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Spinners set date for 'Ryan Westmoreland Day'

Posted by Craig Forde January 31, 2014 09:00 AM

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Spinnerslogo.gifOn June 25th the Lowell Spinners will celebrate 'Ryan Westmoreland Day' at LeLacheur Park, retiring the former outfielder's number 25 in a ceremony prior to their game with the Tri-City ValleyCats.

The team originally announced plans to honor Westmoreland at their Hot Stove Dinner on January 11th, but had yet to confirm a date for the event.

Westmoreland, who was forced out of the game for health reasons after a stellar 2009 season in Lowell, will be the first Spinners player to have his number retired.

More event details will be confirmed as the date nears and individual game tickets will go on sale Tuesday, March 18th.

Spinners tab Joe Oliver as new manager

Posted by Craig Forde January 31, 2014 08:50 AM

The Lowell Spinners have announced that former big league catcher Joe Oliver will become the team�s manager for 2014.

A 13-year Major League veteran, Oliver was most recently a coach at Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, Florida.

He spent 8 years of his playing days with the Cincinnati Reds where he helped the team to a World Series sweep in 1990 on the heels of a Game 2, 10th inning walk-off hit versus Dennis Eckersley and the Oakland A�s.

Oliver, who appeared in 1076 games, spent time with six other organizations, including Boston where he ended his career in 2001 after appearing in five late season games.

Besides his time with Boston he played for parts of two seasons with the Double-A Vermont Reds and put in 13 games with the PawSox during his final season.

Oliver and his wife Kim are successful realtors in Central Florida and are the parents of Karrah, Gavin, Lauryl and Dejai, a right-handed pitcher in the Miami Marlins system.

Oliver succeeds Pawtucket coach Bruce Crabbe as the 11th manager in Spinners history.

Lowell, the Short Season Single-A affiliate of the Red Sox, opens the season on June 13th when they host the Vermont Lake Monsters.

Shaw pulls positives from tough season

Posted by Craig Forde January 28, 2014 08:42 PM

The efforts of Travis Shaw over his first two seasons established him as the top first base prospect in the Red Sox system, a position that had yielded much disappointment from prior top hopefuls over the past few years.

After a derailing 2013 campaign in Double-A Portland it looked as if Shaw might be headed down the path of his predecessors, until a trip to the Arizona Fall League allowed him to regain his stroke, and more importantly his confidence.

The down time I had before I went to Arizona was huge for me, said Shaw, a 9th round selection of the Red Sox in 2011. I wanted to get away from the season I had in Portland as much as I could. I was pretty determined when I went out to Arizona to prove myself, to try to prove that last season in Portland was a little bit of a fluke.

Shawcard.jpgWith the Sea Dogs, the 23-year-old slugger hit just .221 in 133 games, striking out a career high 117 times over 444 at-bats.

Shaw endured slumps and struggled to regain a plate prowess that produced a .287/.397/.517 line with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2012.

That was the first time Ive ever failed for an extended period of time, said Shaw, who drove in only 50 runs in 2013. It taught me a lot about myself and how to handle it and get through those slumps.

Although his defense at first base remained solid - supported by a .992 fielding percentage one bad at-bat gave way to the next as he became more and more aggressive in attempts to snap the cold streaks.

Yet the organization did not lose faith in Shaw, who hit 16 home runs on the year, including a bullpen shot at the home of the big club during the Futures at Fenway game in July.

There were definitely some positives [in Portland] that ended up shining through in his performance in the fall league, said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. He made a few smaller adjustments that turned that perception of his performance around quite a bit.

In his first game with the Surprise Saguaros, Shaw got right down to business, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, putting him right back on track at the plate.

A return to form afforded him a month and a half stretch of standout baseball in theshawafl.jpg desert, with and against some of the best prospects in the game.

Shaw batted .361 for the Saguaros, hitting five home runs and six doubles to go with 19 RBIs and 18 runs in just 17 games, earning a league player of the week nod in the process.

In Arizona I tried to get back to what my strengths were, which is hitting the ball up the middle and go the other way, said Shaw. I was determined to show myself that I am legit and that the season in Salem was not a fluke. Out there [in Arizona] I felt back to normal and it was a good six weeks for me.

The fall league is a great medium for guys to go and challenge themselves at levels they either havent played against or talented players from other organizations, said Crockett. The way that Travis performed there, the adjustments he was able to take from what he learned during the seasoncertainly there were some struggles, but it was by no means a failure of a season.

Shaws achievements in Arizona helped him become one of only ten Red Sox prospects to receive an exclusive invitation to their Rookie Development Program in January, held for players the organization feels is within 12-18 months of reaching the big leagues.

The Sox backed that decision by issuing Shaw one of eight non-roster invites to big league Spring Training.

It shows that the organization still has a lot of faith in me and backs me, said Shaw. It was definitely a confidence booster knowing that they really havent given up on me and that my opportunity is still there and that I can make an impact on the next level in the next year or two.

With his 2013 season in the rearview, Shaw has wisely picked it apart for its educational value, finding that there were some positives that he can use moving forward.

It was definitely a big learning experience and I think looking back on it now Im kind of glad that I went through it, said Shaw. I wasnt at the time, but looking back on it now there are a lot of learning experiences that I can take from that season if something like that arises again. Hopefully, next year, if I slip into a slump again Ill be a little bit more prepared on how to get out of it quicker.

Red Sox flood MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list with nine players

Posted by Craig Forde January 24, 2014 07:54 AM

On Thursday night MLB.com released their Top 100 Prospects list for the 2014 season which was loaded up with nine players from the Red Sox organization, the most of any team.

Bogey2.jpgShortstop Xander Bogaerts was slotted as the second best prospect in the game behind Minnesota Twins hot-shot outfielder Byron Buxton.

Henry Owens made the greatest leap of all players who returned to the list from a year ago. After showing up at number 94 last year, the big lefty jumped 64 spots, coming in at number 30.

Here are where all nine of the Red Sox propects came in on this year's list:

2. SS Xander Bogaerts
30. LHP Henry Owens
33. OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
46. RHP Allen Webster
57. 3B Garin Cecchini
61. C Blake Swihart
62. 2B Mookie Betts
86. RHP Matt Barnes
96. LHP Trey Ball

Five of the six Red Sox players - including Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster and Matt Barnes - that were on MLB.coms 2013 preseason list are returnees, with SS Jose Iglesias being the exception after using up his rookie eligibility in 2013 before being traded to the Detroit Tigers.

Besides Owens monster jump up the charts, Bogaerts made the leap up from number 20 a year ago to number 2, while Webster shot up 25 spots from number 71 last year to become the organization's top-ranked right handed pitcher.

Trey Ball, a seventh overall selection in last year's MLB draft, debuts as the youngest player on the Red Sox list at age 19.

Garin Cecchini (age 22), Blake Swihart (21) and Mookie Betts (21) also make their debut on the list for the Red Sox, a talented triumverate that could start the season with Double-A Portland.

After Buxton and Bogaerts the rest of the top 10 rounded out with, in order, OF Oscar Taveras (St. Louis), 3B Miguel Sano (Minnesota), RHP Archie Bradley (Arizona), RHP Taijuan Walker (Seattle), SS Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs), SS Carlos Correa (Houston), 3B Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs) and SS Francisco Lindor (Cleveland).

Despite having the most players on the list, the Red Sox finished behind the Houston Astros as the organization with the most elite talent in their farm system, based on MLB.com's weighted scoring system.

Photo credit - Jim Davis/Boston Globe

Betts growing through experience

Posted by Craig Forde January 23, 2014 03:27 PM

If 2013 was Mookie Betts coming out party, then 2014 will be his here to stay party if he has his say once again.

After playing in just 72 games over his first two seasons in the Red Sox organization, Betts punched the clock 148 times last year - including a championship run with Salem and a stint in the Arizona Fall League - posting an impressive line of statistics that helped him earn the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honor.

BettsAFL.jpgIts something to build on, said Betts. I had pretty good numbers last year, but thats out the window now. This year is a new year and we start at all zeroes. But Im going to try and take that momentum and build on it.

Over his longest season as a pro, Betts had a split of .312/.414/.491, with 60 extra-base hits, 106 runs scored and 46 stolen bases on 52 attempts, which includes his postseason and AFL statistics.

Playing baseball over 10 months of the year proved to be a grind for Betts, who had to celebrate his 21st birthday while in Arizona, but each day proved valuable to his growth as a player.

Rest would have been good, said Betts. Going into the fall league I was thinking, man I just want to go home. But thats what separates guys, you got to want to be there at all times and I learned a lot. I may have been mad for a moment, but happy in the end that I got to go.

After it was all said-and-done and he was back home in Tennessee, it didn't take long for him to miss the being out on the diamond.

Going home after the fall league, I just wanted to stay, said Betts. But after working out, towards the middle of December, I was ready to go back. Ive been working hard and Im anxious of whats to come this year.

After his 2013 effort, the bar has been raised and he is now considered a top tier Thumbnail image for Bettsinfield.pngprospect in the Red Sox system and beyond, something else that quiet, humble youngster has had to adjust to.

I try to stay out of the spotlight, said the mild-mannered Betts. I think its more fun just jumping on the scene than having things expected out of you. Its definitely different, Ive learned to embrace it.

After recently naming him one of the top ten second base prospects in the game and the 62nd best prospect overall, MLB.com wrote the following of Betts:

A premium athlete coming out of the Tennessee high school ranks, Betts got an above-slot deal to sign in 2011. Initially a shortstop, he slid over to second base during his second summer of pro ball and has stuck there. The undersized middle infielder has some surprising strength and was showing more extra-base power during his full-season debut in 2012. He understands, though, that his job is to get on base and use his speed on the basepaths. He's settled in nicely at second and should be an effective defender there long-term. He profiles as a top-of-the-order type, especially if he can continue to show he can make consistent hard contact at the plate."

He stands firmly as the best second baseman in the Red Sox farm system and it is expected that he will start the 2014 season in Double-A Portland, but expectations of others aside, Betts is simply looking for a way to continue his growth and improvement across the board no matter where he lands.

Its tough [to continue to get better], said Betts. All you can do is find something that prepares you for that upcoming year and staying healthy is huge. Experience through the games, playing each and every day, is going to be what really helps you learn and makes your better.

With a 148 game season under his belt, the experience is certainly paying dividends.

Westmoreland humbled by Spinners honor

Posted by Craig Forde January 23, 2014 02:42 PM

As Ryan Westmoreland and his parents were driving up from Portsmouth, Rhode Island to Lowell for the Spinners Hot Stove Dinner, they fondly and enthusiastically discussed his one magical season as a pro in 2009.

The return trip was filled with silence.

The whole ride home I dont think anyone said one word, said Westmoreland. We were just too excited. I was sitting there texting some friends about the news.WestmorelandRetirement_y1k180t3_0wi9lwn6.jpg

At the dinner the Spinners shocked Ryan and his parents when they announced that the team would be retiring his number 25 during the upcoming season, something we posted about here last week.

When I got there [Spinners Assistant General Manager] Jon Boswell told me, Dont be surprised, but we are going to announce something at the end of the night, said Westmoreland. I thought it was just going to be them announcing that I was there or something, I honestly had no idea. I was caught completely by surprise. I was speechless.

A gifted athlete, Westmoreland was cherished not only for his skill on the field, but his enthusiasm and love of the game even when he was off the field.

His pure grit and determination in attempting to get back to baseball following multiple surgeries and rehabilitations for a cavernous malformation on his brain showed the true spirit of who Ryan really is, something recognized across the entire Red Sox organization.

Thats an honor and represents the way that not only the Spinners, but the Red Sox feel about Ryan and the contribution he made in his short career, said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. As much as it was about performance, it was also the way he goes about his business, how hard he worked for us on the field and how passionate and driven he was during his career and certainly when he was trying to battle back.

Hes quite a human being and someone that, from the Red Sox perspective, is held in very, very high regard.

Even though many, most especially Ryan, wish they could have seen him make it back to the field to fulfill his potential, his health is what ultimately matters most.

It has taken some time to come to the realization that the dream is over and Ryan is now okay with it.

When his number 25 gets added to LeLacheur Parks right field wall, he will be granted closure on this aspect of his baseball career.

To have such an honor at 23 years old is really quite a shock, said Westmoreland. Dreams come true and although it didnt all work out, I enjoy being able to impact others along the way. I am truly grateful for the Red Sox and the Spinners for this honor.

Now he is just learning to adjust to life as a regular kid, taking courses through Northeastern University while he ponders his next move in the baseball.

I love this game and I always will, said Westmoreland. I want to get into the game in some aspect and be as close as I can to it all.

And when he wants to reminisce about his playing days, a nice car ride with his folks up to Lowell to see his retired number 25 will help spur the conversation along the way.

Photo credit - John Corneau/Lowell Spinners

A decade later Roberts reflects on the path to glory

Posted by Craig Forde January 23, 2014 12:31 AM

the steal.jpg
One of the beautiful things about baseball is how one big play can make a man immortal.

For all who have ever played the game, hitting that World Series winning homer or striking out the last batter of a no-hitter is something we've played out in our minds time and time again.

That dream of being a hero and carrying your team on your back helps to keep players motivated.

When Dave Roberts came to the Red Sox in a late July trade with the Dodgers during Bostons historic 2004 season, the hero moniker was unlikely for a backup outfielder in a sea of all stars.

Yet for any player still putting on a uniform, that fire to come through at the most opportune time still burns, because you never know when youll be thrust into the heart of it, as was the case with Roberts in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS that year.

It was the moment he thought about a million times as a kid, and during his years coming up through the minors.

Days and times that laid the groundwork for Roberts to become a part of history.

Your season in the minor leagues ends at the beginning of September, said Roberts. I remember going home and working out and watching September baseball, and youd watch the postseason and see all these big plays and you see highlights.

Number one is having the opportunity to get to the big leagues and number two is having the opportunity to do something special and win a championship. For me that all kind of happened at one time.

Roberts spent five seasons in the minors before making his debut with the Cleveland Indians as a 27-year-old in 1999.

A 28th round selection of the Tigers in 1994, he spent four years in their system before being sent to Cleveland as part of a trade for Geronimo Berroa.

His expedition to his number one step of reaching the majors took him from Jamestown to Buffalo and everywhere in between. Vital seasons that Roberts looks back on fondly.

To be honest, they were some of the best days of my life, said Roberts, who was the keynote guest at the Lowell Spinners Hot Stove Dinner earlier in January. Friendships that I made then, I still have today. There is a small fraternity of guys trying to go through the grind and envision what its like to get to the big leagues.

When you go to a small town, like Lowell, it makes me think back to the towns I played in, just how tight these communities are and how much they love and support their minor league teamit ties the minor league affiliate to the big league club.

Those five years in the minors helped Roberts build a foundation that would push him to the majors and set up his big play.

The tenth year anniversary celebration of the Red Sox 2004 World Series title will no doubt be yearlong, especially on the heels of yet another championship season, and Roberts' steal will be replayed over and over, highlighting the moment that things changed in Boston's favor.

I look back now and its very surreal, it seems so long ago, said Roberts. Its hard to really believe that was me living in those moments. Were talking about the ten year anniversary coming up. I dont think the word humbling does it justice because I think ultimately you play this game to win a championship and it obviously means having a great team.

While at the Lowell Spinners Hot Stove Dinner, Roberts, who is now a bench coach with the San Diego Padres, got to see and hear first-hand the impact of how a big play can immortalize.

To a person they can vividly remember that night in October and where they were at and how that affected them, said Roberts of the fans in attendance that he spoke with. In certain respects Im removed from it now that Im coaching, but to come here, and I get it everywhere I go, people thanking me, members of the Red Sox nation in all parts of the countryto see the energy and the genuine love and affection for me is special.

Roberts steal of second base against the Yankees that night set forth a chain of events that would change the fortunes of Red Sox nation forever.

It is arguably the defining moment of the Red Sox postseason run in 2004, a run that broke an 86-year championship drought, and it all started with a want to make that big play.

The Spinners announced on Wednesday that they will honor Roberts big play with a Dave Roberts The Steal Bobble Head Giveaway on August 7th.

Photo credit - Stan Grossfield/Boston Globe

Arnie's ascent was long time coming

Posted by Craig Forde January 22, 2014 10:27 AM

Its more than just the players that are trying to work their way up the minor league ladder to get to The Show.

Trainers, announcers, writers and, of course, coaches are just a handful of baseball types who work hard every day to try and get to the opportunity to ply their trade on the biggest stage available to them.

After a near three-decade climb, Arnie Beyeler realized his dream when manager John Farrell called upon him to become the Red Sox new first base coach prior to the 2013 season.

For me, putting 26 years in the minor leagues and finally getting an opportunity to go to the big leagues and getting to watch what happened this year, you couldnt have story-booked it any better from that standpoint, said Beyeler. We won [the Governors Cup] in Pawtucket [in 2012] and to win again this year was a lot of fun. It was a special season.

Beyeler had spent two seasons as the Pawtucket Red Sox manager, leading the team to back-to-back playoff appearances and their first International League Governors Cup Championship in 18 years, before receiving the call from Farrell.

I had the opportunity the last three or four years to tell guys that they were going to the big leagues, said Beyeler. I never got that feeling being a career minor league guy, so when [Farrell] told me [to come to Boston], it was really nice to get that experience and have all those feelings.

That 26 year minor league trek of Beyelers started as a player when he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1986 after graduating from Wichita State University.

He methodically made his way up the ladder, mixing in a couple of 20 stolen base seasons and some sure-handedness in the middle of the infield, before calling it a day in 1991, having made it as far as Triple-A Toledo.

He remained with the Tigers organization as an area scout in Florida for the next five seasons before making the move to the coaching realm within the Yankees organization.

In 2000, Beyeler received his first managerial gig with the Boston Red Sox Short Season Single-A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners.

It all started out managing for me [in Lowell] and getting the chance to come over with the old regime, said Beyeler, who was recently honored by the Spinners with the Dick Berardino Alumni Award.

"Arnie is perhaps the most deserving honoree in the award's history," said Spinners General Manager Tim Bawmann. "He truly represents the dedication to achieve success at the highest level."

Beyeler, reminiscing about his time in Lowell added, I got to be around some good players over here with Kevin Youkilis and Freddie Sanchez. Dick Berardino, its his award, and he helped me out along the way. He was here when I was here managing and helped with everything. Hes been a good mentor along the way.

The whole experience was great when I was [in Lowell]. It was still a new franchise back then, it was 4 or 5 years old, we were in the playoff race most of the year (2000) until Freddie got moved up. It was a lot of fun and was a great experience for me.

Beyeler spent two seasons with Lowell and another managing the Red Sox Low-A affiliate in Augusta before joining the Texas Rangers organization where he served as manager of their High-A teams in Stockton and Bakersfield over three seasons.

After spending 2005 as a hitting coach with San Diegos Double-A affiliate, the Mobile BayBears, Beyeler rejoined the Red Sox at the same level, coming back to manage the Portland Sea Dogs, a position he would hold for four seasons.

Thats what its all about for me getting guys to the next level and helping them along, said Beyeler. We all had our chances when we were players and now Im fortunate I get a chance to do what I do and be around some of the best athletes in the world. That kind of beats working for a living.

After finally making it to the majors, Beyeler was rewarded with one of the more exciting and unexpected regular and postseason runs that Boston had ever witnessed.

The World Series championship gave him a new perspective on the game and extended his season much longer than any in the past, something he would welcome every year from here on out.

Being in the minor leagues so long, Im used to coming up [to Boston] in September, kind of hanging out and enjoying myself, and then going home, said Beyeler. [In 2013] you worked that extra month and now by the time I get home and get settled, its time to get back to work again. Its a great problem to have.

I dont know if its really sunk in or not, but it was a magical season. Hopefully well get to do it again a few more times before I get done with this.

Photo credit - Barry Chin/Boston Globe

Former Franklin Pierce duo climb Mariners system together

Posted by Craig Forde January 18, 2014 08:20 PM

It was 2009 when Mike Dowd and Kevin Rivers first became teammates at Franklin Pierce University, a small, Division 2 college in Rindge, New Hampshire that has earned its reputation as a baseball power under head coach Jayson King.

Then a junior, Rivers had already enjoyed two highly successful seasons with the Ravens and was looked to as one of the leaders heading into the season.

Its one of those things where you look up to the older guys, regardless of your role, said Dowd, who, as a freshman, was pegged as the teams starting catcher. It was one year and done, but in that time he helped me form into the player I am now.

After winning a third straight Northeast-10 title Rivers, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, went on to play some summer ball with the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL, when Seattle Mariners area scout Brian Nichols invited him to attend a showcase of top talent in New England.

Initially looked at as an opportunity to raise his draft stock heading into his senior season, Rivers instead raised eyebrows.

I went and had a great day running, throwing from the outfield, and hitting, said Rivers. I did enough to impress Tom McNamara, the [Mariners] director of scouting, that they offered me a contract on the spot. It was the best feeling knowing all the hard work had paid off.

After consulting with his parents and coach King, Rivers made the difficult decision to forgo his senior season at Franklin Pierce.

He signed a free agent contract with Seattle and was instantly off to finish his summer playing baseball as a professional in the Rookie level Arizona League.Rivers.jpg

When I first arrived in Arizona I was a little nervous, I wasn't sure what to expect, said Rivers, who doubled in his second career at-bat. But that soon subsided. I was also anxious get to work and learn more about myself as a player and the game as a whole.

Andy Bottin, my manager in the Arizona League, was a huge help in my first season...teaching me about day-to-day routines, how to conduct yourself professionally...how to always be prepared for the mental aspect of the game and being able to learn from your mistakes and make adjustments mid-game.

Meanwhile, back at Franklin Pierce, Dowd was putting on a showcase of his own, helping the Ravens to a couple of 40+ win seasons while catching the attention of scouts who considered him a strong draft option.

One of those scouts was Nichols who had Dowd participate in pre-draft workouts with the Mariners prior to the 2011 draft.

Going in [to the draft] I thought it was probably going to be Seattle who was going to take me, said Dowd, who had also worked out for the New York Mets. Then they took two catchers early [in the 4th and 5th rounds], and things changed.

Dowd.jpgBut the Mariners proved their commitment to Dowd by selecting the East Bridgewater native in the 12th round, sending him immediately to the Short Season-A Everett AquaSox to begin his career where he hit .228 and gunned down 23 runners in 45 games.

Dowd started the 2012 season with the Class-A Clinton LumberKings while Rivers began his campaign with the High-A High Desert Mavericks.

After struggling with a .224 average over 47 games, Rivers would be sent down to Clinton, reuniting the former Ravens.

Rivers would right the ship, hitting .287 the rest of the way, and Dowd was putting his best foot forward both behind and at the plate, throwing out 47% of would-be base stealers while batting .294.

The duo would prove their worth before the season was said-and-done and 2013 saw them both arrive at High Desert in April, ready to make their names known.

Dowd started the season with a 15-game hitting streak and after hitting safely in 19 of his first 22 games, he received a promotion to Double-A Jackson.

Rivers also had a blazing stick to start the season, knocking 18 hits over his first 10 games, and although a promotion would not come during the season, it turned out to be a blessing as he was able to log 128 games and put forth a stellar line of batting statistics.

While tearing up California League pitching Rivers became a Top 10 staple in average (.297 T8th), slugging (.515 6th), OPS (.896 7th), hits (144 8th), doubles (36 2nd), home runs (20 T7th), RBI (97 2nd), runs (92 6th) and walks (66 4th).

I think the biggest thing for me this past season was being able to be an everyday player, said Rivers. I was able to get into a rhythm early in the season and maintain throughout.

I was able to work with [hitting coach] Roy Howell, who played 10 years in the big leagues. We worked together almost every day on keeping my swing path short and consistent to the ball. Roy talked to me about only getting one good pitch to hit the entire at-bat or even game, so you don't want to miss your pitch and I was able to jump on balls early in the count and find some grass.

Dowd didnt enjoy the same success at the plate as Rivers when he jumped up to Jackson, but what he was able to do behind the plate was eye-popping.

He made 35 appearances as the Generals catcher and allowed only 6 passed balls while posting a .985 fielding percentage that was very brightly highlighted by an ability to throw out runners at a 56% clip.

The jump [to Double-A] kind of put me in my place as a hitter, said Dowd, who gunned down 20 of the 36 runners who attempted to steal on him. So I made sure to continue working hard behind the plate to prove my value. I take pride in throwing guys out, calling a good game, blocking the plate.

Its good to be able to help your team in that way, especially when you are having a tough game at the plate.

Dowd would finish 2013 back down at High Desert alongside Rivers, and no worse for the wear, having learned a lot about himself and his abilities in the process.

The same can be said for Rivers, whose breakout campaign caught the eyes of many and provided him with a very solid foundation to build off of moving forward.

For both players, having that added comfort of an old friend and teammate by their side to grow with and learn from, has been monumental in the successes they have endured.

It's been great watching Mike grow as a player, said Rivers. He is one of the best defensive catchers I have ever seen. He puts the work in and it shows.

Its great to have that familiar face there, said Dowd. We stick together like family and we have each others back.

A family forged on the frozen turf at Franklin Pierce during the early spring months of 2009 and a family that will never forget where it came from.

It's been great exposure for the Franklin Pierce program, said Rivers. Coach King has done an unbelievable job at the school. He's been able to turn us into a nationally ranked team year and year out.

His ability to bring players to Franklin Pierce, in the small town of Rindge, New Hampshire, and develop them into hardworking, focused, and dedicated players, is a testament to his knowledge and dedication to the game of baseball. He has brought the program to six College World Series and has seen 25 players get drafted and even more get signed.

In 2013 there were 14 players in affiliated or independent baseball that were products of Franklin Pierce, a school with an enrollment of less than 2,500.

Since 2001 King and his staff have produced 39 players that have gone on to play professional baseball.

Dowd recently received a non-roster invite to participate in Seattle's Major League Spring Training next month.

Fisher Cats announce 2014 field staff

Posted by Craig Forde January 15, 2014 12:46 AM

FieldStaff2014_g5v038io_uzqhkmtb.jpgThe New Hampshire Fisher Cats have announced that former New York Yankees infielder Bobby Meacham will take over the reins of manager for the club in 2014, becoming the eighth skipper in the team's eleven seasons.

He succeeds former Red Sox catcher and coach Gary Allenson, who was promoted to manage Torontos Triple-A team in Buffalo.

This will be Meachams second season managing in the Blue Jays system after leading High-A Dunedin to a first-half divisional title and a 63-68 overall record last season.

Prior to joining the Blue Jays organization Meacham coached in the Kansas City, Philadelphia, Colorado and Pittsburgh minor league systems and served as a base coach in the Majors with the Padres, Astros and Yankees, the team that he played all six of his pro seasons for.

Joining Meacham in Manchester will be new pitching coach Jim Czajkowski, who served in the same roll for the Short-Season Single A Vancouver Canadians over the last three seasons.

Hitting coach Jon Nunnally returns to the Fisher Cats after spending last season with Buffalo.

Also returning are a pair of New England natives, trainer Bob Tarpey (York, Maine) and strength and conditioning coach Brian Pike (Gorham, New Hampshire).

"This announcement always injects a little warmth into a cold, snowy winter," said Fisher Cats President Rick Brenner in a press release. "It's hard to believe spring training is a month away and that we are just 80 days from the start of our season. We look forward to meeting Bobby and Jim for the first time, and reuniting with Jon, Bob, and Brian for another exciting summer at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium."

The Fisher Cats, who will enter their 11th season as Torontos Double-A affiliate, start their season at Trenton (New York Yankees) on April 4th and return to open the gates at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on the 10th when they host the Binghamton Mets.

Hot Stove calendar scorching for remainder of January

Posted by Craig Forde January 14, 2014 02:40 AM

The hot stove season is nearing a close, which brings a rush of dinners and luncheons across the region that are sure to get the baseball blood pumping in anticipation for Spring Training.

Each event allows fans a unique opportunity to meet some past, present and future players, coaches and front office personnel, getting up close and personal through autograph and Q&A sessions, games and stories, all while supporting great charities in the process.

Here is a listing of upcoming events and links spanning New England over the coming weeks:

Thursday, January 16
What: Rock Cats Hot Stove Luncheon
Where: at Central Connecticut State University Student Center Ballroom, New Britain
Scheduled to appear: Twins first baseman Chris Colabello, Twins pitching prospect Ryan ORourke, Twins Minor League Director of Operations Brad Steil and Rock Cats Manager Jeff Smith
Click here for more information.

What: Falmouth Commodores Hot Stove Dinner
Where: at Sea Crest Beach Hotel, North Falmouth Massachusetts
Scheduled to appear: Red Sox manager John Farrell, Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons
Click here for more information.

Saturday, January 18
What: Portland Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner
Where: at Sable Oaks Marriott, South Portland, Maine
Scheduled to appear: Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman, Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield, new Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon and Red Sox player development consultant Dick Berardino
Click here for more information. SeaDogshotstove.jpg

Tuesday, January 21
What: Hot Stove Cool Music Roundtable
Where: at Fenway Parks State Street Pavilion
Scheduled to appear: Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington, Red Sox manager John Farrell, Red Sox Assistant General Manager Mike Hazen, Boston Globes Bob Ryan and moderator Peter Gammons
Click here for more information.

Wednesday, January 22
What: Boston Colleges Baseball Night in Boston
Where: at Fenway Parks State Street Pavilion
Scheduled to appear: Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington
Click here for more information. baseball-nights-rotator.jpg

Friday, January 24
What: Seacoast Mavericks Hot Stove Dinner
Where: at Harbor Events Center, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Scheduled to appear: former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Mike Fransoso
Click here for more information. Mavshotstove.jpg

Saturday, January 25
What: PawSox Hot Stove League Party
Where: at McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Scheduled to appear: new Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles, new Pawtucket coach Bruce Crabbe
Click here for more information. pawsoxhotstov.jpg

Thursday, January 30
What: Pittsfield Suns Hot Stove Banquet
Where: at the Colonial Theater, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Scheduled to appear: Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman
Click here for more information.

The list of guests for each event is subject to change, of course, but usually it winds up being more big names added to the festivities, so keep checking back with the teams as the event nears. Also, if you have an upcoming hot stove event that wasn't listed, please email the details to craig.forde@globe.com and Ill do my best to get up here.

Lowell Spinners to retire Westmoreland's number

Posted by Craig Forde January 13, 2014 10:34 AM

June 24 F-84.jpgLess than a year after retiring from the game Ryan Westmoreland was honored by the only team he ever played for professionally when the Lowell Spinners announced at their Hot Stove Dinner on Saturday night that they would be retiring his number 25 as part of Ryan Westmoreland Day during their 2014 season.

He will become the first Spinners player to have his number retired and will join the Boston Red Sox retired numbers that align the right field wall at LeLacheur Park, as well as the number 18 honoring late UMass-Lowell baseball player Dave Boutin.

After his lone season in 2009 Westmorelands stock skyrocketed, being named the best player in the Red Sox minor league system by Baseball America who also rated him as the 21st best prospect in the game.

Heading into his second season as a pro he was derailed by a cavernous malformation on his brain that required multiple surgeries and endless rehab, but despite intense efforts by Westmoreland to get back on the field, the risks ultimately outweighed the rewards and he announced his retirement in March of 2013.

Taken by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2008 draft out of Portsmouth (Rhode Island) High School, Westmoreland debuted with the Spinners as a tall, stringy, raw 19-year-old with a full arsenal of tools that he immediately put on display.

That season Ryan played in 60 of Lowells 75 regular season games, helping to lead the Spinners to their last Stedler Division title and playoff appearance.

Westmoreland tossed out an impressive .296/.401/.484 batting split with 25 extra base hits, 35 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 38 walks and 19 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

His efforts from that season prompted Baseball America to write the following in their 2010 Prospect Handbook:

His skills are just as impressive as his considerable tools. Westmoreland has an advanced approach for a teenager, with a short stroke, control of the strike zone and a willingness to use the entire field. His hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls consistently, and he has above-average power potential. He has plus-plus speed and knows how to use it

1stHR.jpgThis after only just one season for a kid who had yet to complete the second decade of his life.

Those who had the privilege to watch him play will be quick to tell you that this kid was poised enough to carry those expectations on his shoulders as well.

Ryan was not only a transcendent talent with the Spinners, but a phenomenal person, said Spinners President and General Manager Tim Bawmann. We have no doubt, had fate not intervened, that Ryan would be patrolling a Major League outfield for years to come. This tribute is about more than Ryan the baseball player, more so for Ryan the person. There is certainly no one more deserving for his accomplishments on the field and his perseverance off it.

Ryan Westmoreland left an indelible mark on the game and the organization in his one season as a pro and he will now be properly celebrated by the team where he finished his career.

Currently the Spinners are in the process of pulling their 2014 promotional schedule together, so no date has been set for Ryan Westmoreland Day yet, but we will be sure to let you know once the schedule is finalized.

Photo credits - John Corneau/Lowell Spinners

Three great baseball events for great causes this Saturday

Posted by Craig Forde January 7, 2014 02:44 PM

Spring Training will be here at the end of next month, but for those who need a shot of pine tar in their veins, Saturday offers up a trio of events that can oblige.

New Stars for Young Stars

The Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston hosts the ninth annual New Stars for NewStars.gifYoung Stars at Jillians in Boston. The event, which runs from 11:00am to 1:30p.m., offers fans the opportunity to meet new and upcoming Red Sox, all while supporting a great cause.

This years guests include free agent acquisition A.J. Pierzynski, pitchers Drake Britton and Rubby De La Rosa, Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year Mookie Betts and 2011 first-round selection Blake Swihart.

There will be an autograph signing, buffet lunch, silent auction, bowling and much more, with proceeds going to benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Since the event began in 2006, over $220,000 has been raised. You can find more information on New Stars for Young Stars here.

Lowell Spinners Hot Stove Dinner

After two dormant winters the Spinners have restoked the flames on their annual Hot Stove Dinner. The event will be held at the UMass-Lowell Inn & Conference Center, with an autograph session kicking things off at 5:00p.m.

As 2014 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Red Sox first World Series title in 86 years, the Spinners appropriately secured 2004 hero Dave Roberts SpinnersHotStove.jpgas its keynote guest. Joining Roberts will be former Spinners manager (2000-2001) and current Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler, Baseball Americas Red Sox top prospect in 2010 Ryan Westmoreland, former Spinner and UMass product Matt Gedman, broadcaster Jerry Trupiano and more.

Attendees will enjoy dinner, auctions, award presentations and a Q&A session with the evenings guests. Proceeds benefit Lowell Spinners Charities and more information on the event can be found here.

Hot Stove Cool Music Concert

Former Red Sox General Manager and current Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein returns for the cool music part of the two part Hot Stove Cool Music series. Proceeds benefit the Foundation to Be Named Later which was launched in 2005 by Epstein and his brother Paul to raise funds and awareness for non-profit agencies, working on the front lines, serving disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston area.

The Hot Stove Cool Music series has been a staple of the foundations fund raising efforts and has in turn become one of the more highly anticipated music events to kick off the new year in Boston. This will be the 14th annual benefit thrown by the series which was founded by Peter Gammons in 2000.

Mike OMalley hosts the affair at the Paradise which begins at 5:30p.m., and features musical guests Kay Hanley, Mike Mills and Joan Osborne among many others. More information can be found here.

The second half of the Hot Stove Cool Music series will be a roundtable discussion on January 21st at Fenway Park with Red Sox G.M. Ben Cherington, manager John Farrell, assistant G.M. Mike Hazen and the Boston Globes Bob Ryan.

So there are no excuses...I will not accept the Patriots game or Frozen Fenway as viable excusesfor you to get out there, get your baseball fix and support some great causes in the process. And before you know it, well be back in season.

About the author

Craig Forde covers baseball talent as it develops into the next big thing. He has covered high school and college sports for the Boston Globe, and the minor league teams More »

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