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Page 2 of 4 -- The DiNardo file

A little-known fact about Lenny DiNardo, the lefty reliever who came to the Sox from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft over the winter: He originally was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox. They took him on the 10th round, one round after they selected another prep star, Mark Teixeira. Both DiNardo and Teixeira opted to go to college, DiNardo to Stetson, Teixeira to Georgia Tech, and both are now in the majors, Teixeira with the Texas Rangers, who feel he is a star in the making. Teixeira's family was highly critical of how then-Sox scouting director Wayne Britton handled negotiations, but DiNardo had no such complaints. "I knew that I had a long way to go," he said. "I was 18 years old. I'd heard the horror stories of getting into pro ball and geting shuffled around. I thought in three years I could get a lot more mature, go to college, get most of that out of the way. I think it worked out well for me. No regrets on my part." None on the part of Stetson, either, which gladly offered a scholarship to DiNardo when his hometown school, the University of Florida, took a pass on the Gainesville star. "We recognized that he had a lot of upside," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "He was a big lefthander who threw strikes and had tremendous movement and command of his pitches. His sophomore year was his breakout year. He was pretty much unhittable, and wound up pitching for Team USA, too." By that time, DiNardo was receiving a great deal of attention from scouts, and in some circles was projected as a potential first-rounder. But his performance slipped a tick his junior year; Dunn suspected that DiNardo, caught up in the expectations, overthrew a bit and lost some of his movement and control. DiNardo doesn't think the drop-off was as dramatic as others may have thought. "I went 16-1 my sophomore year, and I think everybody thought I was going to be 17-0 the next year," he said. "It was one of those things where I wasn't perfect, and scouts said my velocity was down. But velocity is not a big thing for me. I'm not going to break down anybody's door with my fastball. I rely on movement, and hitting my spots." What DiNardo had, Dunn says, was the ideal makeup to make it as a pro. "He goes out and pitches," Dunn said, "and doesn't live and die with every pitch. He didn't have many bad outings, but when he did, he had a very short memory." With the Mets, who drafted him out of Stetson on the third round, DiNardo had the chance to be part of the revival of baseball in Brooklyn, which had been without a team since the Dodgers left after the '57 season until the Mets placed a Single A team there. "Brooklyn, it was great," he said. "They loved us. It was the closest thing to the big leagues, which is ironic, since it was short-season ball." He described a scene right out of "Boys of Summer": "We'd leave the stadium, people would be running after you, kids. It was incredible. They were great fans. I lived in a little Jewish neighborhood five minutes from the stadium. They'd come knock at our door, ask us if we'd play catch with them or Wiffle Ball. We'd go out and play with them, it was really fun." The fun ended abruptly on the night they were to have played Williamsport for the short-season championship: Sept. 11, 2001. "We woke up that morning, turned on the TV, and one of the towers was already down," Di
Nardo said. "We went outside, there was ash everywhere. We tried to drive into the city but got stuck in Staten Island. It was surreal, a nightmare." His major league debut came less than three years later, in Yankee Stadium. "It was really fun, something I'm going to tell my grandkids about," he said. "To be in the bullpen and hear them yell, `DiNardo, you suck.' That's something I'm going to cherish. If you don't hear that, there's something wrong." Was he surprised that the Yankee fans knew him? "My name was on my jersey," he said. "If not for that, they probably would have called me `Bronson.' I hear that a lot."   Continued...

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