February 13, 2007

CREATURE FEATURE:

From Pearl Lagoon to the Back Bay (Amy K. Nelson, 2/12/07, ESPN The Magazine)

The Nicaraguan pitcher with a Jamaican inflection and British surname sat in his airy Toronto five-star hotel room this past September, took a deep breath and looked down at his dark, flexed forearms.

"A Pearl Lagoon boy is here," Red Sox pitcher Devern Hansack said. "I can't believe I'm here."

You can't fault his amazement, since the past year lifted Hansack from obscure pitcher playing pro ball in Nicaragua to major leaguer on the last day of the season at Fenway Park, no-hitting the Orioles for five rain-shortened innings.

It was Craig Shipley, Boston's vice president of international and pro scouting, who spotted the 27-year-old Hansack in the fall of 2005 in Holland pitching for the Nicaraguan national team. Hansack had been released by the Astros in 2003, and went unsigned until Shipley gave him a $3,000 bonus. Hansack went on to become the Red Sox's Double-A pitcher of the year while living in a Dominican fan's basement apartment in Portland, Maine.

Now Hansack, at 29 and with a wicked slider and a mid-90s fastball, has got an outside chance of winning the closer's job for the Red Sox. It might be a long shot, but so is Hansack.

"Boston signed me and gave me a second chance," Hansack says. "I can tell any young guy who wants to do something, there's a second chance. Just put your mind to it."

In late January Hansack invited The Magazine on a wild trip back to his hometown, where most people speak English with a Jamaican lilt. "I think he lives in the middle of nowhere," Red Sox PR director John Blake told me when I asked in early January about finding Hansack. "It may be difficult."

It was. From Cessna airplane to motorized canoe to Pearl Lagoon, the journey isn't for the weak.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 13, 2007 6:28 PM
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