Reflecting: 2004 ALCS 10 Years Later

Ten years ago tonight was a turning point for me personally as well as Red Sox Nation. 2004 world seriesSo, where should I begin this story?

2004 was a year of change. After serving 8 years in the U.S Marine Corps, I became a civilian once again and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life as a civilian. Biding my time while I figured out life as a civilian, I continued selling programs at Fenway Park. Little did I know that my life would intertwine with the Red Sox to bring me to the point I’m at today in 2014.

It was a cold, crappy night in the Bronx. Some Sox fans told me that had seen Curt walk in and that he was warming up. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as I huddled around a  hot chocolate; sure enough, Curt Schilling was warming up to start game 6 of the ALCS.

As the game started and the innings rolled on, all of the screens in the stadium showed “the sock”, and this is all anyone was talking about. Fans on both sides expected the curse to rear it’s ugly head. But it never did and “Big Game Curt” came through. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-2.

Later that night, as I left the park, the media used words like “courage”, “strength”, “heart”. It was at that time that I learned what it really meant to be a Boston Red Sox fan.

When you’re in the moment, you don’t stop to smell the roses. When you’re in the big spot light, you don’t think, “What’s this gonna be like in 10 years?” You just roll with the punches. Looking back on it, I can’t believe how important that game, and the entire ’04 post season, was for me both personally and professionally. It was the start of something great for a company called Beantown Collectibles and, many years later, Yawkey Way Report.It was also the start of something great for Boston. No one suspected that it was the beginning of a string of World Series trophies for the BoSox (a total of three in the last 10 years), with a total of eight Championships in eleven years in Boston. No other city in the world can make that claim.

This truly is Title Town, USA.

10 years ago tonight— true grit and the bloody sock—what a ride it’s been for Red Sox Nation and for me.

Sly Goes One on One with Christian Vazquez

christian vazquez

Having been a Sox fan for a long time, and made a living one way or another through the Boston Red Sox, I’ve gotten to know a lot of players through the years. In order to succeed in the Boston market, you have to have grit, be hard-nosed, tough and have a great work ethic. Those who have succeeded in Boston had that make-up. Catchers, Boston’s had some great ones—Fisk and Varitek come to mind. There were other good backstops in the last 30 years—Rich Gedman, Tony Pena, even Mike MacFarlan for a couple seasons, but we haven’t seen a good home grown catcher in a while. Until now. The baseball God’s have given us Christian Vazquez.

I’ve watched Vazquez play in Pawtucket this season and caught up with him right before he was promoted to the big club. I spoke to him after Matt Barnes’ second strong outing, and while most reporters were talking about the pitching performance, I spoke to Christian about how he was calling the game and what he felt he was doing right and wrong.

Christian told me he spends a lot of time pouring over opposing hitters stats, and sometimes calling a pitch on his gut feeling or a hunch that this guy can’t hit it inside. Vazquez said he is given a lot of freedom in how to control the game and said, “I like to keep the ball down and get my guys off the mound as quick as possible, inning by inning.” During the June 7th game, he gunned a guy down at first and held the team to no stolen bases. I watched this kid, like a sniper with precision, always have one eye on the base runner and not afraid to throw down to first after any pitch. After the game, when I asked Vazquez if his actions were instinct or instructions from the dugout, he replied,”It’s all me. Skipper gives me the green light to throw down if I think it’s right.”

When I asked him about his aggressive approach he said he worked on it over the winter in Jupiter, FL with Yadier and Bengie Molina. The Molina’s also helped him with his much improved defense and ability to block pass balls. In that June 7th game, I watched closely as not a single ball made it by his glove. The Molina’s stressed to Vazquez that you don’t get to be an All-Star catcher by allowing pass balls. “They cost runs and they cost games,” said Vazquez, adding, “I’ll do anything to get my pitcher the W.”

Christian Vazquez is just one of the many exciting new players coming through this system. This guy is my type of ball player: hard, tough and confident. He appears to be a born leader as well.

I think the next Varitek just showed up in the Red Sox locker room.