A Hall of Fame Dad

Sunday was not only Hall of Fame induction day in Cooperstown – a similar ceremony took place about four hours away in Buffalo as broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus and catcher Tony Pena were inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

(Photo of Tony Pena, Jr. and Jim Rosenhaus courtesy of the Buffalo Bisons)

Pena’s plaque was accepted by his son – PawSox pitcher Tony Pena, Jr.

“I was honored to be here today and to receive it in his name,” Tony said.  “I will definitely send him a picture of it and congratulate him.  I’ll send some pictures to my mom, my brother, and my sister.  We’re a pretty close family.”

Tony Jr. had not been born when he dad played in Buffalo, but he has heard plenty of stories about the 1979 season when Tony Sr. batted .313 with 34 HR and 97 RBI for the Bisons.

“He told me that he raked,” Tony Jr. said with a laugh.  “He had a great year here, and the following year, he got called up to the big leagues.”

The younger Pena made it to the majors as a shortstop in 2006, and now he’s trying to return to the show as a pitcher.  This is his second full season on the mound since being converted, and Pena is having an excellent year for the PawSox, going 7-4 with 3 saves and a 3.34 ERA. 

(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

“He’s everything we look for in a conversion candidate – athleticism, the ability to repeat his motion, and a loose and clean delivery,” said Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen.  “He shows a lot of interesting qualities.  He’s only been doing this for a year-plus now, and it’s hard to evaluate the performance because he doesn’t have much experience behind him.  Having said that, the performance in the last month has been outstanding – especially his ability as a sidearming righty to start and go through left-handed hitting lineups a couple of times.  That’s a challenge for any right-handed pitcher, but especially somebody that throws from that arm slot.  It’s been really impressive.” 

“I’m happy, but I’m the type of person that’s never satisfied,” Pena said.  “I’m always trying to get better.”

With Kyle Weiland in Boston and Felix Doubront on the 7-day disabled list, Pena is currently being used as a starter with impressive results.  Toss out a bad outing on July 16th where Tony allowed 6 ER in 3.1 IP, and Pena has a 1.61 ERA in his other five starts (5 ER in 28 IP).

Despite the impressive numbers, Pena looks forward to returning to the PawSox bullpen.

“I prefer relieving,” Tony said.  “As a reliever, you have a chance to be in there every day.  As a starter, you’ve got too much time on your hands.  Being a former infielder, I was out there every day.”

Playing every day behind the plate was one of his father’s most impressive qualities.  Tony Pena, Sr. caught at least 140 games in six different seasons, won four Gold Glove awards, and was a 5-time All-Star. 

But according to his son, that’s not what makes Tony Sr. a Hall of Famer.

“I’m most proud of him as a dad,” Tony Jr. said.  “That’s the number one thing.  He taught me how to play the game, but he also taught me how to be as a human being.  He taught us that whatever it is that you’re doing, you should do it with pride and give it all you’ve got.  If you do that, you should be happy with yourself.”

* * * * *

It has been slightly more than three months since Ryan Kalish injured his left shoulder while making a diving catch at McCoy Stadium.

(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

In late May, the 23-year-old outfielder played in a few extended spring training games as a designated hitter before suffering a neck injury that halted his progess.

But Kalish is back to working out every day with Pawtucket, and the Red Sox still hope that Ryan will play again this season according to farm director Mike Hazen.

“He’s doing well,” Hazen said.  “He’s swinging the bat and is not having any concerns physically which is a huge thing.  We’re still going to take it slow.  We don’t want to have another setback.  We want this guy ready to go up and help the major league club at some point in the second half which means he has to be healthy.  All signs – knock on wood – look good, and hopefully he continues to progress.”

There are only six weeks left in the regular season for Pawtucket, and Kalish would probably need a rehab stint at the Single-A level before joining the PawSox.

Might that happen soon?

“Soon is a very vague term and we will probably keep it that way,” Hazen said.  “We can’t put a time frame on it yet because we need to go through the progression.  We’re hoping that if everything continues to progress and he has no physical issues, then yea, we’ll be able to keep increasing the workload every day until we reach the point where he’s back playing.  We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing.”

* * * * *

One of the links that I recommend on the right side of this page is Ken Levine’s blog.  Ken was my broadcasting partner one summer with the Syracuse Chiefs and while I’m confident that he enjoyed working with me, I suspect it was not the highlight of his career considering that he been a writer for such TV shows as MASH, Cheers, Frasier, and The Simpsons and has been a play-by-play announcer for the Orioles, Padres, and Mariners.

Ken’s son Matt recently got married and you can tell by the dessert that he’s a rabid Red Sox fan.

(Photo courtesy of Ken Levine)

Here’s how Ken described it on his blog:

Matt’s sister, Annie was a big hit. The dessert was gourmet cupcakes and Annie designed a replica Fenway Park to showcase them (complete with a hand-drawn Green Monster). And then her speech was one of the highlights of the night. Example: “When my brother told me he had a new girlfriend who was also an engineer and loves the Red Sox I thought, ‘my brother has an imaginary girlfriend’.”

For their first dance Matt and Kim selected “Sweet Caroline”, a Bosox staple. Thank goodness the Dodgers aren’t their favorite team. Their first dance might have been “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”    

* * * * *

The PawSox produced one of their most dramatic wins of the season on Sunday as Lars Anderson’s 2-out, 2-run home run in the 9th inning gave Pawtucket a 7-6 win in Buffalo.

The PawSox lead the International League wild card race, and remain one game behind Lehigh Valley in the IL North.

Pawtucket will go for a 4-game sweep in Buffalo on Monday night at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 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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