Tag Archive | Baseball

Baseball Beginning Again

We’ve hit that most wonderful time of the year. Spring training has gotten underway and baseball season has begun! Yes, it is still early March, meaning that opening day is still a month away, but I am still happy to say that baseball is back! Even if there is snow on the ground. 

This year will be a bit different for me as a baseball fan, not for anything at the MLB level, but for a new fandom I’ve developed since working for the Whitecaps: college baseball. Of course the Red Sox are the top priority for my fandom. They are my favorite sports organization and I have high hopes for them this year. Last season was a phenomenal ride that ended with a painful loss to Cleveland. For 2017, there is plenty to be excited about. Dustin Pedroia patrols second and the defense, Pablo Sandoval has lost weight and looks more motivated to be a part of the team, and Mookie Bette is coming off a near MVP caliber season. And I haven’t mentioned the pitching yet, what with Porcello, Price, Rodriguez, and new acquisition Chris Sale forming a top level rotation. It will be weird watching the Red Sox without Koji in the back end of the bullpen, and I don’t know what to say about David Ortiz not being in the lineup. I’ve never known the Red Sox without Big Papi. He’s been at the heart of the Red Sox and Boston since 2003, and he is now retired. I will do anything I can to get into Fenway on June 23, when 34 will be retired. I’m still stunned that Ortiz is no longer playing, but I still have high hopes for my guys on Yawkey Way. 

And in case that wasn’t enough, I’ve got two other teams I’m following this year. Both are college teams with professional prospects. One is a DI team, one’s a DIII team. And I’m just a fan of one and I’m working for the other. 

My fan team first. This summer, I hosted two players from the University of North Carolina. They are both high quality guys who will be drafted this year into professional baseball. They made my summer on Cape Cod nothing short of amazing and I have my college baseball team for life. My alma mater doesn’t have a varsity baseball team, so I’m forced to look elsewhere. And why not look at Chapel Hill for good baseball? 

I’ve been rewarded so far. The Tar Heels are 10-3 so far, only running into trouble against St. John’s and Long Beach State. My guys have also had excellent starts to their seasons. Both have played in and started all 13 games this season. Zach is off to a .317 start, and has the second highest on base percentage on the team. He’s hit well, fielded well, and is upping his draft stock early this year, especially after a remarkably quick recovery from TOS surgery this off season. While Zach has been excellent this year, his roomie and running mate, Logan, is tearing it up. He’s batting .367, has an OPS of 1.021, and is leading the Tar Heels in hits, total bases, and steals. He’s proving himself as a top draft prospect and they’re looking to lead UNC to the College World Series after a bitterly disappointing end to last year’s college campaign. Fan me is excited to have another team to follow, and for that team to have personal connections. I’ll see these guys in early April when they play at Chestnut Hill against the Boston College Eagles. 

As excited as I am for UNC, I am equally excited for a DIII team that I’m calling games for this year. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology isn’t known for its athletics, but don’t be fooled. There are skilled athletes at MIT. Perhaps one of the best stories in baseball right now is being authored there. 

I called MIT baseball games last year, and had a front row seat to Austin Filiere lighting up his conference. He’s a career .427 hitter and can play the field very well. He also got to play in the Cape League this past summer against my Carolina guys. When the Harwich Mariners showed up, I checked the roster and saw Austin Filiere from MIT on there. I was dumbfounded. A DIII player facing off against the best that college baseball has to offer? He had better be good. Needless to say, he was. Filiere finished tied for the 2nd most homers in the league and totaled the most RBI for the team with the best record in the league. He was voted to the All-League team and proved to be a legitimate draft prosepect. 

This year has already started for the Engineers. They split a pair of games against Texas Lutheran. Unfortunately, Filiere did not look that good. He’s only hitting .167 through two games. I have no doubt that Filiere will right his direction. The Engineers were supposed to play at UMass Boston on the 5th and they’re supposed to play a double header against Southern Maine to open the season at home on Saturday the 11th. Considering that snow will be on the ground, they won’t be able to play until the 17th, when they take the road to Oglethorpe, Georgia. I trust that the Engineers will entertain and that their star player will get drafted this year. 

The snow is still falling, but baseball season is upon us! I am so excited to get into the swing of it, especially with two more college teams to follow. 

2016: What a Year

I started this year reflecting on the trying yet rewarding events of 2015 while enjoying champagne with my family in West Hartford. Tonight, I will do almost exactly the same thing. Except I am in Quechee, VT, and I will reflect on the zany events of 2016. I’ll spend time reflecting on the crazy events of the world at large, like Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis, the shocking terrorist attacks, and all the reactions to them. More than that, I’ll remember how much happened for me.

It was a chaotic year for many, including me. I started with the promise of my final semester of college. I had my best selection of classes and the excitement to get it done. January turned into February, and I worked through my classes, broadcasts, and beat reporting for WTBU. Lent came with the spiritual gifts I needed, and at Easter, I was getting ready to end my college career. 

Late April and early May came with many trips to Fenway Park, and many sweet Red Sox victories. I also hit the hardest stretch of final papers and exams I ever had in college. A few overnights, enough cups of tea to keep me awake for hours, paper writing, and game broadcasts kept me from sleeping.  But I got through it, and after four long years, my collegiate career came to an end. 

I’ve had some time to reflect on my time at BU, and my ultimate perspective on it is generally positive. I had many difficulties and made it harder than it needed to be. I probably made the wrong choice of schools for academic purposes. But for all the rest that college has to offer, I made the best possible decision. I met many of the closest friend I will ever have, learned more about God and faith than I thought there was to learn, discovered what love is and how good it is to love and be loved by someone, and found my passions and interests. When I got to 2016, I learned so much from prior years, and I made my last semester of college my best. 

After graduating and celebrating a hard earned bachelors, I went home for a few days, then went to Cape Cod. I found a job at a coffee and bagel shop within walking distance of my house called JoMamma’s and returned to interning with the Brewster Whitecaps. We hosted players this year too, and what a treat they were. The summer was completely different than early on in the year. I didn’t have school hanging Over me, and I was doing things I loved full time. I loved the JoMamma’s people. They were comedic, introspective, entertaining, and loaded up with cool stories. They introduced me to new movies, music genres, and lines of thought. And I loved the Whitecaps even more. Having Zach and Logan around was like having two more physically fit brothers around. We played so many games on Zach’s PS4, talked baseball, food, girls, movies, hopes, dreams, and were just guys for a summer. It was awesome. And then I got pulled into doing a musical through a JoMamma’s coworker. And I got to dabble in one of my loves by complete accident. 

I didn’t figure out a full time job, so I decided to go into the freelance broadcasting world and return to class. This time at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting’s campus in Needham, MA. At that point, life got interesting. 

I had gigs with Tufts, MIT, the Boston Pride of the NWHL, JWHL events, and writing for InsideHockey. I had class in the morning, but my classes were spent in studios and drafting rooms. It was so wildly different from what I knew school to be. And work was tiring, but kept me entertained. 

I never had a gig I didn’t find good in, and never had a class I hated. And while I was tired, and felt more on my own than I had in many months, I had nothing but good things to discuss and think of. 

I have come so far. Graduating, writing, broadcasting, driving all over New England, flying to Green Bay, meeting and saying so long to amazing friends, testing myself in the classroom at BU and CSB, and finding God’s hand in all of it. I feel like I’ve lived a decade in the space of 366 days. I cannot say enough good things about the path I’ve been on this year. 

It’s been trying. I’ve shed many tears and had sleepless nights along the way. I said goodbye to many meaningful people and there are pieces of my life that were very good and are no longer there. I also watched my childhood end. I’m no longer in the standard educational world, which is a bit unnerving. It’s all I’ve known since 1999, and the working world is different than what I’ve known so far. I’m enjoying it, but it’s still different. Symbolically, when David Ortiz walked off the field at Fenway for the last time, my childhood was done. 

But after the madness, I have many more positives than negatives. I had too much fun to be mad, and made too many memories to be angry. 

If there’s one way I would describe my year, its with a phrase coined by my friend Tomás when we played basketball one day. He described his game as “consistently inconsistent”. That phrase sums up my year extraordinarily well. I didn’t know what exactly was coming next. One day I was writing a paper. Next day I was pondering the universe and the nature of love with a friend. Then I was driving to New York to call a basketball game. Or maybe traffic on route 6 going to Bourne for a game was up next. I rarely knew what was up next for me. I just knew I would be entertained. 

Thank you to everyone who made 2016 unforgettable. Let’s make 2017 even better! 

Hard at work


Summer with the Whitecaps

Graduation Day!

Yeah that’s me and Mookie Betts.

Me with Brockstar! (Brock Holt)

Senior Week with the guys.

Me and my roomie.

Prequel characters (and Artoo) at Fenway

Storm troopers at Fenway

Me and my bro at Fenway

The CC Grad Group goes Apple Picking

The Joker

The Grease Cast

Back on the stage.

The JoMamma’s crew

BUCC graduating class of 2016

Me and the Ballplayers.

BUCC Broomball. I was the goaltender!

On skit team for my last retreat of Undergrad

Retreat small group for my last undergrad retreat

Ash Wednesday

Welcome to the Recording World! 

I’ve been writing and broadcasting sports for going on 3 years now. I’ve gotten to cover a huge variety of games in many different sports and levels of play. It’s a fun profession and a busy career to have, but I greatly enjoy it. Today, I expanded my repertoire of sports content. 

I have a friend named Tomas, a graduate student at BU that I met in my Junior Year. He has a wide taste in sports. He watches rugby, soccer, and a number of sports that I’ve never even heard of before. We’ve known each other for years, gone to sporting events together, and analyzed everything from movies to politics together. Earlier this year, we decided to buy sound and recording equipment to make a podcast and express opinions on various games. We worked out the details and put in money for real equipment. 

When our mics and mixer arrived, and we started fiddling with the equipment. We got things running, got our opinions ready, and recorded a few segments. The next week, we got together to record our first podcast. It was successful! We recorded it, and tried to publish it. It was only after attempting to publish it that we discovered that Audacity, the recording software we used, had glitches out and lost our whole podcast. After that minor frustration major annoyance, we had Thanksgiving Break, and we had time to sort out what went wrong. We went through the week, got together this morning, and finally recorded a podcast. When we finished it, we tested it out, published it, and posted it to YouTube, where it lives now. If you want to hear opinions on the MLB end of season awards, predictions for various NBA, NHL, and NFL games, and jokes and references, then click the link below to listen. I promise you’ll like it! 

World Series Magic: Way to go Cubs!

I’ve been watching baseball since 2003. I’ve enjoyed the sport since the battles of the Red Sox and Yankees awakened my imagination and presented me with heroic figures, dubious villains, and a captivating and engaging story wrapped in an understandable and beautiful form. I’ve watched my team go from the most jinxed franchise in baseball to one of the most blessed. I’ve seen long time desolate franchises like the White Sox, Phillies, and Giants all become champions in recent years. I have even seen some of the most exciting and best baseball ever played in the history of the sport. After thinking about it, I’ve come to realize just how special Wednesday night’s game was. It confirmed my undying love for the sport of baseball. 

On Wednesday night, two denied franchises played in the seventh and final game of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians battled and fought to win each game, and the fight was never out of these teams. The Indians hadn’t won since 1948. The Cubs hadn’t won since 1908. They played and managed desperately, they made a few mistakes along the way, and exhausted their bullpens and benches trying to win a championship. 

That second point is the most interesting to me. With all the excitement surrounding the game, people are brushing by the fact that the Cubs won almost in spite of Joe Maddon’s managing. He pulled Kyle Hendricks much too early. Jon Lester made him look good with his performance, thankfully, and then Maddon pulled him too early as well. And what’s worse, he pulled him for Aroldis Chapman, a guy Maddon had overworked and asked too much of beforehand. He threw 41 pitches in Game 5, which was fine, the Cubs needed to win that game and it was close. But he threw 21 pitches in Game 6, in which the Cubs led 7-2 when he threw. That over reliance on Chapman was almost a fatal mistake. Chapman didn’t have his location or his velocity and was exposed by Cleveland in the 8th. Watching that game with some friends, one of whom is a Chicago native and one of whom just badly wanted the Cubs to win, there were plenty of nerves and F-bombs to go around when Rajai Davis sent Cleveland into a frenzy and gave us this all time image of Lebron James going berserk. 

I wanted the Cubs to win but I could just watch this gif on repeat for a while, it’s that good. 

After that momentary disaster, the Cubs showed, as I had been telling my Chicago friend, that these were not the same old Cubs from 1969, 1984, 1998, 2003, or any of the prior 108 years. This was a new, resilient team, and we would find out what these guys were made of. Chapman, despite being overworked, bounced back and shut out Cleveland the rest of the 8th and the 9th inning. Cleveland’s bullpen held strong too, despite allowing a runner to reach 3rd base in the 9th for the Cubs, and for the first time since 1997, extra innings were needed to decide Game 7 of the World Series. The Cubs offense rallied for two runs in the 10th, and their bullpen gave up one more run in the bottom of the inning. In years past, the Cubs would’ve folded under pressure and surrendered the lead and the championship. But this team was different. Kris Bryant slipped on the throw to first to end the game. Other years, that ball goes into the third row of the stands. This year? The throw is right on and the Cubs won.

The pub where we were watching the game had to close up before extra innings got underway, so I ended up listening to the rest of the game on the radio. Fine by me, Dan Shulman and Aaron Boone were better than Joe Buck and John Smoltz. Plus baseball was made for radio. Anyway, I listened to the game on the way home, and let out a joyous cheer when the final out was recorded. Not because I’m a Cubs fan because I’m really not. I have only one true baseball love and that’s the Red Sox. But since the Sox were not in it and because us Boston baseball fans understood the plight of Cubs fans, I wanted to see them win. I sat in my car and listened to the postgame interviews and tried to soak in the seemingly impossible dream that just became real. I wanted the Cubs to win, and I genuinely never thought they would win a championship. But here it was. They won. They deserved it. They won in spite of their manager’s maniacal use of his closer. And they beat a tough opponent that gave them everything they could’ve asked for. 

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and every die hard Cubs fan. They deserve this championship and the chance to celebrate at today’s parade down Michigan Avenue. Congratulations also to David Ross and Kyle Hendricks, alums of the Brewster Whitecaps who were a massive part of winning this championship. I’m thrilled to say that an organization I’m a part of helped mold champions and broke the longest championship drought in sports history. Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians deserve all the respect in the world for playing honorably and reminding the world how amazing a sport baseball is. This was certainly one of the greatest World Series ever played (yes that countdown is next), and one of the alltime feel good stories in sports. Enjoy your championship Chicago! Ernie Banks and Harry Caray have popped the heavenly champagne already. 

Division Series Previews and Predictions

After two outstanding Wild Card games over the last few days, the Baseball Postseason is ready to get started tonight! We have eight teams starting the division series in both the American and National League over the next two days, and this is when the best baseball is played. Let’s take a look at each series and see what I think will happen! And for the record, I’m not going to predict more than just the Division Series. We’ll start with the American League. 

Toronto Blue Jays vs Texas Rangers- Rangers in 5

This is the series I look at with the most excitement. After last year’s matchup between these two teams, capped by this Jose Bautista homer and bat flip, and the bad blood spilling over into a regular season match early this year, I am excited for this matchup! There is bad blood, animosity, and something that baseball has missed for a long time: menace. There’s a sense of competition that the sport desperately needs in the postseason, and I am excited for that. There also are talented baseball players on both teams, so we should get good play in addition to the competition. Both teams have strong lineups, good to well above average starting rotations, and shakey bullpens so I see that as a close matchup.

The Blue Jays lineup can make minced meat out of the best pitching in baseball. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitski are all able to hit homers off any pitcher in any ballpark, let alone band boxes in Texas and Toronto that will lead to more offense. Their defense is also capable, with the fifth best fielding percentage in the AL. Russell Martin is an underrated defensive catcher, and their starting rotation is talented, if a bit unproven. They have the AL’s ERA leader in Aaron Sanchez, who is coming off a masterful performance in Fenway Park against the best offense in baseball, in which he held the Red Sox to one run over seven innings. Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and JA Happ are also talented pitchers who will hold their own. Toronto’s weakness comes in the form of their bullpen. They have only a 4.40 ERA and despite holding the Orioles offense to only 2 runs in the wild card game, there is no clear closer or obvious stopper in the Jays bullpen. Roberto Osuna is questionable for game 1, and that will mess with the bullpen big time. 

Texas can match the Canadian offense. Adrian Beltre continues to make a Hall of Fame case for himself after a .300, 30 homer, 104 RBI season at 37 years old. Elvis Andrus hit .302, Rougned Odor provides some punch (no pun intended), and Ian Desmond is a capable all around hitter. After Prince Fielder retired, the Rangers picked up Carlos Beltran, a playoff tested future Hall of Famer to bolster the offense, and he has done just that. Unfortunately, the defense is only pedestrian, with the 9th best defense in the American League. Their starting rotation on paper is also only pedestrian without the names of the pitchers being considered. Cole Hammels and Yu Darvish are talented pitchers with huge name recognition, but age, attrition, and injury have slowed them down. Hammels has the lowest ERA on the team at 3.32, and Darvish is just getting back to full strength after Tommy John surgery, pitching in only 17 games this season. But these guys, along with Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, are skilled players with postseason experience that will show up against Toronto. The reason I’m picking Texas in this series is the bullpen. The teams are even in all positions except the closer. Osuna isn’t ready to play this series right now, while Sam Dyson (2.43 ERA, 38 saves) is ready to go for Texas. I think the Rangers have a slightly better bullpen and will scrape by the Blue Jays in 5. 

Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Indians- Red Sox in 4

As a Red Sox fan, after the last week of the season, I am quite nervous for this series. I don’t have a ton of faith in the Red Sox bullpen and I don’t want to face Terry Francona’s team giving up home field advantage. That all being said, I’ll put my fandom and fears aside and try to be objective about this series. 

Boston comes in with the best offense in baseball. Mookie Bette, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz all have cases to be MVP this season, while Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Hanley Ramirez all provide stronger bats than most can offer. Cleveland is no slouch offensively, but they lack the diversity of weapons that Boston has. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the two .300 hitters on the team, and Mike Napoli has given a spark of power, but the Indian’s offense is ultimately a far cry from what Boston can bring. 

Boston also carries a talented pitching staff. Rick Porcello is a viable Cy Young candidate, and David Price picked up his play later in the year. Clay Buccholz and Eduardo Rodriguez are wild cards but if they come up strong, they can put Boston over the top. The rotation is shortened after the absurdly stupid decision to have All Star Steven Wright run the bases in Los Angeles on August 5th which resulted in his shoulder injury. He could return to the team for the ALCS, but he can’t help the team against Cleveland. The Indians carry a pitching stud in Corey Kluber, but he is injured and so is the rest of the starting rotation. Kluber is starting game 2 after a late season quad injury, and game 1 starter Trevor Bauer isn’t a pitching ace. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are also injured, and will not play in the series. Cleveland’s starting rotation is not in good shape. The bullpens are more comparable, but the injured Indians starting rotation will be their downfall. Kluber will win his start in Cleveland, but Boston’s offensive depth will take on the rotation and win the series in four games. 

Now onto the National League. 

Chicago Cubs vs San Francisco Giants, Cubs in 5

By leaps and bounds, this is the hardest series for me to predict. On one hand, the Chicago Cubs are the most talented team in baseball, have the NL MVP in Kris Bryant, one of the best pitchers in Jake Arrieta, a bevy of young talent, championship veteran guile in players like Jon Lester, John Lackey, and David Ross. On the other hand, it’s the Cubs. This is the most cursed team in baseball facing the team that turns into a golden team in even year Octobers, the San Francisco Giants. More so than the stigma of “It’s the Cubs”, these teams match up extremely well. 

Chicago clearly has the better lineup from top to bottom, but the Giants still have weapons in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford. They don’t have the power of the Cubs, but they can make the Cubs rotation work and throw a ton of pitches. The real matchup is in the starting rotations. Madison Bumbgarner, the best postseason pitcher throwing right now, won’t start until game 3, but Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are capable pitchers and can make life difficult for Chicago. The Cubs will have to face a difficult rotation, and Chicago’s bullpen will have to hold up better than the Mets’ bullpen did last night. With Aroldis Chapman in the closers spot, they can shut down the Giants in the 9th. If the Cubs are to win, the Cubs MUST win both games 1 and 2 in Chicago and the bullpen must be better than the Giants. 

I see this series as a toss up. The Giants have a winning culture and attitude that the Cubs have not proven to have and they have the pieces to take down the Cubs. The Cubs have talent and the burden of expectation from baseball fans and the longest suffering fan base in all of sports. If the Cubs are to win a championship, they must win games 1 and 2 at home. 

Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers- Nationals in 4

This series is simultaneously interesting and boring for me. These teams are talented and Fun to watch in the regular season. However, they are horribly disappointing in the postseason. The Dodgers were supposed to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS and 2014 NLDS, the Mets in the 2015 NLDS behind the performance of Clayton Keyshawn, Justin Turner, Yasiel Paige, and others, but lost every single series, never reaching their postseason potential. The Nationals are just as disappointing, with a lost championship in 2014 and missing the playoffs last year. I expect both teams to eventually fold, if not in this series then later in the month. But I will still watch and see which of these “Next Year’s Champions” will continue to tease their fans. 

Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager lead a potent lineup against the Nationals and Howie Kendrick, Josh Reddick, and Yasiel Puig look to improve on disappointing regular seasons and help the team get a boost. For DC, Daniel Murphy takes his .347 average into the postseason with the intent of another trip to the Fall Classic. Wilson Ramos also hit .300 and is the other well performing hitter for DC. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, two long standing DC hitters, had very disappointing seasons and look to step up in October. Harper’s season was especially disappointing. The reigning NL MVP went from hitting .330 to only .243 this season and he struggled to get into any kind of rhythm this season. If anything, the fact that Washington won 95 games this season with Harper performing so poorly is reason for more confidence. Imagine how well they’d play if Harper picked up his average.

These starting rotations are both top heavy. Clayton Keyshawn and Max Scherzer are the undisputed aces, but the rotations beyond those two are a little short. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strausburg both have talent but have been inconsistent this year in the nation’s capitol. Kenta Madea and Scott Kazmir have some good innings in them, but they are secondary to Kershaw and not quite ace level. The Dodgers have a decided advantage in their bullpen. Washington released their closer, Jonathan Paplebon, before the signing deadline in the middle of the season, and have given Shawn Kelly the closing job. He and the rest of the Nationals Bullpen has plenty to prove. LA has a bona fide closer in Kelley Jansen, sporting a 1.83 ERA and 47 Saves. The rest of the bullpen is more dependable as welll. However, because of slightly better pitching, and the potential for Bryce Harper to break loose, I’m picking Washington to win the series. 

So there are my predictions. Onto the playoffs! 

 

Big Papi: The Most Important Red Sox Player Ever

In late 1996, the Seattle Mariners sent David Arias to Minnesota as the player to be named later in a transaction for Dave Hollins. When he arrived with the Twins, he told them that he preferred to be called David Ortiz, not David Arias. While playing in New Britain, Connecticut with the Rock Cats, Ortiz had marginal success but also suffered plenty of injuries. His years ended in 1998 and 2001 with wrist injuries. When he was called up to Minnesota, he had an on going knee problem. Even his best season in Minnesota, 2002, was marred by consistent knee ailments. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 75 runs in 2002, not a bad year, but not enough for Minnesota to keep him. After failing to trade him, the Twins released him. Ortiz was out of a job and desperately wanted another chance to prove himself, and got help from a fellow Dominican. 

Pedro Martinez was coming off another masterful year with the Red Sox and always was supportive of his countrymen. He put in a good word with the new management of the Red Sox, and in January 2003, Ortiz was picked up for a song. He was behind first baseman Kevin Millar and DH Jeremy Giambi on the depth chart and did not play much. He rarely pinch hit and was a forgotten member of the 2003 roster early that year. When Giambi struggled, manager Grady Little benched him and started Ortiz. The Red Sox have not looked back since. 

With the Red Sox slated to start their postseason run in Cleveland on Thursday, David Ortiz is ready for his last month of service to the organization that gave him a chance to perform. In his 14 seasons since arriving, he has given Boston more clutch baseball moments than any other player, become the face of the franchise, changed the culture of the team. He has become the most important player in the history of the Red Sox. Yes, more important than Ted Williams, Carl Yasztremski, Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, all of them. Not the best, but the most important. 

Ted Williams is the greatest hitter in the history of the Red Sox and possibly all of baseball. Ortiz does not surpass Williams as a total hitter despite having more home runs. Williams has a career average of .344, the highest career on base percentage ever at .482, and would’ve had 600 homers easily had he not lost much of his prime to service in World War II and the Korean War. Carl Yastzremski is the best two way player in Red Sox history and his 1967 campaign is the best individual performance put on at Fenway Park. He cleared 3,000 hits, and singlehandedly lifted the Sox into the 1967 World Series with both his triple crown effort at the plate and his seven Gold Glove awards. As a designated hitter, Ortiz doesn’t have a chance to make a defensive impact, thus losing a dimension to his game. He did play 1st base for some games, namely in inter-league games and the World Series. But Yaz has him in terms of total impact on the game. 

So why is Ortiz the most important player in Sox history? Because he changed the Red Sox organization from the American League’s Charlie Brown franchise into winners. Williams, for all his greatness, hit .200 with no extra base hits in his only trip to the Fall Classic in 1946. He never got another chance because of the failures of his organization, but he could not lift his team to a championship level. Yaz was similar. He performed better in the Fall Classic than Williams did, hitting .400 in 1967 and .310 in 1975, but he could not get his team over the hump and win a championship. Nor could Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Jimmie Foxx, Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, or any other player in the organization from 1919 on.

By the time 2004 rolled around, the Red Sox were expected to be talented and face the Yankees in the postseason and lose in some painful way. That seemed to be certain after the soul crushing loss in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and all but confirmed with the Yankees up 3 games to none in the 2004 ALCS with a lead in the 9th and Mariano Rivera on the hill. Then Boston tied the game in the 9th. Then Ortiz hit a homer in the 12th inning to win the game. He had driven in four of the six runs the Red Sox scored that night. He then drove in three of the five runs in game 5, including an 8th inning opposite field homer in the 8th and a walk off single in the 14th. The Sox then won games 6 and 7 in Yankee Stadium, punctuated by another Ortiz homer. Big Papi was voted the MVP of the series, and Boston celebrated Ortiz as the face of the greatest comeback in the history of baseball, maybe the greatest series ever played in the history of the sport. The Sox went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series and break the Curse of the Bambino. 

The 2004 World Series is the most important and celebrated trophy in Boston’s long and storied history. David Ortiz was the biggest offensive reason for the Red Sox’s triumph. And after that epic performance, Ortiz kept his performance up. He set a new record for homers in a season with 54 in 2006, finished his regular season career 17 all time in home runs, ahead of players like Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Frank Thomas, Mickey Mantle, and Mel Ott, and lifted his team to the post season eight times in his career. The Sox won the World Series in 2007, with Ortiz in the middle of the lineup and performing well, and in 2013, with Ortiz taking the role as vocal and visual leader of the franchise after his famous “This is our F-$&:!# City” speech and a legendary performance in the World Series. He hit .688 in the series with an OPS (On Base percentage plus Slugging percentage) of 1.948. He has turned the expectations of the Red Sox fans from wondering what version of Shakesperean tragedy they’ll watch that night to how many rings they’ll be able to put on their fingers. He’s not the greatest player in the history of the franchise, but he has transformed the Red Sox from a losing organization into a winning one. 

I believe a similar point can be made for the Celtics. In terms of talent and all around output, Larry Bird is the best player in the history of the Celtics. He had the shooting touch, could rebound, pass, run the break, and did all of this with an assassins mindset and appearing to be un-athletic and not capable to the untrained eye. However, in terms of importance to the culture of the franchise, Bill Russell is unquestionably the most important Celtic ever. He was the defensive hub of 11 championships, a feat that has never and will never be matched. Larry was easily a better scorer and offensive player than Russell, and was no slouch defensively. Bird was, in total, the better basketball player, but Russell set the culture of the Celtics as a championship organization. Similarly, Williams and Yaz are the best players in the history of the Sox. However, Ortiz has defined the culture of the Red Sox as a championship contender since his arrival in 2003 and his legendary performance in 2004. 

Now Ortiz is in his final run. I have watched him for my whole life and was at Fenway on Sunday for the final game of the regular season. The pregame ceremony was a joyous celebration of all that Ortiz had brought to the city and the organization. He is the embodiment of the Red Sox run of recent success. And he will be the focal point of the Red Sox lineup this postseason. I’ll be watching as the postseason begins in Cleveland on Thursday at 4! 

My Summer with the Ballplayer

So I haven’t written on here in a while. Why? Well I’ve been busy with my two jobs and I’ve not had a ton of time to write here. One of the jobs is at a bagel shop called JoMamma’s. It’s an upbeat place with a good crowd of people to work with. It’s an easy job, as I’m on my feet all the time, but it has been rewarding and a ton of fun. The other job is closer to what I wanna do for my career. I went back to intern for another summer with the Brewster Whitecaps and became the Everyman of the unit in a way. I prepped the field before the games, picked up the trash after the games, sold 50/50 tickets, drove myself to most away games, served as the backup writer, and live tweeted games whenever I needed. I had a more varied job set compared to last summer, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. And there was one more role I had with the team that was more important than the others I had. I hosted a player for the summer. 

The teams of the Cape League don’t put their players up in hotels or houses for the summer out of their own pockets, they likely wouldn’t be able to afford it. To make the season happen, the teams recruit locals to host the players for the summer. Yes, this means smelly baseball players who chew tobacco take over people’s houses for weeks on end. But it is completely worth having another person living in the house, or so I have heard many times over before the summer began. We learned about our player in late May, and he arrived early the next month. His name was Zach and all we learned was that he was a corner infielder from Asheville, North Carolina, and attended the University of North Carolina. It seemed promising at the outset. When Zach and his college roommate Logan arrived at the start of the season, it turned into the best summer possible. 

I had a roomie who was relaxed, entertaining, intelligent, and from a different world than me. It was a different enough pairing of people to make it fun. I had a roomie (well 2 if you count the times when Logan lips lepta over at my house and the fact that he kept his stuff at my house) who knew how make anyone laugh, competed harder than any person I know, and taught me things that I never thought I’d learn about. For example, I learned that collegiate athletes are both similar and dissimilar to regular college students in a number of interesting ways. Here’s a quick list of similarities:

  • Addicted to cellphones and social media.
  • Tons of selfies.
  • Loves Chipotle and other fast food places.
  • Car troubles dictate life choices.
  • Trash talking among friends is expected, especially when those friends go to rival schools.

And there’s more where these came from. But there’s also some important differences. They all boil down to one major difference: Zach and I are from different worlds. Collegiate athletes have their schedules rigidly scheduled down to the tiniest letter of the day by their program. They have workouts all throughout the days and required study halls and classes and then they have regular people time to socialize and meet people. Their lives are so much more scheduled than my college life was, and it is almost completely dictated by one thing: their sport of choice. 

It’s even more intense than just their day to day lives being structured. They have a serious chance to play this sport as a career and to do that is a whole thing in and of itself. They got to speak with and play in front of scouts from all over the country, and their stock at next year’s MLB draft was both positively improved this summer. They both will be drafted and play professional baseball. That is their main focus, ahead of their schoolwork. It’s striking to see people so focused on that one thing, especially seeing how physically demanding it is. 

Zach and Logan got beat up badly during the summer. Fouling balls off their feet and shins, diving all over the field, hard runs to track down baseballs, crashing into fences and teammates, and getting hit by 90+ mph fastballs are only a few things that the guys had to deal with. They frequently had to take baths with Epsom salts, wrap themselves in ice, and get in good health right before the next day. Their dedication was admirable and inspiring. All I could do was get them the support they needed and let them know that they had a man in their corner. 

Despite those massive differences, the ultimate lesson I found in all this was that they’re not actually that different from me. They’re talented baseball players and potential major leaguers, but they’re still regular guys who play Call of Duty, talk sports with the guys, watch Netflix, and talk about their dreams. They’re excellent guys, perfect gentlemen, and the opposite of every dumb jock stereotype devised. I rooted for the Whitecaps more fervently than I had before, but more specifically for the guys who were living with me. 

There was more tension when they batted and more concern when they limped after fouling a ball off their shin. There was also more satisfaction when they got a hit, made a defensive play, or scored a run. They were and still are brothers, not just friends. My mom felt like she had two more sons and was nervous an I’ve ever seen her at a sporting event. We loved hosting them and were sad when they had to leave! 

Logan left early after a he reaggrivated a hand injury. His coach wanted him to avoid more injury and get treatment back at Chapel Hill. Without his best friend and roomie around, Zach was still excellent to have around. But he had to leave eventually too. A week ago today, the Whitecaps were eliminated from the playoffs and the season ended. Fittingly, it was also Zach’s 21st birthday. 

He came home to a big birthday feast, including a proper cake, and we celebrated his fun summer on the Cape. He drove out the next day with another college teammate. It was bittersweet to watch him go home. I knew the summer was gonna end for him, but we wanted the season to go on a bit longer! A week after the season ended, the house is now empty, save for me, and it’s so quiet. I’m expecting Zach to show up any minute and give some quip about the game, the umpires, or say how terribly he played, expecting better of himself the next day. Instead, the house is quiet, except for when my parents are up. It’s jarring being home with no one else here, especially my friends on the team. It’s another example of life being ephemeral, as my high school theatre director, Mrs. Avery, always said. 

I miss the guys, the games, and the energy of the league. But I appreciate everything I had is summer so much. It’s been a week since the season ended and I have come understand how amazing this summer was. The players were such amazing guests, the games were fun and entertaining, and I have two new friends who just happen to be amazingly talented baseball players at one of the best baseball programs in the nation. I loved every second of it. 

Zach, Logan, thank you so much for living at my house this summer, I’m happy to have been a part of making your Summer’s possible. You two are always welcome to come to New England! And you have a family of New Englanders who are North Carolina baseball fans. Thank you my friends. I will follow you and support you in your attempts to make your dreams of playing Major League Baseball a reality.