Although the Pawtucket Red Sox have only been in the International League for 38 years, their all-time roster includes the following:
Nine major league MVPs.
Seven Rookies of the Year.
Five Cy Young Award winners.
And the Smartest Athlete in Sports.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The Sporting News named the “20 Smartest Athletes” in its September 27th issue (here’s the list) and chose former PawSox pitcher Craig Breslow for the top spot.
“It was flattering obviously, but I’m not sure that it’s true,” Breslow told me with a laugh. “There are some pretty smart guys on that list, but I’m definitely honored to be on the top of it.”
I had the opportunity to visit with the Yale grad recently while on vacation in Seattle. The Mariners hosted Oakland on the final weekend of the regular season and I paid him a surprise visit in the A’s clubhouse.
Breslow had an excellent season for the Athletics, going 4-4 with 5 saves and a 3.01 in 75 relief outings. Craig ranked 2nd in the American League in appearances for the second straight season and held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
After pitching in the Milwaukee, San Diego, Boston, Cleveland, and Minnesota organizations, it appears that Breslow has finally found a home in Oakland.
“I’d like to think so,” Breslow said. “I bounced around for a few years but I always felt that if I could get an extended opportunity somewhere, I could be successful in the big leagues and fortunately, it’s been here over the last two seasons.
“Knock on wood, I’ve been able to stay healthy and that’s definitely a key component in having success. The turnover rate in the bullpen is usually pretty great, so the fact that I’ve been able to go out there and throw for two or three days in a row, speaks to the benefit that I can bring to a bullpen.”
Despite a Red Sox-like rash of injuries, Oakland finished 81-81 this season. The Athletics led the AL with a 3.56 ERA and feature promising young (and affordable) starting pitchers like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden.
“It’s a good place to pitch,” Breslow said. “We have loyal fans and I think it’s an exciting time to be part of this organization with the young core of pitchers that we have and also the position players that are starting to infiltrate the big league roster. I think over the next year or two years, we should be able to compete.”
On the same day that Craig was named the smartest athlete by The Sporting News, he was also selected as one of 10 finalists for major league baseball’s Hutch Award. The award is given every January to the major league player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of legendary baseball player and manager Fred Hutchinson who succumbed to cancer at age 45.
Breslow was 12 when his older sister Lesley was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was successfully treated and has been in remission for nearly two decades, but the experience had a profound impact on Craig who went on to study molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale. He is currently devoted to trying to help children with cancer through his Strike 3 Foundation.
“The Strike 3 Foundation raises funding for pediatric cancer research,” Breslow said. “It’s about three years old now and in those three years, we’ve raised about a quarter of a million dollars. We’ve made tremendous strides in the past year. We’ve been featured on This Week in Baseball, we’ve been able to hold some fundraisers in the Bay Area and back in New York when we were there to play the Yankees, and our big fundraiser is coming up in November in Connecticut. We’re really excited about how we’ve grown and we’re excited to see what next year holds for us.”
The big gala in Stamford, CT takes place on November 13th and is scheduled to include several of Craig’s major league teammates and friends. Tickets are available here, and being named the smartest athlete in sports should help increase publicity.
If Craig needs to create a poster for the event, perhaps he can use the photo that The Sporting News used for its smartest athletes issue.
(photo courtesy of The Sporting News)
“They had me pose in a lab with beakers and flasks and a mysterious green potion that is being poured over a baseball,” Breslow said.
“Shouldn’t the smartest athlete in sports be able to identify the contents of that mysterious green potion?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure it was water,” Craig answered with a grin.
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