July 2009

All The (Roid) Rage

Tonight is Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium.


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All part of a series of promotions dedicated to the great cheaters in sports history.


Rosie Ruiz GPS Night is coming up later this month.


Danny Almonte Birth Certificate Night is scheduled for August.


Ben Johnson Gold Medal Night is set for September (but fans don’t get to keep it).


And Barry Bonds Gigantic Hat Night is due in October.


By the way, tonight’s game has been sold out for four days.  The only other Dodger’s game to sell out that far in advance this year was Opening Day. 


But fans are really upset about steroids.

The Last Goodbye For Buchholz?

Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the disabled list with a shoulder strain and has one win for the Red Sox this season.


Now 42-year-old Tim Wakefield is on the DL with a bad back, and by the time he pitches again, will likely have been out of action for nearly a month.


Still wish Boston had traded Brad Penny or dumped John Smoltz to make room for Clay Buchholz?


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


You gotta admit, right now the decision to have Clay biding his time in Pawtucket is looking awfully smart.  Rather than having to go find this year’s version of a retread like Paul Byrd, the Sox have Buchholz ready to plug into the rotation with a ton of confidence and a light workload so far this season.


Look, Theo Epstein is not perfect and has made his share of mistakes (36,000,000 of ’em in the case of Julio Lugo), but the decision to have Clay Buchholz spend 3 months in Pawtucket this year wasn’t one of them. 


Clay is a great kid with enormous talent.  I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been behind the mic for all 34 of his appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox over the past three seasons.


And I’ll be really happy for him if I never have that opportunity again.


* * * * *


While waiting to find out if the PawSox were going to be rained out on Tuesday night in Rochester (they were), I had a great opportunity during the afternoon storm to talk to Aaron Bates.


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Bates grew up in the La Selva Beach community in Santa Cruz, CA, and I learned from talking to him that it is near the San Andreas Fault and was close to the epicenter of the infamous 1989 earthquake that delayed the World Series.


“I was 5 years old and doing my homework when my brother and I noticed everything in the house started shaking,” Bates recalled.  “In school, we had gone through earthquake preparation, so I hid under my desk and he hid under the kitchen table.  We followed the rules for about 10 seconds – then we ran upstairs to find our mom.”


The ’89 World Series was called “The Battle of the Bay” since it pitted the Oakland Athletics vs. the San Francisco Giants, and one of the key players was Aaron’s first childhood hero – A’s slugger Mark McGwire.


A few years later, Bates had a chance meeting with McGwire at a restaurant in his home town.


“He was dining at a place named ‘Zelda’s’ on Capitola Beach and me, my brother, and two friends saw him go in,” Bates told me.  “So we promptly raced home – which was about five minutes away – got his baseball cards and went back to the restaurant and waited outside for about an hour because he said he would sign if we waited patiently.”


Thanks in part to that childhood memory; Bates does the same thing for kids that wait patiently for his autograph.


“I’m a pretty easy ‘sign’ and try to sign for everybody, but whenever I come out of the locker room and there are kids waiting there, I’ll try to have a conversation with them because they are definitely troopers for waiting at least an hour after the game.  So I’ll definitely sign something for them and talk to them a little bit,” Bates said.


* * * * *


How’s this for great timing?  Luis Tiant is going to be at Frontier Field for an autograph signing on Wednesday night when Charlie Zink is scheduled to pitch in the second game of a doubleheader against Rochester.


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Tiant was Zink’s head coach at the Savannah College of Art and Design and convinced the Red Sox to give Charlie a shot when he went undrafted out of college.


Zink has really been struggling lately.  In his last 7 starts, Charlie is 0-6 with a 7.65 ERA.  In 37.2 innings, he’s walked 27, hit 10 batters with pitches, and only struck out 5.


Let’s hope “El Tiante” brings “Chuck the Knuck” some good luck.


* * * * *  


I’ve joined the Twitter revolution.  If you would like to receive my “tweets”, please sign up at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard


Don’t forget to tune in early on Wednesday night for the make-up doubleheader.  The PawSox and Red Wings will play a pair of 7-inning games beginning at 6:05.  Our pre-game coverage gets underway at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


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

Rotten In Rochester

The PawSox were awful on Monday night at Rochester.


Actually, I don’t think awful is a strong enough word.  How about atrocious?  Or ghastly? Or abysmal?


I think you get the picture.


In a 12-5 loss to the Red Wings, Pawtucket committed a season-high 5 errors, allowed 17 hits, and wasted a pair of home runs by Chris Carter.


That’s about as bad as it gets right?




Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse.  In fact, this wasn’t even the most painful loss I’ve witnessed in Rochester.


In my four years as a PawSox announcer, perhaps the strangest loss occurred on August 7, 2006 at Frontier Field.


Pawtucket had an 8-4 lead with one out to go, when Jermaine Van Buren got Andres Torres to ground out to second base for the final out of the game.


The PawSox poured out of the dugout and began the post-game handshake routine.  I had just blurted out my usual, “there’s a ‘W’ in Pawtucket tonight,” when I noticed home plate umpire Adrian Johnson frantically waving his arms.


The game wasn’t over.  The ump ruled that PawSox catcher Alberto Concepcion was guilty of catcher’s interference, negating the final out and sending Torres to first base to load the bases.


You can probably guess what happened next.  Terry Tiffee drilled a grand slam to force extra innings, and Pawtucket lost the game in the 10th on an RBI double by Quinton McCracken.


It’s the only time I’ve seen the losing team celebrate on the field.


Now that’s what I call abysmal.


* * * * *


I received a great casting suggestion for “Heard if from Hoard” the movie.


In the role of Michael Bowden.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


We have actor Ewan McGregor.


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Keep the ideas coming!  You can post them in the comments section or e-mail them to dhoard@pawsox.com.


* * * * *


I know it’s going to be a few years before he wears a Pawtucket uniform, but I’m excited to see how well Portsmouth’s Ryan Westmoreland is doing in his first professional season.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Westmoreland, a 5th round draft pick last year, was 3-for-3 for the Lowell Spinners on Monday night with a single, triple, and home run.  For the season, he’s batting .293 with 3 HR, 17 RBI, and a .412 OBP.


I had the pleasure of broadcasting one of his high school basketball games on Cox Cable a couple of years ago.  Who knows, perhaps I’ll be broadcasting his baseball games in the future.


* * * * *


I hope you’ll join us for the radio call on Tuesday as the PawSox look to bounce back against Rochester.  Pre-game coverage starts at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

PawSox Kick The Habit

We should have guessed the PawSox luck was about to change when we saw 8 nuns dressed in white habits on the pitcher’s mound before the game.


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(photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat)


The Little Sisters of the Poor from Pawtucket (posing with Jeff Natale) made their annual visit to McCoy Stadium on Sunday afternoon and their timing was perfect, as the PawSox 8-game losing streak mercifully came to an end with a 3-2 win over Indianapolis.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Normally, that would have been cause for elation, but the celebration was muted because the PawSox were one out away from the 10th no-hitter in franchise history.


Michael Bowden (5 IP), T.J. Large (1 IP), and Javier Lopez (2.1 IP) had a combined no-hitter going with 2 outs to go in the 9th, when Manager Ron Johnson called on All-Star closer Fernando Cabrera to finish the game.


Cabrera got Steve Pearce to fly out to right field, but with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Larry Broadway grounded a single up the middle to spoil the no-hit bit.


Tagg Bozied followed with a 2-run HR to spoil the shutout as well, but Cabrera got Robinzon Diaz for the final out as Pawtucket ended its losing streak.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Bowden’s performance was especially encouraging.  It was his first outing in 13 days after receiving the midseason break that the Red Sox like to give to their minor league starting pitchers, and Michael looked great.  In 5 hitless innings he walked four batters (all on 3-2 counts) and struck out five in reducing his ERA to 3.13.


And congrats to T.J. Large, who bounced back from a rough outing on Saturday to earn his first Triple-A win.


* * * * *


Manager Ron Johnson was in a great mood before Sunday’s game after learning that his daughters were big winners at the Morrison, Tennessee co-ed softball awards banquet on Saturday night.


RJ’s 9-year-old daughter Bridget was named the girl’s MVP and 13-year-old Cheyenne was the girl’s home run champ.  As Hyder joked on Sunday’s broadcast, “Talent often skips a generation.”


It was apparently quite the shindig.  RJ figures he was the only one of Morrison’s 802 residents who did not attend.


As for RJ’s son Chris – currently playing third base for the Houston Astros Triple-A team in Round Rock, TX – he ripped his 5th home run of the season on Friday night.  Chris is batting .268 with 5 HR and 17 RBI after coming back from the broken hand he suffered early in the season.


* * * * *


I had an interesting chat recently with Angel Chavez about one of the greatest sports legends from his home country of Panama – boxing great Roberto Duran.


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In his heyday, Duran was nicknamed “Manos de Piedra” which means “Hands of Stone.” 


I told Angel that he is such a great defensive third baseman that his nickname should be the opposite:  “Soft Hands”


Angel provided the Spanish translation:  “Manos Suave.”


So if you hear me use that term on the air, you’ll understand why.


* * * * *


The PawSox open a 4-game series in Rochester on Monday night with Billy Traber 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.


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

Bates Gets The Ball . . . Eventually

Somehow, the oldest trick in the book always seems to work.


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


On July 11th, Aaron Bates recorded his first major league hit – a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning off of Kansas City’s Ramon Colon in the Red Sox 15-9 win over the Royals.


His Boston teammates made sure they saved the ball, and the memento was waiting for Bates after the game in his locker at Fenway Park.


Unfortunately, Bates soon realized that the guys didn’t do a very good job of inscribing the details.  The date was wrong . . . the opponent was wrong . . . shoot, they even misspelled his first name, writing “Aron Bates” on the ball.


And he bought it hook, line, and sinker.


The next day, J.D. Drew asked Bates if he had received the ball from his first big league hit, and Aaron said yes without mentioning any of the errors.  Drew – and others – got a big laugh when they handed over the real thing with all of the proper details.


Aaron said the key to the trick was the fact that the fake ball included the major league stamp for authenticity.  He had already added an “A” to his first name to at least get that right.


* * * * *


Now that the temperature has finally reached the 80’s in New England, it’s ice cream weather. 


So how about a few scoops of Rocky Cherry?


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The first time I heard the PawSox reliever’s name, I thought it sounded like a flavor of ice cream, and he agrees.  In fact, Rocky has considered getting a trademark of his name for that purpose.


Furthermore, he’s even thought about the ingredients of his eponymous flavor.


“I’d have vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered cherries – kind of like chopped up where there would be chunks of hard fudge and real cherries,” Cherry told me.  “I thought I had the perfect mix until I was talking to Javy Lopez and he said, ‘Ben and Jerry already has that flavor – it’s called Cherry Garcia.’  So now my hopes and dreams are dashed.”


Not necessarily.  All he has to do it tweak it slightly and I’m sure it would be delicious.


* * * * *


The official details are in about Dusty and Jordan Brown’s son.  I received this e-mail from Jordan on Saturday:


Jude Thomas (middle name after Dusty’s dad) was born on July 17th at 4:42pm weighing in at 8lbs 13 ounces with a full head of Dusty Brown hair : ) Dusty is at the field for a little while today, working out and hitting/throwing and then heading back to the hospital. We’ll be leaving the hospital Sunday morning.
I’ll let you know when we make our way to Jude’s first game, so you guys can see him. 


* * * * *


Michael Bowden (3-4, 3.32 ERA) returns to the mound on Sunday in hopes of snapping the PawSox’ 8-game losing streak.  It’s their longest losing streak since August of 1985.


I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Hey Jude!

Congratulations to Dusty and Jordan Brown on the birth of their son Jude who arrived today at approximately 5:20 pm.

Jude weighed in at 8 lbs, 20 oz and is 20″ long.

No word on a uniform number yet.

Jordan, Dusty, and Jude are all doing well.



Tales of Vacation and Labor

The Pawtucket Red Sox play 144 games in 151 days.  You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to do the math and figure out that they have 7 days off all summer long.


The 3-day all-star break accounts for 43% of that April ’till September vacation time, so imagine my surprise when I asked Travis Denker how the break was and he answered “too long.”


It’s official, Denker is nuts.


It wasn’t like he sat around doing nothing.  Travis went to Six Flags Amusement Park one day, and played golf on another, but he’s an adrenaline junkie who craves action – whether it’s baseball or surfing.    


Jeff Natale actually worked during the all-star break – making pasta for his girlfriend’s gourmet pasta company.  It’s called Nella Pasta and you can check it out here.  No word on whether Natale wore batting gloves while cranking out homemade noodles.


Manager Ron Johnson went home to rural Tennessee and said he “enjoyed every minute of it.”  I suspect his beloved horse “Peanut” wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic after carrying RJ on his back for three days.  RJ joked that as he was leaving home, “Peanut” stood up on his hind legs and held up a hoof in what appeared to be an obscene gesture.


As least I think he was joking.


* * * * *


By the time you read this, PawSox catcher Dusty Brown could be a dad.


Brown was 1-for-2 with a walk on Thursday night before being replaced in the 8th inning by Mark Wagner.


We immediately wondered if Dusty’s wife Jordan had gone into labor and received this e-mail from Jordan moments later:


Hi guys, just picked Dusty up at the field, we’re heading to the hospital. I’ve been having contractions all day and they’re finally close enough together to head to Mass General in Boston!


So if you were on the highway between Pawtucket and Boston on Thursday night around 10:00 pm and thought you saw a car whiz by that featured someone behind the wheel wearing catcher’s gear with a pregnant woman in the passenger’s seat, it probably wasn’t your imagination.


Our best wishes to Dusty and Jordan!  We look forward to hearing all about the arrival of baby Jude.


* * * * *


In case you missed it, both Pawtucket players who were selected to participate in the Triple-A All-Star game appeared in the International League’s 6-5 win on Wednesday night in Portland, OR.


Unfortunately, neither pitched as well as they have this season for Pawtucket.


Jose Vaquedano allowed 2 ER in 0.1 IP, and Fernando Cabrera allowed a HR in the 9th inning.  Cabrera did record the final two outs to get credit for the save.


* * * * *


Relief pitcher T.J. Large joined us on the pre-game show before Thursday’s game and answered this hard-hitting question:


According to your bio, your name is Terry W. Large.  What does the W stand for and how did you become T.J.?


“My full name is Terry Wayne Large Jr.  When I was in second grade, my friends would call the house and ask for ‘Terry,’ and my dad and I would be confused – we didn’t know who the call was for.  So ever since second grade I’ve gone by T.J. just so we would know who the phone was for and it just kind of stuck with me ever since.”


So now you know.


* * * * *


The PawSox will look to snap a 6-game losing streak on Friday night in Game 2 of a 4-game series against Indianapolis.  Charlie Zink will start for the PawSox, while Tom Gorzelanny goes for the Indians.  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.




Food For The Rumor Mill

This will fan the flames of the Clay Buchholz (and others) for Roy Halladay rumors:  Toronto will have at least two scouts in attendance at McCoy Stadium on Sunday as Buchholz takes the mound for Pawtucket.


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Sal Butera, a special assistant to Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi, was also in contact with a member of the PawSox staff today.  I’ve known Sal for years since he was a catcher for Syracuse in the late ’80’s when I was one of the broadcasters there.


Does it mean a Halladay to Boston deal is in the works?  Probably not, but Toronto is clearly doing its homework just in case.


* * * * *


I was pleasantly surprised to see relief pitcher TJ Large when I walked into the PawSox clubhouse this morning.  He was promoted from Double-A Portland to replace Randor Bierd who’s been placed on the temporarily inactive list for personal reasons.


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Large was with the PawSox for a couple of weeks at the end of the 2006 season and appeared in 3 games.  He’s been pitching brilliantly for Portland this year, going 3-0 with 8 saves and a 1.08 ERA.  He was picked to pitch in the Eastern League All-Star game, but will no longer attend due to his promotion to Triple-A.


A few weeks ago I wrote about the remarkable story behind Marcus McBeth’s wicked changeup (it resulted from a badly broken finger).  You can read that entry here.


Large tells a similar story about his best pitch – a cutter.  In 2004 he had surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist and tendons that attach three of his fingers were moved as part of the surgery.  That procedure made his middle finger more prominent than his index finger and when he started throwing again, the middle finger put pressure on the side of the ball and gave him a nasty cutter.


Whatever works right?


* * * * *


Manager Ron Johnson will be on a plane on Sunday night as he heads home to Tennessee for a well-deserved 3-day break.  He hasn’t been home since reporting for spring training in January.


I’m sure his wife and kids are thrilled.  I’m not so sure about his beloved horse “Peanut.”  He could be “Peanut Butter” after carrying RJ on his back for the next few days.


* * * * *


I hope you’ll join us for the radio call as the PawSox play their final game before the All-Star break on Sunday afternoon at 1:05.  Our pre-game coverage starts at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

An Interesting Investment Opportunity

Do you like fantasy sports?


Then former PawSox outfielder Bryan Pritz has the perfect idea for you.  It’s called Real Sports Interactive.


Pritz, who retired after being released by Boston in spring training, joined us on “PawSox Insider” this afternoon to discuss the idea.


Several years ago, Bryan and a couple of buddies came up with a concept in which fans could invest in the careers of minor league baseball players and potentially make big money if the players eventually made it to the major leagues.


Major league baseball frowned on the idea, so it’s been changed.  Now for a small investment in a minor league player, fans can receive autographed items or the opportunity to have personal interaction with their player if he advances to the big leagues.


Ironically, the first player to sign up is already in the majors – Red Sox first baseman Aaron Bates.  Here’s how it works:


For $14 a fan can purchase an Aaron Bates “sponsorship card.”  A total of 2,500 of those cards are for sale.


Once Aaron spends 30 days on a major league roster, his cards can be redeemed for a wide variety of items and/or experiences.  You can see the list of benefits here.


Bates seems likely to return to Pawtucket before he’s reached his 30 days, and Bryan tells us sponsorship cards are still available.


What the heck – for $14 bucks it sounds like fun.


* * * * *


Great news for relief pitcher Jose Vaquedano today – he’s on his way to the Triple-A All-Star game next week. 


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

Here’s the press release from the PawSox:


The International League announced today that they have added PawSox reliever Jose Vaquedano to the International League All-Star team for the upcoming Triple-A All-Star Game on July 15 in Portland, Oregon .  Vaquedano, 28, is 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA along with 1 SV in 28 relief appearances for the PawSox this season.


He will join PawSox closer Fernando Cabrera who was elected to the IL All-Star team.  PawSox RHP Clay Buchholz was also elected as the starting pitcher for the IL All-Star team but will not attend the game as he is scheduled to start for the PawSox tomorrow (Sunday) vs. Syracuse at McCoy Stadium.


* * * * *


It looks like a perfect Saturday night for baseball as the PawSox host Syracuse at 6:05 with Charlie Zink on the mound.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


Chip Ambres is Back, Back, Back

Since being traded from Pawtucket to Buffalo on June 10th, Chip Ambres has been struggling.


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Going into Thursday’s game at McCoy Stadium, Ambres was batting .159 in 25 games with the Bisons and was mired in a 0-for-23 slump.


Slump over.


In his first game back at McCoy Stadium as a visiting player, Ambres went 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs to lead Buffalo to a 3-1 win over his former mates.


His performance immediately brought to mind a game from my first year as Steve Hyder’s broadcast partner on the PawSox radio network.


It was in Toledo on July 25, 2006.  The Mud Hens roster included outfielder Dustan Mohr who started that year with Pawtucket and played horribly.  Mohr batted .169 in 22 games with the PawSox and struck out 23 times in 65 at-bats.  Boston eventually released him in mid-June.


So you can probably guess what happened when he got to face the PawSox.  Mohr hit a 2-run, pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the 10th inning.


Hyder was doing play-by-play at the time and after describing the essential details, Steve added a classic tag line, “Too bad he never did that for us!”


* * * * *


On Friday night, Jon Lester faces Kansas City for the first time since throwing a no-hitter against the Royals on May 19th last year.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


We were in Scranton/WB that night and Ron Johnson tells a great story about trying to follow the progress of Lester’s no-no while managing the PawSox.


He found a Red Sox fan in the stands at PNC Field who was getting the details from Fenway via cell phone and then would pass them along to RJ.


When Lester recorded the final out in his masterpiece, the fan in Scranton jumped out of his seat and threw his hands up in the air.  RJ immediately realized what must have happened, so he screamed out, “Yea . . . he did it!”


Unfortunately, that was totally inappropriate for what was going on in the PawSox game at the time and everyone around him thought that he was completely nuts.


* * * * *


I saw something really cool before Thursday’s game at McCoy Stadium.  Someone brought an electronic keyboard into the PawSox clubhouse and pianist Marcus McBeth put on an impromptu concert for his teammates.  Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Paul McAnulty clustered around McBeth and marveled at his musical ability and eventually several other players stopped what they were doing to listen.


* * * * *


Let’s see if the PawSox can swing the bats better on Friday night in Game 2 of this 8-game homestand.  They’ve been held to 3 hits in each of their last two games, and have only scored one run.


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.