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Catching up with Rich Gedman

Before the final Pawtucket Red Sox game of the 2018 season, I caught up with former Boston Red Sox catcher and current PawSox hitting coach, Rich Gedman, for a brief conversation in the dugout.

Gedman was a local Worcester kid when he eventually came up to the Red Sox on the heels of Carlton Fisk’s departure to the Chicago White Sox in 1981. “I was just a kid from a two-decker in Worcester, a house without a shower. We only had a bathtub,” remembers Gedman. “Since the day I was born I wanted to compete. I wanted to win. In the neighborhood, that could mean hitting more baskets, throwing the football farther, hit, catch, whatever. And you learned early that you wanted to make sure that you competed against kids who were better than you,” said the former Sox backstop. “It was one thing to win, but to get better you had to step it up a level.”

He was summoned into the manager’s office with Julio Valdez and some other prospects as the 1981 season was winding down. “I got called into Joe Morgan’s office and was, like, ‘uh oh,’ because I had been called in there before,” said Gedman humorously implying that it was not out of the question for him to have received some undue attention from Morgan. “Then Joe said, ‘Congratulations! You’d better get on I-95 because you’re going to Boston.’”

The feeling of finally getting called up was incredible. “I didn’t know what to do. My energy level went up. It’s just different playing at Fenway in front of 35,000 people than it is playing in Pawtucket. And me, being a local kid from Worcester, to be able to walk out into Fenway Park and play? I remember the first time walking up the runway to the field, the boards on the floor, rats running around, and the smell was just terrible. But then I walked up the stairs and saw the Green Monster and it’s just the most beautiful place in the world.”

The second time Gedman was called up the Pawtucket Red Sox were in Richmond, Virginia about to board a bus to Charlotte. Instead, Gedman ended up on a plane to Logan. “The Sox sent a clubbie to pick me up at the airport who parked the car right outside the terminal. When we came out the car was gone,” said Gedman. “I gave the clubbie the business, basically out of nerves, because I had to get to the ballpark. We asked the nearby state policeman about the car that had been parked in front of the terminal.” He said that he had had it towed, but also noticed Gedman carrying an assortment of baseball bats. “The state policeman told me to get in his car and drove me to Fenway personally,” said Gedman. “He kept in touch, calling years later to check in on me to see how I was doing.”

“It’s a blue collar game, a game in which you have to work hard. You have to go to work every day and it doesn’t always lead to results, but you have to keep showing up to work,” said Gedman. “When you are from Massachusetts, they tell you that there are kids better than you from Texas, from California, and from Florida. Then when you see them you think, they look just like me. I can play against these guys.”

Baseball has changed some, but it’s still the same game. “Back then the minors were just about learning fundamentals. The serious adjustments were made in the Major Leagues. I learned things five years into the majors that kids are now learning in the minors,” said Gedman. Part of that teaching is mental. “The game has tells. You can see different things. Pitchers tip pitches. As a catcher you notice things other players might not, like a pitcher who sticks his tongue out every time he throws a fastball, or bites his lip when he throws a slider. And of course, if you notice it as a catcher,” said Gedman, “you can bet that eventually the hitters will pick it up.”

And what does the kid from Worcester think of the recent announcement that the Pawtucket Red Sox will soon be relocating to his hometown? “There is a lot of history here at McCoy. They do a lot of nice things here in Pawtucket, promotions and things that involve the community. But the good thing is, Massachusetts will finally get a brand new stadium. Baltimore, Texas, and Detroit all have state of the art, beautiful new stadiums in their downtown areas. There is a special history in Boston and it is special at Fenway, but it will be great to have a brand new stadium.”

I told Gedman that I had used him as an example this past spring when teaching my young step-son the intricacies of the game, how Gedman would follow the runner up the first base line after every ball put into play to back up the first baseman in the event of an errant throw setting an example of mental awareness, hustle, and toughness. The former Sox All-Star catcher and current PawSox hitting coach calmly took it in stride. ”Everybody does that,” said Gedman with a professionally humble response. “There is a game inside the game. Things are going on out there that aren’t necessarily happening while the ball is in play. There’s a lot to watch. You have to take it pitch by pitch. The game is much easier if you slow it down; this pitch, this inning, this game. If you don’t learn to do that, baseball is the hardest game on Earth.”

All things considered, said Gedman, “baseball’s still the same game, and it’s a great game.”