Does a WWE championship belt clash with a turn-of-the-20th-century baseball uniform?
I guess the Pittsfield Colonials are about to find out.
(PawSox photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Former PawSox relief pitcher Chad Paronto – who was given that belt by his Pawtucket teammates last year for his general awesomeness (you can read all about it here) – will be wearing the Colonials vintage uniform this summer in the independent Can-Am League.
(Photo courtesy of iBerkshires.com)
“The uniform is big and baggy and old-time,” Paronto said. “I got into a big argument with management because I want to cut the sleeves off of my jersey. They said that I couldn’t do that, so I’m going to have to pitch with sleeves, which is a little disappointing for me and certainly for my fans.”
The 35-year-old pitcher, who has appeared in 177 major league games with the Orioles, Indians, Braves, and Astros, has agreed to come out of retirement to be a player/coach for the Colonials. Chad lives in Pittsfield with his wife and two children.
“I really wanted to coach-slash-teach,” Paronto said. “I guess I’m called the pitching coach, but I just want to teach guys how to pitch a little bit, and share some of the ideologies that I’ve come across in the 16 years that I’ve played. I think it’s going to be exciting…and the stadium is only about eight-tenths of a mile from my house.”
Paronto was 3-5 with 2 saves and a 4.22 ERA in a team-leading 54 relief outings for the PawSox last year. But when the Colonials open their season on Thursday night, he will be the starting pitcher – his first start since 2002.
“I went down a laundry list of things that had to coincide with my schedule and they were so accommodating and made it impossible not to play again,” Paronto said. “Then the G.M. said, ‘We would like you to start.’ I said, ‘It’s been 10 years since I started, but OK.’ Then he said, ‘And we would like you to start on Opening Night.’ So I said, ‘I guess I’m starting on Opening Night then.’”
Paronto was interested in returning to Pawtucket this year, but when the Red Sox did not make an offer early in free agency process, Chad told his agent not to actively pursue other options.
So what happens if he dominates independent ball and a scout from a major league team approaches him about making a full-time comeback?
“I still feel like I’ve got good enough stuff to pitch at the major league level,” Paronto said. “If I pitch great and somebody came and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to sign you.’ I would say, ‘Absolutely not…unless there are a couple of million dollars guaranteed.’ Then I would run to Los Angeles if I had to.”
Thursday’s start will take place in Chad’s adopted home town as the Colonials open at home against the New Jersey Jackals.
“I’m not originally from Pittsfield so there are a lot of people that don’t exactly know who I am, but there has been a huge public outcry since the news broke here,” Paronto said. “I’ve heard from hundreds of people that will be going to the game and that’s part of the plan that the Colonials have. It’s a good way to sell tickets. Hopefully I won’t give up 20 runs in a third of an inning and people will come out to my next start.
“I’m stating to get a little bit nervous because there will be so many people there that I know and I just want to do so well. The biggest thing that I miss about playing baseball is being in the clubhouse and being with the guys. So it was either this or fat man’s softball.”
* * * * *
After a heartbreaking loss on Saturday night that saw the PawSox squander a 4-0 lead in the 8th inning, Pawtucket rebounded for a 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon in Toledo.
The hero was Tony Pena, Jr. who was forced to make a spot start since the PawSox had played 2 doubleheaders in the previous four days and an 11-inning game the night before. Pena took a no-hitter in the 5th inning and left the game after pitching 6 shutout frames. His longest previous outing since being converted from an infielder to a pitcher in 2009 was 3.2 IP. 21-year-old Dennis “Hello” Neuman allowed 1 ER over the final 3 innings to pick up his second save.
Tony Thomas had a double and home run and scored both Pawtucket runs.
Game 3 of the 4-game series is on Monday night at 6:30. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:15 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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