When Will Middlebrooks – the Boston Red Sox top-rated minor league prospect – got promoted from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket last Friday, one of his first phone calls went to New England Patriots rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett.
(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“It definitely was because I had to sleep somewhere,” Middlebrooks said with a laugh. “Ryan was one of my best friends growing up and that’s who I’m living with right now. It’s about a 20 minute drive, but he won’t let me pay him anything for rent so I’m not going to argue with him.”
Middlebrooks first weekend with the PawSox was a whirlwind. He had fewer than 2 hours of sleep following an all-night bus trip with the Portland Sea Dogs on Friday when he was told to packs his bags and drive to Pawtucket. On Saturday, the PawSox bused back-and-forth to Boston for a game at Fenway Park, followed by an afternoon game at McCoy Stadium on Sunday. Perhaps it should have been no surprise when the sleep-deprived Middlebrooks went 0-for-11 with 6 strikeouts in his first three Triple-A games.
But the 22-year-old third baseman said that he wasn’t concerned about the slow start before going 2-for-4 in Pawtucket’s 3-2 win over Syracuse on Monday.
“You would think that I am, but I’m really not worried,” Middlebrooks told me. “I’m up here having fun and I’m getting settled in. I know I can hit, so it’s not a problem. Sunday night was my first full-night of sleep I guess you could say and I feel like a new guy today – I can tell you that.”
Middlebrooks is having an exceptional season, batting a combined .296/.340/.525 with 26 doubles, 21 HR, and 86 RBI in 104 games for Portland (96 games), Pawtucket (4 games), and Single-A Lowell (4 game rehab stint). After beginning the season as Boston’s 13th-best prospect according to SoxProspects.com, Will has climbed to the top spot on the list.
“It’s an honor with all of the good players that we have in this organization for people to think that highly of me,” Middlebrooks said. “It goes back to the coaching that I’ve had and the teammates that I’ve been able to learn from. It’s all come together as far as my approach and my plan is concerned.”
Middlebooks was a 5th round draft pick out of Liberty-Eylau HS in Texas, and turned down a baseball/football scholarship at Texas A&M to sign with the Red Sox in 2007. Will was a star quarterback on the high school football team – just like his current roommate Mallett.
“I think we met in about 6th grade in a little town called Hooks, Texas – where (former Heisman Trophy winner) Billy Sims is from actually,” Middlebrooks said. “Our dads coached together and we were the little ball boys on Friday nights for the football team. We always hung out together through middle school and high school, but we were both quarterbacks so we went to separate high schools. But we still spent a lot of time with each other and competing against each other and it was a lot of fun.”
Middlebrooks was in attendance on August 11th at Gillette Stadium to see Mallett’s spectacular pre-season debut for New England, when the Patriots third-round draft pick went 12-for-19 for 164 yards and a TD pass in a 47-12 rout of Jacksonville.
“We played at noon that day and had an off-day the next day, so I was able to drive down and watch him play,” Middlebrooks said. “He loves the situation that he’s in. Of course he would love to come in and play right away, but he wants to learn and get better and there is no better duo to learn from than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.”
Mallett has reached the NFL and now Middlebrooks is one step away from the big leagues.
“I really wasn’t expecting to get promoted to Triple-A this late in the season,” Will said. “You play for a promotion and to get better every day, so it felt good to get the call. I was extremely sleepy, but extremely excited at the same time.”
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The PawSox have a 1-game lead in the IL North with 13 games to go as they conclude a homestand against Syracuse on Tuesday 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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