Ryan Kalish is from Red Bank, New Jersey, meaning he grew up 56 miles from Yankee Stadium. When the 22-year-old outfielder joined the PawSox on Tuesday, I asked him to guess what percentage of baseball fans in his hometown root for the Bronx Bombers.
“Well, besides my family I’d say that everyone does, so the Red Sox have about a half-percent,” Kalish said with a laugh. “Growing up, I was a Yankee fan too. There is a rumor that I was a Red Sox fan as a kid, but I really liked watching the Yankees.”
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The inaccurate rumor about Kalish being a lifelong Boston fan probably stems from his high school graduation when Ryan walked across the stage wearing a Red Sox hat.
“I actually got the call that I had been drafted by Boston about two minutes before I was walking in,” Kalish said. “There had been confirmed talks that Boston was going to draft me so I had a Red Sox hat in my back pocket. My family didn’t even know – I just walked in with a Sox hat on and that’s how they found out.”
Kalish was a 9th round selection by Boston in 2006, and the Sox gave him second round bonus money ($600,000) to convince him to turn down a scholarship offer from the University of Virginia. In five pro seasons, Ryan has steadily climbed the Red Sox minor league ladder while earning the reputation for being a Trot Nixon-like “Dirt Dog.”
“I honestly attribute that to playing high school football,” Kalish told me. “I had a very strong football upbringing and that game will teach you that if you want to get the respect of your team, than you have to play all-out. That’s what I want to do here, get the respect of everyone by playing hard.”
“He is a throwback style of player who plays every inning like it’s his last,” said PawSox manager Torey Lovullo. “He’s going to be exciting for all of us to watch.”
Terry Francona and the major league coaching staff got to watch Kalish this spring, as Ryan was invited to big league training camp for the first time. He batted a respectable .267 in nine exhibition games with Boston, while studying the habits of his veteran teammates.
“I got to play with Mike Cameron in major league camp and he came in for about five days on rehab in Portland, and I learned by just watching everything he does – from the way he plays the game to what he does when he isn’t playing the game. He’s a major league guy for fifteen years and he watched us play even on the days when he didn’t play. He had a game where he was 0-for-4 and he was happy and telling us, ‘Tomorrow is a new day,’ and the next day he goes 3-for-5 with a walk-off home run.”
Cameron also had a rehab stint with Pawtucket and showed incredible generosity toward his PawSox teammates by purchasing several expensive post-game spreads and inviting players to join him in a luxury box at a Celtics playoff game.
Was Cameron equally generous during his time in Portland?
“Oh, absolutely – especially with the spreads,” Kalish said. “Obviously there were no big events close enough for us to go to, but I’m sure he would have done that too. He bought our team a pretty expensive machine for massaging so he does it all. And the spreads were unbelievable – sushi two nights, lobster one, and I think the other night was ribs and steak. It was just incredible what he did for us.”
Cameron is back in Boston now, and Kalish could join him before the end of the season. After batting .293/.404/.527 with 8 HR and 13 SB in 41 games with Portland, the Red Sox #3 prospect (according to soxprospects.com) has climbed to the Triple-A level at the age of 22.
“It feels awesome – this is the dream of all baseball players,” Ryan said. “I’m just looking to get up through the ranks of the minor leagues and get a chance to be a part of something special and make the major leagues, so it’s really, really cool.”
In other words, he could need a Boston Red Sox hat again in the near future.
* * * * *
Boof Bonser began a 30-day rehab stint with the PawSox on May 7th, so the Red Sox face a decision on what to do with him in the next five days.
In his last two outings, the 28-year-old righty has made a strong case to join Boston’s bullpen. On Tuesday night, Bonser allowed 1 ER in 7 IP with no walks and 6 strikeouts and Boof has only allowed 1 run in his last 13 innings.
Unfortunately, he still doesn’t have a win.
On Tuesday, Bonser left the game after 7 innings with a 2-1 lead, but Chad Paronto surrendered a 2-run HR to Charlotte’s Luis Rodriguez in the 8th inning, and the PawSox lost to the Knights 3-2.
Niuman Romero’s first home run in a PawSox uniform accounted for Pawtucket’s only runs.
The PawSox will send Felix Doubront (0-1, 1.50) to the mound in Game 3 of the 4-game series on Wednesday 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.
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