A Fan Favorite Returns To McCoy

On Monday night, the PawSox return home after a nine day road trip.


It also marks the return of Joe Thurston to McCoy Stadium.


Thurston re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Two years ago, Thurston was a key member of perhaps the best team in Pawtucket history as the PawSox set a franchise-record with 85 regular season wins and led the league in runs scored.  Joe topped the I.L. with 160 hits, tied for second in batting average at .316, and was one of four PawSox to earn All-League honors at the end of the year.


I asked Joe what stands out about his summer in Pawtucket.


“The team we had,” Thurston said.  “Just coming to the ballpark every day knowing that win or lose we were going to have fun and play the game the right way.  Our manager RJ (Ron Johnson) was awesome – he let us go out there and do our thing.  And the fans were great.  They love their PawSox and their Red Sox and whether it was the big leagues or Triple-A they treated you well.  It was a nice ballpark to play in and the fans really made me feel comfortable.”


After playing for Pawtucket and Boston (4 games) in 2008, Joe spent all of last season serving as a jack-of-all-trades for Tony LaRussa with the St. Louis Cardinals and batted .225 in 124 games.  That gave Thurston his first opportunity to appear in the major league postseason, and also allowed him to play with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.


“It was an awesome experience,” Thurston said.  “The organization was first class.  Tony LaRussa uses everyone and he knows how to use everyone the right way.  We were put in situations where we could be successful for the most part. 


“It was a very good experience just to see how (Pujols) worked, how he took care of himself, and how he focused on every single at-bat.  Just the way he went about the game in general was awesome to see every night.”


It was a pleasure to watch Joe Thurston every night in 2008.  If you make it to McCoy Stadium during the Gwinnett series (Monday to Thursday), be sure to give him a well-deserved round of applause.


* * * * *


The PawSox will have a former major league All-Star and a 3-time Gold Glove Award winner in their lineup on Monday night as Mike Cameron begins a rehab stint at McCoy Stadium.


Mike Cameron re.jpg 


Cameron is expected to be the DH on Monday and play center field on Tuesday as he tests the lower abdominal strain that has kept him out of action since April 18th.


“I need to see where I’m at, more than anything else,” Cameron told the Boston Herald.  “It’ll give me a true feel for where I’m at. Instead of just running around, I’ll go play the game. Once the game actually starts, I’ll have to go full speed – run around, dive, everything else – and just see what it feels like.”


I got to know Mike in 1999 when he played for the Reds and I was working as a TV sports anchor/reporter in Cincinnati.  That season, Cameron helped the Reds win 96 games as he batted .256 with 34 doubles, 9 triples, and 21 home runs.


The following February, he was one of four players traded to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr.


“I’m sure that’s going to be a very big part of my legacy – the guy who got traded for Griffey,” Cameron told me in spring training.  “That’s not a bad thing to ride on.  That’s a guy that I looked up to.  He’s not much older than me, but he was in the big leagues at such an early age that I got a chance to watch him play a lot and compete against him too.”


One year after the trade, Cameron was an All-Star in his home ballpark, helping the American League beat the National League in Seattle 4-1.


* * * * *


The PawSox beat Charlotte 8-3 on Sunday and the headliners included Daniel Nava, who drilled a 3-run HR, and Michael Bowden who pitched 5.2 solid innings to earn his first win of the season.


But perhaps the most impressive performance was turned in by reliever Joe Nelson.


The 35-year-old righty retired all 6 batters that he faced to lower his ERA to 1.93, and struck out 4.  In his last 9 outings, Nelson is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (13 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 14 K).


* * * * *


The Syracuse Chiefs were rained out on Sunday, but don’t worry, that is not expected to alter the schedule of uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg.  The top pick in last year’s draft is slated to pitch on Wednesday in Syracuse vs. Norfolk, before facing the PawSox at McCoy Stadium next Monday (May 17) at 12:05.


Pawtucket opens an 8-game homestand on tonight at 6:15 vs. the Gwinnett Braves.


I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.


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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