As I type this at 11:23 am on November 23rd, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the Boston Red Sox primary catcher to begin the 2011 season.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“Nothing is set in stone but it looks like I could have an opportunity to earn a spot in the lineup,” Saltalamacchia told the Boston Globe after Victor Martinez signed as a free agent with Detroit. “Obviously it makes me feel great that the organization has confidence in me.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. I’m glad Victor got what he wanted, but now I need to run with this.”
Saltalamacchia only played in 10 games for Boston after being obtained in a July 31st trade with Texas for three minor leaguers, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona liked what he saw.
“Really interesting kid,” Francona told WEEI radio. “He has been through a lot. He’s been injured; he’s had some trouble throwing. Saying that, he’s been the Rangers’ Opening Day catcher the last two years, that’s how much they thought of him. A switch-hitter with power, I think we view him potentially as somebody that can really fit the bill as maybe an everyday catcher with us.
“Saying that, I don’t know if you want to just – because of everything he’s been through – hand everything to him on April 1st and say “Go get ’em’. Sometimes you’re helping to set somebody up to fail. We don’t want that to happen. We want to help this kid progress because we really like what’s in there, but you also want to help him get there.”
While Francona sounded somewhat hesitant about handing Saltalamacchia the primary job, baseball analyst Lou Merloni sounded even more skeptical when asked if he would be comfortable with Jarrod behind the plate for Boston on Opening Day.
“No, not one bit and I don’t think the Red Sox really can be,” Merloni said on CSNNE. “They haven’t seen enough of this kid. Maybe some day. They got a great value in him and didn’t give up much, but he’s sort of like that project that’s got potential and could be that some day, but just not right now. I don’t think you can go into the season (with Jarrod as the starter) and I don’t believe that they think that right now. They just haven’t seen enough. Maybe a few years down the road – fine – but right now? No, I wouldn’t feel confident one bit with him as the Opening Day starter.”
I didn’t get to know Jarrod very well since he only played in nine games for the PawSox, but he did consent to a “Fantastic Fun Facts” interview. Here were some of the more interesting nuggets.
Who was your childhood hero?
“I looked up to Ken Griffey Jr., but I was really into my brother Justin. He actually played with me my first two years of pro ball. He’s four years older than me and I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. Now I realize that I can beat him up and he’s not so cool anymore.”
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
“Getting called-up for the first time when I was 22 years old with Atlanta was probably my best moment in baseball, but the greatest moment of my life was the birth of both of my kids (daughters Sidney and Hunter). I love my kids to death and there’s nothing that could top that. I enjoy every minute with them.”
What’s been your most embarrassing moment in baseball?
“There was a time in Baltimore where I took a pitch and I thought, ‘Man, I saw that ball so well, I wonder why?’ The umpire screamed time out and I had the wrong helmet on. I had a left-handed helmet on when I was batting righty. The whole thing was caught on live TV and it was pretty embarrassing.”
If you could choose your uniform number, what would it be?
“I guess probably 48. There are 4 people in my family – me, my wife, and our two girls – and I had a cousin who was killed in a car accident and he wore the number 8, so I’ve always wanted to have an 8 in there somewhere (Jarrod wore #39 with the Red Sox last year. Scott Atchison wore #48).”
Have you had any interesting brushes with greatness?
“I got to meet former President George W. Bush which was awesome. He came into the clubhouse in Washington when I was playing for Texas in interleague play and he invited us to the White House. I got to go into the Oval Office and it was a great experience. It was something I’ll never forget. Not too many people get to do that, so it was pretty exciting.”
Did you come away with any souvenirs?
“We got to take a picture with him in front of his desk. I know we have one in my house. We probably copied it 10 times and gave it to everyone in the family.”
At 14 letters, you have the longest last name in major league baseball history. What does your autograph look like?
“It’s ‘J’ with a squiggly line and an ‘S’ with a squiggly line. It doesn’t look anything like my name. Sometimes I’ll put my full name down, but it takes a long time to do it.”
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