One of the biggest highlights of my summer has been getting to know Torey Lovullo. He has a great sense of humor, is a terrific storyteller, and has been incredibly accommodating to a couple of radio guys who spend a lot of time in his office looking for material.
(Laker-loving Lovullo on the far right with two pals at the NBA Finals)
Some favorite Torey stories include how he ties his shoelaces in honor of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, why he is grateful to the late Ernie Harwell, and why his dream is to shake hands with the President at the White House.
My favorite baseball nugget about the PawSox manager is the fact that 10 of his 15 career major league home runs came off of All-Star pitchers. Here’s the illustrious list:
Roger Clemens – 11-time All-Star
Kevin Brown – 6-time All-Star
Jack Morris – 5-time All-Star
Doc Gooden – 4-time All-Star
Rick Sutcliffe – 3-time All-Star
David Wells – 3-time All-Star
Rick Aguilera – 3-time All-Star
Jose Mesa – 2-time All-Star
Bob Wickman – 2-time All-Star
Shane Rawley – 1-time All-Star
Pretty impressive huh?
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
I sat down with Torey for some season-ending thoughts. Here’s the Q & A:
Fill-in the blank. My first season in Pawtucket was . . .
Very fulfilling. Our job as a staff is to prepare the players the best way possible to go up and contribute at the major league level. Winning is secondary. I think the track record shows that the guys that went up there were prepared and ready to contribute and that’s the main part of our job.
What was the highlight of the season?
I would probably have to say Daniel Nava’s grand slam in his first major league at-bat when we were all gathered in the clubhouse and rooted him on as we watched on TV. He certainly didn’t let us down.
What was the funniest thing that happened?
It probably has something to do with Chad Paronto. I would say the day that he made everybody on the bus wait and then walked on carrying a ‘Meowy Christmas’ sweatshirt. I got a kick out of that because my son was on the bus and he said, ‘That guy is a weird man. What’s going on?’ I had an internal laugh knowing exactly what Chad was doing.
This was your first year in the Red Sox organization after spending eight years managing in the Indians system. Can you pinpoint a biggest difference?
The player development side of it is exactly the same. Mike Hazen took the blueprint from the Cleveland Indians to the Boston Red Sox and laid it right over what’s happening here. The biggest difference without a doubt is that the Boston Red Sox talk about winning the World Series and they really mean it. That’s nothing against the Cleveland Indians, but when they talk about it they hope that things work out right. From day one with the Boston Red Sox, it was about making the playoffs and getting to the World Series.
Do you have any regrets or is there anything you would change if you could do it over?
I don’t think so. I think I come home every night evaluating what I’ve done and I have some daily regrets, but overall regrets no. All I want to do on a given day is to prepare myself the best way that I can to help these kids get better. I can’t hit, run, or throw for them, but what I can do is work with them. I do all that I can in that regard.
Look into your crystal ball and tell me what you expect to see in the future from these three young prospects: Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson, and Felix Doubront.
In Ryan Kalish, I think we’re talking about a guy who is going to be an All-Star for 10 years. It’s probably hard for people to see that right now because he’s had some ups and downs, but from my standpoint, he goes out there with a championship-caliber mentality that’s second to none. I think he’s going to be pretty spectacular for years to come.
Lars has the mental ability to turn his brain on for the ballgame and turn it off when the day is over – and that goes a long way. I think that Lars is still a work in progress, but he’s going to be a good big leaguer. I think he’ll probably spend the next year here, and then after that be an outstanding big leaguer.
I think the first time that I saw Felix was in Port Charlotte when he shut down the Tampa Bay Rays in two consecutive starts in spring training and I’m like, ‘Who is the world is this guy?’ He’s got mound presence, poise, and is just going to keep getting better. I think he has a legitimate chance to be a top of the rotation starter in the major leagues.
What big-name rehabbing player did you enjoy having on the team the most?
I don’t want to take anything away from all of the guys that were here, but Mikey Lowell was probably the best teammate and big leaguer that came down. He came on board and showed these guys what it is like to be a big leaguer. I know you wanted to cry when he went back up, so he even had an impact on you. He didn’t miss anybody – he was special in so many ways.
What was your favorite New England experience away from the ballpark?
I spent the All-Star break in a tiny little spot south of Provincetown on the Cape. I was able to escape from baseball for three days and recharge my batteries and had some really good quality time with my wife. No cell phones, no TV . . . we played cards and enjoyed spending time away from the ballpark. This is a spectacular area. I didn’t know just how special it is until I got here.
What’s in store when you get home to Southern California?
You go through withdrawal because you’re so conditioned to coming to the ballpark every day. The first couple of days after I get home it feels like I’m playing hooky, but that quickly fades off. I’m looking forward to getting home and spending time with my kids who I’ve missed for the majority of the season. I’m going to spend some time at the beach and be a husband and a father.
* * * * *
Congrats to Robert Coello on his promotion to the Boston Red Sox.
The 25-year-old righty certainly left the PawSox on a positive note. In his final outing on Thursday, Coello struck out the first five batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts in two scoreless innings.
Coello’s arduous journey to the big leagues is similar to Daniel Nava’s.
In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s how a little black book saved Robert’s career.
* * * * *
Jason Varitek is expected to play for the PawSox in their final two games of the season on Sunday and Monday at McCoy Stadium.
It will be the Captain’s third career stint with Pawtucket. Jason played in 20 games for Pawtucket in 1997 (.197 with 1 HR and 5 RBI) and 2 games in 2006 (.429 with 1 HR and 1 RBI).
Sunday’s game begins at 6:05 followed by a big fireworks show. If you can’t make it to the ballpark, I’ll join Bob Montgomery for TV coverage on Cox Sports throughout Rhode Island beginning at 6:00.
I’d love to hear from you. Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard