Minor league baseball teams are always looking for new ways to entertain fans. Perhaps they should start scouting high school track meets.
(Photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat)
Some of the biggest cheers at McCoy Stadium this year have been showered upon Chris “The Road Runner” Curtin. He’s the batboy who bursts out of the PawSox dugout to retrieve any foul ball hit down the left field line before sprinting as fast as he can back to the dugout.
“The first day I was here the other batboy told me, ‘Chris, you’ve got to move faster. You’re just not moving fast enough.’” Curtin said. “So basically from that first day I’ve been sprinting to make sure I get the foul balls. I’ve always thought it was a good workout and I just try to give 110% with what I’m doing.”
The sight of Chris racing after foul balls like he stole something is amusing. But the fans at McCoy Stadium really started to embrace “The Road Runner” after the PawSox video board crew of Kevin Galligan, Chris Judge, Matt Volpini, and Katy Fitzpatrick started showing his nightly sprints while playing the theme music from the old Benny Hill Show.
“One night I look up on the big screen and I see myself running and I was like, ‘Honestly? I’m going to be on the big screen now?’ Curtin said. “I appreciate it, but it was a little bit awkward for me. I’m not a show-offy kind of person and I like to stay under the radar.”
“I love it,” said PawSox president Mike Tamburro. “I think the kid adds a lot of personality to this park. He’s been doing it for over a year now, but I think the fans are really starting to get into it. He’s a great kid and he adds a lot to the game.”
(Chris places a rose on home plate on Opening Night in tribute to the late PawSox owner Ben Mondor. Photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat)
Curtin’s nightly responsibilities go well beyond bolting – make that Usain Bolt-ing – after foul balls.
“I have to get here an hour early before every game,” Chris told me. “I’ve got to bring the towels out, bubblegum, sunflower seeds, batting equipment, and the water jugs for the bullpen and dugout. Then during the game, the usual stuff – get the bats, make sure the ump has baseballs, and chase down foul balls. After the game I go to the bullpen and clean out the gum wrappers, bring in the towels, water jugs, seeds, and bubblegum. Then I sweep, vacuum, mop, and all of that fun stuff.”
It’s not exactly glamorous work, but the batboy who has been called everything from Forrest Gump (“Run Forrest Run!”) to Speedy Gonzalez, has become a McCoy Stadium celebrity.
“I’m a little embarrassed by it because everyone says, ‘I can’t believe how fast you run after the foul balls.’” Curtin said. “I always tell them, ‘It’s just part of the job.’ It’s nothing spectacular to me – it’s just something in my head that I should do.”
“How often do you see a kid showing the hustle that this kid shows?” Tamburro said. “I think it’s great that the fans are embracing it, because the kid is genuinely doing this. He’s not doing it to put on a show and I think that really shows through.”
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On Wednesday, the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs fell behind 8-0 and wound up beating New Britain 18-9. The Sea Dogs scored the game’s final 17 runs.
So I guess the PawSox has the second-best comeback in the Red Sox organization on Wednesday.
Pawtucket rallied for 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to erase a 7-3 deficit and stun the Norfolk Tides 8-7. It was Pawtucket’s 2nd walk-off win in as many nights.
Che-Hsuan Lin knocked in the winning run with a 2-out single, as the PawSox had four straight hits off of Norfolk closer Mark Worrell to pull out the win.
The outcome had to feel eerily similar to Norfolk starter Chris Tillman who did not allow an earned run in 5 IP and left the game with a 4-run lead, only to get no decision. Twenty-three nights earlier, Tillman pitched 5 shutout innings against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and left the game with a 6-0 lead, before Boston rallied against the Orioles bullpen in an 8-7 victory.
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Darnell McDonald belted a 3-run home run on Wednesday in the second day of what is expected to be at least a 10-day rehab stint with Pawtucket.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The 32-year-old outfielder says he is healthy, and Darnell is looking to scrape the rust off of his game after only having 21 at-bats in the first 8 weeks of the season with Boston.
“It’s a game of repetition, so for me, it’s kind of like starting over again,” McDonald said. “I don’t think you ever get used to (being on the bench). I try to focus on the process instead of the results. I try to get my work in before the game and during the game and try to stay as ready as I can. When I get an opportunity, I try to see how many quality swings I can put on the baseball and hope for the best.”
Darnell was with the Red Sox as they overcame their 2-10 start to climb back into contention in the A.L. East, and says he never doubted that Boston would overcome its early-season struggles.
“It was probably the best thing that could have happened to be honest with you,” McDonald said. “There were a lot of high expectations coming out of spring training. Everyone wanted to crown the Red Sox as the World Champions before the season started, so to come out and get humbled like that was probably a good thing. It’s a long season and teams go through tough stretches, and it just so happened to be the beginning of the season for us.”
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The PawSox conclude their 8-game homestand on Thursday as they host Norfolk at 7:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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