On his first road trip as a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Jose Iglesias has already seen one of the world’s great natural wonders. While the PawSox were in Buffalo, he visited Niagara Falls with fellow Cuba native J.C. Linares.
“It was a great experience and so beautiful,” Iglesias told me. “I like Buffalo — it’s freezing, but I’ve enjoyed playing here.”
Niagara Falls was an appropriate place for Iglesias to visit because it straddles the international border between Canada and the United States — the two countries where Iglesias has found freedom.
“In July of 2008, I went to Canada with the Cuban National Team,” Iglesias said. “We were in Edmonton, and when everybody was asleep, me and one of my teammates (Noel Arguelles) snuck out of our hotel. It was a chance to make a new future, so I defected. We went looking for a cop so we could say ‘political asylum’ because when you’re from Cuba you get priority and they take care of you.”
Arguelles’ father eventually helped the pair cross the Canadien border into the United States, and a little less than three years later, the 21-year-old shortstop has embraced life in America. Iglesias has llearned how to speak English and currently makes his off-season home in Miami.
“Everything is different here in the USA — the weather, the food, the language. But I feel much more comfortable this year. I feel like this is my home now. Last year my roommate in Double-A was Nate Spears and he taught me a lot. He only speaks English, so I had to speak English. He helped me a lot, but I also learned by watching TV and by paying attention to everything the coaches say.”
Iglesias has already made some famous friends in his adopted home. He worked out in the off-season with Alex Rodriguez and struck up a friendship with pop music sensation Enrique Iglesias (no relation).
“I was a little bit surprised by how hard A-Rod works,” Iglesias said. “He’s one of the most talented players in the game, but he really works at it. I really tried to learn by focusing on him.
“I met Enrique Iglesias through a mutual friend. He is a very humble guy. I’m very excited about music and I’ve seen him a couple of times in Miami. He’s not a baseball fan though — he likes soccer.”
The Red Sox top-rated minor league prospect is off to an excellent start with Pawtucket. Iglesias is batting .308 (.400 OBP) in his first four games, despite dealing with a sore thumb that forced him to miss the first two games of the Buffalo series.
“The last game in Pawtucket I jammed it, and it’s a little sore — especially in this weather,” Iglesias said. “But it’s getting better every single day and I am fine to play. My goal this year is to stay healthy and play every day. If it’s a little sore that’s alright because I have to push myself.”
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After handing Buffalo a 15-1 loss on Monday — the Bisons’ most-lopsided defeat in the history of Coca-Cola Field — the PawSox got a taste of their own medicine on Tuesday as they fell to the Bisons 8-1.
It was a rough 2011 debut for LHP Kris Johnson. After retiring the first batter of the game, Johnson surrendered five straight hits, and he eventually gave up 7 runs (6 ER) in 2.1 IP.
In 2-plus years with the PawSox, Kris is 9-27 with a 5.68 ERA (146 ER in 231.1 IP).
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The Boston Red Sox are in last place in the A.L. East with a 2-9 record after Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
I know it’s been ugly, but a great season is still possible — just ask PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis.
In 1991, Davis played for the Minnesota Twins when they opened the season 2-9. The Twins finished that season with 95 wins before beating the Atlanta Braves in 7 games to win the World Series.
I asked Chili how the ’91 Twins turned their season around, and what advice he would give to the Red Sox.
“We knew that we had a good team coming out of spring training, but it just takes a little while to gel,” Davis said. “The Red Sox have Crawford, Gonzalez, and a few other new faces and they’re learning how to play together. With the Twins it was the same way. We throught we were gelling in spring training because we had a close-knit team just like the Red Sox do, but once the season started we still had to figure out how to click together. We eventually started putting wins together and had some long winning streaks, and I think the Red Sox have the ability to do that this year.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
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The PawSox are scheduled to open a 3-game series in Syracuse on Wednesday afternoon at 2:20. It’s the Chiefs’ home opener, but the weather forecast is lousy calling for a 60% chance of rain with the temperature in the 40’s.
If there is a game, we hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pregame show at 2:00 on the PawSox radio network, pawsox.com, and 920 WHJJ.com.
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