A Big Bat and a Big Brother

The legend of Ryan Lavarnway grows.

(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

On Tuesday night, the 23-year-old catcher launched one of the longest home runs that I’ve seen at McCoy Stadium in 5-plus years of broadcasting PawSox games – a majestic blast to dead center that landed halfway up the roof on the concessions garage beyond the outfield wall (watch video of the HR here).  I would estimate that it traveled at least 430 feet.

After 32 games at the Triple-A level, Lavarnway is batting .388 with 12 2B, 11 HR, and 31 RBI.  His OPS is an astounding 1.220.  To put that into perspective, there are only two major league players with an OPS over 1.000 this season – Toronto’s Jose Bautista at 1.155 and St. Louis’s Lance Berkman at 1.004.

Ryan’s last 7 games have been downright absurd – he’s batting .615 (16-for-26) with 6 HR and 12 RBI.  No wonder Lavarnway’s teammates have started to call him “Babe”…as in Ruth.

Now let me share something about Ryan Lavarnway off of the field.

(Owen Karsmarski, Ryan Lavarnway, and Blake Karsmarski)

Before Tuesday’s game, Ryan gave 14-year-old twin brothers Blake and Owen Karsmarski a behind-the-scenes tour of McCoy Stadium.  He has been mentoring the twins as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program since he was a student at Yale University.       

“I signed up for it in college during my sophomore year,” Lavarnway said.  “We kind of did it as a group – as the baseball team.  We signed up for a six month Big Brother program and I fell in love with my little brother Blake and we’ve been in contact ever since.  One of my teammates at Yale had his twin brother Owen and they lost contact, so I kind of adopted him as my second little brother.  It’s great – I still get to see them every once-in-a-while since they’re from Connecticut, right near the Yale campus.  They’re great kids and they’ve grown up fast.  It’s kind of funny for me to say that not having any kids of my own but they’re great guys.

“Back when I was in school they’d come over and we’d grill some burgers, play catch, and take a tour of the campus, or I’d take them to a restaurant and just chat about stuff.  Now I don’t see them as often, but they come out to the game, come on to the field during batting practice, come into the locker room and meet the guys and get free equipment from the guys – the guys are usually great about it.  They got a couple new bats today, a couple of batting gloves, so it’s pretty cool.”

Blake and Owen spoke glowingly about what Lavarnway has meant to them.

“I got to know Ryan about five years ago through the Big Brother Big Sister Association and my relationship with him has been amazing – he’s just like a real brother to me,” said Blake Karsmarski.  “We get to go out on the field and hang out with Ryan, but it’s just about spending time with him for me.”

“I enjoy his company a lot,” said Owen Karsmarski.  “Usually if we get here early enough we’ll go out to the field while they take B.P. and we’ll get to shag some balls.  Then we come in the clubhouse and hang out for a bit before they have to get ready.  He definitely feels like a real brother”

“It’s amazing for me,” Lavarnway said.  “I just hope they get another positive male influence in their lives.  It’s tough these days for kids to come out right and stay out of trouble, but they’ve been doing a great job. Their grades have improved in school – Blake was getting into a little bit of trouble in school when I met him, but he’s doing great so my hope is that they grow up and are functioning members of society.  They’re great kids and they can be very successful in whatever they want to do. For me it’s just a great experience to be with them and watch them grow up.”

* * * * *

With a 7-2 win over Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, the PawSox have pulled within 2 games of the first place IronPigs in the IL North, and moved into the lead in the Wild Card race by a half-game over Durham.

The PawSox will look to take their third game in a row from Lehigh Valley in a Wednesday matinee beginning at 12:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 11:50 in the morning on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

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

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

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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