.  If you pick up a dictionary, most of the words that are used to describe greatness are synonymous with Chad Paronto.”

 

He couldn’t have said it any better himself.

 

I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Chatting With Breslow

Although the Pawtucket Red Sox have only been in the International League for 38 years, their all-time roster includes the following:

 

Nine major league MVPs.

 

Seven Rookies of the Year.

 

Five Cy Young Award winners.

 

And the Smartest Athlete in Sports.

 


Breslow.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The Sporting News named the “20 Smartest Athletes” in its September 27th issue (here’s the list) and chose former PawSox pitcher Craig Breslow for the top spot.

 

“It was flattering obviously, but I’m not sure that it’s true,” Breslow told me with a laugh.  “There are some pretty smart guys on that list, but I’m definitely honored to be on the top of it.”

 

I had the opportunity to visit with the Yale grad recently while on vacation in Seattle.  The Mariners hosted Oakland on the final weekend of the regular season and I paid him a surprise visit in the A’s clubhouse.

 

Breslow had an excellent season for the Athletics, going 4-4 with 5 saves and a 3.01 in 75 relief outings.  Craig ranked 2nd in the American League in appearances for the second straight season and held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.

 

After pitching in the Milwaukee, San Diego, Boston, Cleveland, and Minnesota organizations, it appears that Breslow has finally found a home in Oakland.

 

“I’d like to think so,” Breslow said.  “I bounced around for a few years but I always felt that if I could get an extended opportunity somewhere, I could be successful in the big leagues and fortunately, it’s been here over the last two seasons.

 

“Knock on wood, I’ve been able to stay healthy and that’s definitely a key component in having success.  The turnover rate in the bullpen is usually pretty great, so the fact that I’ve been able to go out there and throw for two or three days in a row, speaks to the benefit that I can bring to a bullpen.”

 

Despite a Red Sox-like rash of injuries, Oakland finished 81-81 this season.  The Athletics led the AL with a 3.56 ERA and feature promising young (and affordable) starting pitchers like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden.

 

“It’s a good place to pitch,” Breslow said.  “We have loyal fans and I think it’s an exciting time to be part of this organization with the young core of pitchers that we have and also the position players that are starting to infiltrate the big league roster.  I think over the next year or two years, we should be able to compete.”

 

On the same day that Craig was named the smartest athlete by The Sporting News, he was also selected as one of 10 finalists for major league baseball’s Hutch Award.  The award is given every January to the major league player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of legendary baseball player and manager Fred Hutchinson who succumbed to cancer at age 45.

 

Breslow was 12 when his older sister Lesley was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  She was successfully treated and has been in remission for nearly two decades, but the experience had a profound impact on Craig who went on to study molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale.  He is currently devoted to trying to help children with cancer through his Strike 3 Foundation. 

 

“The Strike 3 Foundation raises funding for pediatric cancer research,” Breslow said.  “It’s about three years old now and in those three years, we’ve raised about a quarter of a million dollars.  We’ve made tremendous strides in the past year.  We’ve been featured on This Week in Baseball, we’ve been able to hold some fundraisers in the Bay Area and back in New York when we were there to play the Yankees, and our big fundraiser is coming up in November in Connecticut.  We’re really excited about how we’ve grown and we’re excited to see what next year holds for us.”

 

The big gala in Stamford, CT takes place on November 13th and is scheduled to include several of Craig’s major league teammates and friends.  Tickets are available here, and being named the smartest athlete in sports should help increase publicity.

 

If Craig needs to create a poster for the event, perhaps he can use the photo that The Sporting News used for its smartest athletes issue.

 


Breslow in lab.jpg 

(photo courtesy of The Sporting News)

 

“They had me pose in a lab with beakers and flasks and a mysterious green potion that is being poured over a baseball,” Breslow said.

 

“Shouldn’t the smartest athlete in sports be able to identify the contents of that mysterious green potion?” I asked.

 

“I’m pretty sure it was water,” Craig answered with a grin.

 

I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Thanks Ben

Every broadcaster that ever worked for Ben Mondor can probably tell the same story.


At some point before your first day behind the mic, the legendary owner of the PawSox asked you to come down to his office to discuss his expectations for the team’s radio announcers.


“Kid,” Ben said in a stern voice. “I’ve read about these major league radio men with their multi-year contracts.  Well, that’s not how it works around here.  Your contract isn’t multi-year or year-to-year.  It’s not even month-to-month or game-to-game.  Your deal is pitch-to-pitch because I’ll be listening to every word!”


Then he broke into a big grin.


* * * * *


I was on vacation in Vancouver on Monday with my wife Peg and our son Sam when I learned of Ben’s passing at the age of 85.  I’ve spent the day thinking about what an incredible life he lived and how many lives he touched.


Mine included.  


He is one of the kindest, funniest, and most generous people I have ever known.


* * * * *


Sam and Ben (resized).JPG.jpeg

Sam Hoard was born one month into my first year as a Pawtucket broadcaster in May of 2006.  The following season when Peg brought him to his first baseball game, Ben insisted that they watch the game from the comfort of his luxury box next to the PawSox dugout.  


Peg brought milk, Cheerios, and other appropriate snacks for a 1-year-old, but at some point while she was talking to Ben, Sam stuck his hand into the adult food and grabbed a shrimp.


Sure enough he loved it and tried to snatch another.  Peg tried to gently tell Sam that the shrimp was not for him, but Ben wouldn’t have it.


“Hey, the kid is smart — who wants Cheerios when you can have shrimp,” Ben said with a belly laugh.  “He can have as much shrimp as he wants!”


Sam turned four this year and has had the good fortune to watch several games from the owner’s luxury box over the last few years.


His friend Mr. Mondor always had a tray of shrimp waiting.


* * * * *


I suspect the delivery person in our neighborhood is under the mistaken impression that I’m the world’s most thoughtful husband.


For the past few years, Peg has received flowers on every appropriate occasion — Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, her birthday — you name it, the flowers have arrived like clockwork.


Only I had nothing to do with it.


Ben Mondor recognized that the spouses of his full-time employees faced a difficult burden because of the amount of time that we spend away from home, so he made a point over the years to always have the team send something thoughtful on holidays.


I told Peg today that I’m going to have to start jotting those dates down.


* * * * *


I’m really going to miss his stories.


Mondor re.jpg

Ben was one of world’s greatest storytellers and I loved to drop by his office and throw out names of some of the great players who have worn the Pawtucket uniform to get his off-the-cuff reaction.  


Here are some classic Mondor Memories:

 

Wade Boggs:

 

“A good friend . . . and a pain in the butt.  He won five batting titles and people used to rave about his bat control.  You know how he developed that?  When he was with us and we had a homestand, he would walk in practically every morning and want to take batting practice.  So I would take a kid working on the ground crew or somewhere else and I’d say, ‘Look Wade, this kid is not going to be able to throw strikes.  They’re going to be high, low, inside, outside,’ and he would say, ‘That’s what I want.’  And he would do that for two or three hours a day.  And when they were finished, they would go pick up the balls and do it again.  That’s how he developed that great bat control – right here at McCoy against kids who couldn’t throw proper batting practice.  He made a heck of a name for himself.”


Jim Rice

 

“He’s the best.  A great guy and he’s very misunderstood by the media because he’s a private guy.  It’s an insult that they waited 15 years to put him into the Hall of Fame.  This was the most feared hitter in baseball in the ’70’s.  Look at his achievements – they’re unbelievable.  Good God, he won the Triple Crown when he was here and it hasn’t been done since.  Nobody’s even come close.”

 

Nomar Garciaparra:

 

“He was a great athlete.  When the Red Sox promoted him from Trenton, Ed Kenney called me and said they wanted me to keep an eye on him because they were worried that they were bringing him up to Triple-A too fast.  So we would just sit down and talk.  I tell you one thing – he shot one of baseball’s theories to hell:  Not swinging at the first pitch.  He would always swing at the first pitch and hit about .347.  He was a great fielder, he could turn the double play like nobody’s business and he didn’t toot his own horn.” 

 

Roger Clemens:

 

“If you want to win a free beer from your buddies at the saloon, ask them this question, ‘What’s the only team that Roger Clemens pitched for where he finished with a losing record?’  It’s Pawtucket – he was 2-3.  He was just a young kid out of the University of Texas and he was only with us for a couple of months.  The guy could pitch.  I used to watch in his later years and think half of it was intimidation.  He threw so hard and was so good that they were never comfortable in the batters box.”   

 

Manny Ramirez:

 

“Manny was my favorite ballplayer of all time.  He spent a month with us on rehab and he loved it here.  He lived like a king, didn’t have to worry about all of those major league rules, and he supplied us with a lifetime of stories in one month.  I remember one game, it was about the fifth or sixth inning and I heard the manager say, ‘Where’s Ramirez?’ because there was nobody in left field.  It seems that Manny had been talking to a clubhouse kid whose father had a barbershop on Newport Avenue.  So he hopped in his car and went to get a haircut in the middle of a game – uniform and all.  The manager went nuts, but we thought it was hysterical.  Like him or don’t like him, he certainly entertained us.”


Daisuke Matsuzaka:

 

“I enjoy him tremendously contrary to our managers.  You see, Daisuke has a habit of loading the bases or putting two men on and then striking out three men.  That drives a manager crazy and I laugh my head off because I think it’s the most entertaining thing in baseball.”

  

Tim Wakefield:

 

“I wish he was my brother – that nice a guy.  He was a really classy guy to have around.  He set a good example for the other guys in the clubhouse and so forth.  We were proud to have him here and I wish he would come back often.”


Jose Canseco:


“You mean The Jose Canseco?  He was a big pain in the rump who thought he was the most important thing in the world.  He came here and he was something like 1-for-31.  And he asked for something every single day.  Then he would go out in left field and it was an adventure.  Sometimes he caught them, sometimes they hit him, sometimes they went over his head.”


Dustin Pedroia:


“I have a gripe with all of the so-called baseball experts because they don’t know any more than I do.  When Pedroia was here they said, ‘He’ll never make it.  He’s too short.  Too plump.  No arm, no speed, no range, can’t hit.’  After he left us, he won every award in the American League that could be had … Rookie of the Year … MVP.  Did they know what they were talking about?  I’m so glad he won all of those awards because he deserved it.  Everything they said that he couldn’t do — he did.  So what does that tell you about all of the experts.”


* * * * *


I read recently that there are 292 pitches in an average professional baseball game.


If I did the math right, my pitch-to-pitch contract with Ben Mondor lasted for approximately 210,240 pitches.


I hope he enjoyed them half as much as I did.


RIP Boss.


And thanks.


* * * * * 


I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard



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