Notes from the BoSox Club Luncheon - May 29, 2018

The Club held its first luncheon at a new venue, the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. As members picked up their tickets and chatted before the luncheon, everyone could easily look out the windows and "across the street" (the Mass Pike) at Fenway Park, and even see the occasional tour group atop the Green Monster.

Club President Mike Vining welcomed all to the new location.

Head table guests were Mookie Betts and Sam Kennedy from the Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez and Jays right-hander Sam Gaviglio, as well as NESN anchor/reporter Adam Pellerin, who served as the M.C.

Mike then welcomed the three military guests, all members of the United States Air Force (one of whom later won a treasured souvenir in the raffle.)

Poet laureate Dick Flavin presented a singing poem about the joy of watching the Red Sox on television.

Adam Pellerin, a former catcher for Suffolk University, who had played in a couple of NCAA tournaments (and a lifelong Red Sox fan) then introduced Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts – who is among the league leaders in many categories of offense. What's been the difference this year, he asked. Mookie said, "If the guys behind you are hitting well, it helps me." He added that new hitting coaches with them team this year have been helpful as well. Likewise, it's made a difference to have a young new manager – Alex Cora – who had been a position player and really knows the grind of being out on the field every day.

Mookie was asked about matching home runs with J. D. Martinez. He said he wasn't 6-feet-4, 250 pounds and wasn't really going to compete with J.D. in the long run. His goal is just to get on base and score runs. He feels very comfortable, he said, batting in the leadoff spot.

A former second baseman at one point, he says he's an outfielder now and feels it's a better fit for him.

With the Red Sox and Yankees riding high atop the League standings, Adam asked Mookie if he kept his eye on the standings posted right on the left-field scoreboard. "It's there," said Mookie. How could you not notice?

Mookie ended by thanking everyone for their support. "We're going to go out there and fight," he said.

In lieu of autographs, Mookie made many members even happier by agreeing to pose for individual photographs with each person as most Club members lined up for the rare opportunity.

Mike Vining then invited Buck Martinez to the podium. Buck said he had first visited Fenway Park as a catcher in 1969. As someone who played in the American League throughout his career, he became very familiar with the ballpark. He particularly mentioned the late Bobby Doerr as one of his coaches along the way.

He also recommended Ken Harrleson's new book I Did It My Way, which he aid have some vivid recollections of the Hawk's time with the Red Sox.

Buck, like Hawk Harrelson, became a broadcaster and has 30 years broadcasting experience under his belt now.

He called up Jays right-hander Sam Gaviglio, who told the group that he was well aware of how many great players have been on the field at Fenway in years gone by. Sam had been named starting pitcher for the May 30 game, and it will be his first appearance at Fenway Park.  He is an Oregon State graduate, one of eight members of his team that were selected in the draft.

Sam noted that Bob Stanley had been his pitching coach in spring training this year, and greatly helped him improve his changeup.

Mike Vining then asked Buck what he was doing in Toronto this year, referring to something that had come up in conversation before the luncheon. Buck noted that he had been to BoSox Club luncheons in the past, both at Anthony's Pier Four and in Dedham. Thinking along similar lines of starting something similar in Toronto, last year he launched a group called Behind the Plate.  It's limited to a small number of members – about 25 – and each month during the season they gather at a different restaurant in Toronto. Dave Dombrowski was a guest last year. Joe Castiglione was their kickoff guest this year. Other guests have included Paul Beeston and Joe Girardi. He thanked the BoSox Club for giving him the idea.

Adam Pellerin then introduced Sam Kennedy, noting that the Sox were a major-league best 37-17. Sam talked about the revived Red Sox-Yankees rivalry this year, noting how there are so many young players on both clubs – and wanted to credit all the people on the Red Sox player development staff.

It is Sam's 17th year with the Red Sox, and he said – as someone who grew up in the area – that it all started for him with a BoSox Club event where he was able to get autographs from Dave Stapleton and Eddie Jurak.

Of this year's free agent signing of J. D. Martinez, he said how the new slugger had exceeded everyone's expectations so far. Boston is a tough place to play, he said, and you have to really want to be in the spotlight, really want the pressure.

Regarding Alex Cora, he continued, the same is true for managers as for players. It's a tough place to manager. He had previously called Cora a "transformational" manager and was asked what that meant. He said that even as they headed into negotiations, the Red Sox already knew in part from his time here as a player that Cora was someone you could call on, someone you could rely on, very smart, very straightforward, very direct.

A number of teams were interested in Cora as manager, and after the Red Sox made their bid, they were told that there was "one more thing" he really wanted. "Oh, oh," they thought. "Here it comes. Some extravagant demand." No, what he wanted was for the Red Sox to send an airplane with relief supplies to his home city of Caguas, Puerto Rico, to provide assistance but also continuing publicity for the ongoing plight of Puerto Ricans still suffering from hurricane devastation. The Red Sox, of course, were more than happy to meet his request.

Today's rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox was "right up there" with those of the past, Sam said, with passion. The rivalry brings out all the intensity that is so good for the game. How else would Joe Kelly have become such a cult hero so quickly this season?

Mike Vining offered closing remarks, and Rick Leco ran the post-luncheon raffle, with many excellent items being taken home by luncheon guests.

--by Bill Nowlin

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