2010 will be remembered as the year of “Guest Appearances” at McCoy Stadium. The list of major league stars who had rehab stints with Pawtucket included Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Hideki Okajima, and Jason Varitek.
But now that I’ve had a month to reflect on last season, do you know who stands out?
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
On this year’s final episode of “Talkin’ PawSox” on Cox Sports, my colleague Melanie Pellowski quizzed several members of the team on a wide variety of superlatives and Paronto was named “Best Dancer,” “Funniest,” and “Best Teammate.” (watch the segment here)
“It is an honor coming from your teammates, but I’m actually quite shocked that I only won those three because I think there were about 10 categories,” Paronto told me with a straight face. “Maybe next year I can win 10 out of 10.”
That is vintage Chad Paronto.
Paronto is one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met and reminds me of the characters that Will Ferrell often plays. He’s completely unafraid to make a buffoon of himself and you never quite know what he’s going to do next (here’s Chad as Hulk Hogan). We capitalized on his sense of humor on our radio broadcasts with a weekly “Hangin’ With Chad” segment that featured Paronto interviewing his teammates (you can listen to them here).
“One of the most unbelievable guys that I’ve ever been around,” Ryan Kalish said. “He is so funny off the field – and shoot, sometimes on the field – but he really helped me progress as a player by teaching me balance. We play a game every day and you have to joke around sometimes. He’s really good at doing that.”
“Chad and I go way back,” said Darnell McDonald. “We came up together in Baltimore and the guy hasn’t changed one bit. He’s a great teammate who keeps the clubhouse loose and he keeps you on edge because you never know what Chad is going to do. I’ve loved playing with him throughout the years.”
But Paronto isn’t only the Class Clown – he’s an outstanding pitcher. This season wasn’t one of his best statistically, but the 6’5″, 255-pound right-hander led the PawSox with 54 appearances and finished 3-5 with 2 saves and a 4.22 ERA.
“He’s an intimidating figure on the mound,” said Daniel Nava. “He’s a guy that you would never charge on the mound unless you had a bazooka in your hands and he had a blindfold on.”
Everybody on the team probably had a favorite Chad Paronto story, including manager Torey Lovullo.
“I would say the day that he made everybody on the bus wait and then walked on carrying a ‘Meowy Christmas’ sweatshirt,” Lovullo said. “I got a kick out of that because my son was on the bus and he said, ‘That guy is weird man. What’s going on?’ I had an internal laugh knowing exactly what Chad was doing.”
Paronto purchased the sweatshirt late in the season and awarded it to the star of the game after PawSox victories. Perhaps it was no coincidence that shortly after the ritual began, Pawtucket put together a season-long 8-game winning streak in late August.
“It’s 100% cotton, pre-shrunk,” Paronto bragged. “We stopped at a rest area or truck stop one day and since Rich Hill has three cats – I’ve said a million times I don’t know why anybody would want to have three cats but he does – I thought this would be great. Whoever was the MVP of a game that we won got the sweatshirt and had to sign the back of it.”
The thing that consistently cracked me up about Chad was his over-the-top love of all things New England – such as Dunkin Donuts and Larry Bird. Near the end of the year I asked the New Hampshire native how much Dunkin Donuts coffee he had consumed during the season.
“Anywhere between 20 and 45 gallons, I’d have to say,” Paronto said. “There are about 75 of them between my apartment and the ballpark and I think I’ve been to every one of them. It is something special. I love Dunkin Donuts – it’s my favorite restaurant.”
As for a certain Celtics legend . . .
“The greatest sports hero in any of the four major sports is Larry Bird,” Paronto said. “He’s the greatest basketball player, by far, and if he were to play football he might be a step ahead of Tom Brady. If he played hockey, he would probably be a tiny bit better than Bobby Orr. If he played baseball, probably Babe Ruth would come to mind if you asked me.”
That’s high praise, but one Pawtucket teammate had similar comments about Chad Paronto.
“You mean the man, the myth, the legend?” Daniel Nava said. ‘He’s 6’5″ with the brains of Einstein and the steel of Iron Man. If you pick up a dictionary, most of the words that are used to describe greatness are synonymous with Chad Paronto.”
He couldn’t have said it any better himself.
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