January 28, 2005


Now is the time to look at future (Gordon Edes, January 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

For the last few days, the Red Sox have given 11 of their top upper-level prospects an immersion course in what it means to be in the big leagues, playing for this team, in this town.

Never mind stashing these guys in a luxury hotel downtown. Director of player development Ben Cherington, who is running this program with Craig Shipley, the former big-leaguer valued by general manager Theo Epstein for his input in both scouting and player development, has these players staying with host families around the Boston area.

"I'm staying with Dr. Kehlman and his family in Newton," volunteered Jon Lester, the lefthanded pitching prospect so highly regarded, the Texas Rangers asked for him last winter as part of the abortive Alex Rodriguez deal. "Great people, but these people are fanatics. They know everything about the Red Sox. We were out to dinner at Morton's, and when Theo and some of his people went running out of the room, they were wondering who had been traded."

There has been baseball in the morning -- daily workouts at Harvard -- but afternoons have been spent on Yawkey Way. They heard from the GM, who is only a few years older than they are, and manager Terry Francona, who delivered the old-fashioned but still relevant message that hustle will take them a long way. Joe Cochran, the equipment manager, and Jack McCormick, the traveling secretary, talked to them about everything from how much to tip the clubhouse kid to how to conduct yourself on the road.

Bob Tewksbury, the former big-league pitcher and NESN analyst just hired as the team's sports psychology coach, talked about how best to develop mental skills, even in the face of a game that dangles success but guarantees disappointment. Eddie Dominguez, the Boston detective who is an integral part of the team's security detail, and a couple of FBI agents warned them about the places and people to avoid, and the dangers of gambling. They also were shepherded on a visit to Jimmy Fund cancer patients, and got an introduction to what that can mean, too.

Last night, Cherington, who loves to lace on the skates and play hockey in his downtime, had lined up Bruins coach Mike Sullivan as a speaker, figuring Sullivan could offer the perspective of someone who had grown up here, played here in college (Boston University), and had coached in the minors and in the NHL. Who better to talk with the players about the high expectations and sometimes impossible demands they would face here, or how to cope with the yo-yoing from the minors to the majors that is so often part of a young player's experience?

There is a common theme that runs through this Sox regime, and ripples from the clubhouse occupied by Curt Schilling and David Ortiz to the much more modest outposts in places such as Sarasota and Portland, Fort Myers and Lowell. Yes, it takes talent to play for the Red Sox, but there are certain other qualities that matter here maybe more than in other places where the spotlights don't shine with quite as much heat. Things like mental toughness and resilience, discipline at the plate and on the mound and in your cubicle, an awareness of how important their performance is to the 35,000 folks who fill Fenway Park night after night.

It's a long way from playing pepper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2005 7:42 AM
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