Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes! Yes! – A No-No by Lester in Boston

This is a great feel good story. Last night on the mound at Boston’s fabled Fenway Park, lefthander Jon Lester pitched the first no-hitter by a Red Sox southpaw since Mel Parnell accomplished the feat in 1956. But that is not the part of the story that grabbed me. What touched me most deeply as a Red Sox fan and as a sports fan is not even the obvious story line of Lester having survived a bout with lymphoma. That aspect of Lester’s life and career has been well documented and commented up in The White Rhino Report last July.


What really stood out for me in the aftermath of the young pitcher’s phenomenal achievement was the quality of the response of his teammates. It was clear in watching the players, manager and coaches embrace Lester after the final out had been recorded that they were celebrating the human being as much as they were congratulating the achievement. And the post-game comments drove home that point even more poignantly. My thoughts turned immediately to the book, “Season of Life.”

(See review in The White Rhino Report, March 11, 2005)

Season of Life article

That book beautifully chronicles the remarkable story of the players and coaches of the Gilman School in Maryland, perennial football champions. The unlikely twist in this saga of championship seasons is the strong bond that the coaches have forged with the players and the players have forged among themselves. Since I do not have my copy of the book in front of me at the moment, I will paraphrase from memory a portion of the story that I found astonishing. At the first pre-season practice each year, a litany is played out to introduce to the new players on the team the unique ethos of the squad. The coach stands before the assembled athletes and asks of the players:

“What is the job of us coaches?”

“To love us!”

“And what is your job?”

“To love each other.”

And from such “unmanly” sentiments championships are spawned! Some may feel that this soft approach is all well and good at the high school level, where not much is on the line. But in professional sports? No way!

Well, what came across the TV screen to me last night as Lester and his team celebrated the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history was pure love. The embrace by manager, Terry Francona, was that of a proud father to a beloved son. Some of the first words that Lester spoke were of his sentiment that “Francona has been like a second Dad to me – just being able to talk to hi, not just as a manager, but as a friend. He cares a lot about his players.”

On a day when Francona had traveled from Boston to Philadelphia and back again to celebrate the graduation of his son from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, he got to see a surrogate son graduate to a new level of proficiency in his chosen profession of pitching.

Francona commented on his emotions being on the surface last night:

"I looked up in the ninth and you're trying to keep your emotions in check, and I went to say something to John Farrell and he was being a big baby next to me. It made me feel a little bit better. . . This probably isn't fair to say, but I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter. . . Joy. You feel joy for a kid like that."

Throwing a no-hitter requires an element of luck and good defensive play. Most of the no-no’s I recall had at least one sterling play by a fielder, and last night’s gem was no exception. Jacoby Ellsbury, a young Red Sox phenomenon in his own right, made a spectacular diving catch in the 4th inning that preserved the string of hitless Royals batters.

What a thrill it is to cheer for a team that seems to do everything – on and off the field – better than the other teams in major league baseball. They hit better, pitch better, run better – and love better!

Red Sox Nation. You gotta love it!


1 comment:

Mark said...

We were mighty excited about this up here in Sohmer Nation! :)

Mark, Shelby, and the kids