Monthly Archives: March 2014

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FoxSports Live Interview with Brennan Boesch

FoxSports Live Interview with Brennan Boesch

“I’m all smiles. I had an injury-filled season last year. I am so happy to be out playing baseball you could send me to China (Laughs)…Being healthy for me is just a blessing this year.”

(Read Full Transcript)


A rare player with no Hispanic roots who has learned Spanish fluently.

Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero recalls the time before a game a few years ago when he went over to chat with Jose Bautista, then with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and noticed a blond player alongside him, so he introduced himself.

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Nate McLouth greeted Montero back in perfect Spanish, saying, “Mucho gusto” — pleased to meet you.

Startled, Montero asked him where he was from, to which McLouth responded again in Spanish, “Dominican. From Cibao.”

“‘From Cibao? Wow.’ I was stunned,” Montero said earlier this spring. “Then he starts laughing and says, ‘No, I’m American.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, I believed you.’ It blew me away.”

In a sport in which a quarter of all major leaguers — and more than 40% of the minor leaguers — hail from Latin American countries, McLouth stands as a rare player with no Hispanic roots who has learned Spanish fluently.

“Speaking Spanish has been a huge help,” McLouth, now an outfielder with the Washington Nationals, told USA TODAY Sports in an 11-minute interview conducted in Spanish. “It’s really important for the Latin players to speak English and also for the Americans to learn Spanish.”

McLouth is exceptional in his mastery of the language — he even has a Dominican accent — but he’s not alone.

Major leaguers such as C.J. Wilson of the Los Angeles Angels, A.J. Griffin of the Oakland Athletics and Brennan Boesch, who is trying to earn a spot with the Angels, speak well enough to have done interviews in Spanish.

Kansas City Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie learned the language on a Mormon mission to Spain. And Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto has retained a Spanish tutor for three years, in part to better communicate with teammates.

“It’s a great tool for me to be a good clubhouse guy, to bridge the gap if possible,” said Boesch, who took Spanish in high school and picked up some from his bilingual mother. “It catches some guys off guard, and that’s fun. People don’t realize how hard it is to come from another culture.”

A frequent challenge for newcomers — especially in the low minors, where they abound — is ordering food at restaurants. But that’s hardly the only area American players have come to their teammates’ aid.

While playing ClassA ball in Lynchburg, Va., McLouth once served as the interpreter at a hospital for a teammate with a sick baby.

Wilson has been able to lend a hand in matters as diverse as shipping a car, finding housing and understanding the collective bargaining agreement. His language skills have proved useful in welcoming new teammates.

“That’s a big one, when a Latino player comes over and doesn’t know anybody or have anybody he can trust,” Wilson said. “If you can speak to him, you give him a little more connection to the team right away.”

‘He looks like a gringo’

While Wilson, Griffin and Boesch were regularly exposed to Spanish growing up in Southern California, McLouth didn’t know any until he took three years in high school in Whitehall, Mich.

After getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000, McLouth found himself with three Dominican roommates at ClassA in Hickory, N.C.

“I ate a lot of rice that year,” McLouth said with a smile.

He also practiced and enhanced his language skills, which came in handy when McLouth played winter ball in the Dominican Republic in 2005. By then he was fully comfortable with his adopted tongue and would regularly surprise the locals.

The typical reaction?

“‘He doesn’t look Dominican,'” McLouth recalls. “‘He looks like a gringo.'”

McLouth is one of the few Anglo players who can blend seamlessly into the group conversations of Latinos speaking their native language that are so common in baseball clubhouses.

McLouth was the first Baltimore Orioles player Cuban-born outfielder Henry Urrutia met last July when he was called to the majors, and the veteran befriended him.

“He would spend hours talking with us in Spanish,” said Urrutia, who is working to improve his limited English. “I think many of the other American players would like to experience that too, but the language gets in the way.”

The benefits of learning Spanish can be reciprocal.

Boesch was a Detroit Tigers teammate of slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez, a .309 career hitter whom he calls the greatest influence of his career.

Even though Ordonez had been in the majors since 1997, he could explain hitting concepts better in Spanish than in English.

“When he was around, I felt most comfortable as far as hitting,” Boesch said. “His mastery of hitting is unparalleled. Being able to communicate with him in Spanish was a big advantage.”

Change in tenor

David Ortiz, the reigning World Series MVP and one of the sport’s key ambassadors, perceives the use of Spanish is less stigmatized in today’s game.

“When I was coming up, in some clubhouses and places, a lot of people would get upset about that,” said Ortiz, who debuted in 1997 and began his minor league career in 1994. “And I don’t know if it’s like that anymore. I speak a lot of Spanish, and nobody says anything.

“Globally, the two most widely used languages are English and Spanish. If you can learn another language, I would do it.

“You know how good it would be if you’re an American and you could go to Venezuela, Spain, the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and (communicate)?”

Ortiz began learning English at the behest of his father when he was a 15-year-old in the Dominican; now, his children are the ones correcting him.

When teammates do so, the tenor has changed.

“Now they’re having fun with something you may say. Before they were mocking you,” he said. “A lot of them now understand this is not your first language and they would like to speak as much Spanish as I speak English.”

Griffin took four years of Spanish in high school and two more at the University of San Diego, helpful skills when a rookie ball catcher spoke little English.

“I’m very proud I’m able to speak it. I look very American, so people don’t expect it,” said Griffin, who works at his language skills regularly.

“I think everybody should learn Spanish. That’s not a very American opinion, but if it helps people, why not?”

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My best years are in front of me… It’s all about being lean and flexible.

TEMPE, Ariz. — After getting derailed by injuries last season in New York, Santa Monica native Brennan Boesch is hoping that a return home will lead to a career reboot with the Los Angeles Angles.

2013 was a tough year for Boesch. He went from being a part of the 2012 American League Champion Detroit Tigers to being released in spring training to make room for star right fielder Tori Hunter. He slugged .523 in the first 23 games of the season with the injury ravaged New York Yankees before suffering a muscle tear, which later prompted the Yankees to release him to make room for Derek Jeter’s replacement.

“I’ve been through a lot in my young career so far,” the 25-year-old Boesch said, “ups and downs, twists and turns and I feel like my best years are in front of me.”

Boesch was a top-25 prospect while playing at Harvard-Westlake High School and an All-Pac-10 outfielder while playing for the University of California.

New York Mets infield prospect Josh Satin played with Boesch and is one of his best friends. Over the years, Satin witnessed his friend’s transformation from a boy to what he is today.

“I first met him when I was in ninth grade,” Satin said. “He was tall, lean, not that big. But year after year, he worked at getting bigger and bigger until by the time we were 20 years old, he was a monster.”

After suffering numerous injuries, Boesch realized that his bodybuilding-like off-season approach has betrayed him and has prompted him to rethink everything and focus on being more flexible.

“In the past it was more about bulking up and a lot of olympic lifts,” Boesch said. “[This off-season] I spent most of my time on shoulder and upper body flexibility. I had gotten overly built so I leaned out quite a bit. I changed my diet up, too, and just really paid attention to what I’ve eaten and be discipline in that regard.

“Now I don’t care what the scale said. It’s all about being lean and flexible and making sure I have that flexibility so I can have a smoother swing.”

It’s a smart move on Boesch’s part. New York Mets superstar David Wright had his season hampered by a hamstring injury in August and as a result, he focused on making his equally large, strong, athletic body more flexible in an effort to, “make sure it’s a one-time thing and not a reoccurring injury.”

“You can never be too flexible,” Wright said. “There’s so much twisting and turning and rotation stuff in this game that the more flexible you are, the better chance you have.”

There are plenty of young outfielders trying to break camp with the Angels but that’s not the reality in Boesch’s mind. For him, it’s a competition with himself and he truly believes that when the April showers are bringing May flowers, he’ll be in the Angels lineup as an outfielder.

“I’m a Major League starting outfielder,” Boesch said. “There’s only 90 guys in the whole world that get to say that and I believe without a doubt that I’m one of those 90 people on the planet. I’ll take it another step further and say I believe I can play at an All-Star level.”
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Pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch’s infield single in 9th lifts Yankees to 3-2 win over Rockies

DENVER – Pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch hit a tiebreaking infield single with the bases loaded in the ninth off closer Rafael Betancourt and the New York Yankees snapped a five-game skid at Coors Field with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

Vernon Wells had a two-run homer in the first and scored the decisive run when third baseman Nolan Arenado couldn’t throw out a hustling Boesch after a diving stop.

David Robertson (2-0) earned the win by working out of a jam in the eighth and Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 12 chances.

It’s the first time New York has won in the Mile High City since June, 19, 2002. The Yankees also bounced back from a 2-0 loss the night before. They’re now 29-9 in games following a shutout loss since manager Joe Girardi’s arrival in 2008.

Wells began the ninth with a single off Betancourt (1-1) and was credited with a stolen base when shortstop Jonathan Herrera dropped the ball while applying the tag. Lyle Overbay drew a walk and Ichiro Suzuki sacrificed them over.

After an intentional walk to Jayson Nix to load the bases, pinch-hitter Travis Hafner struck out. Boesch sent a two-out sharp grounder to Arenado, who fielded it cleanly and came up throwing. First baseman Todd Helton thought Boesch was out and began heading to the dugout, but first base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled him safe. Rockies manager Walt Weiss briefly argued, before returning to the dugout.

With their bench depleted, the Yankees had to get creative in the field for the ninth. So much so that Wells wound up playing third base. He fielded Carlos Gonzalez’s slow hopper for the second out.

Rivera got Wilin Rosario to fly out to center to end the game.

The wind blowing in on a cool and damp night meant very little hitting for either team, just 10 combined hits. The only early offense was a pair of two-run homers, one by Wells on a 94 mph fastball from Juan Nicasio in the first and the other a drive off the bat of Helton in the second.

Robertson worked his way out of a one-out situation in the eighth when he plunked pinch-hitter Troy Tulowitzki, who was then replaced by Eric Young Jr. Young then stole second, but Herrera lined out to second and Dexter Fowler grounded out to first.

Chris Nelson’s first hit with the Yankees came in the stadium that’s quite familiar for him. Nelson, who was traded from Colorado to New York on May 1, snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a single in the seventh that Fowler misplayed and allowed Nelson to hustle to third. With two outs, pinch hitter Ben Francisco grounded out to third and stranded Nelson.

David Phelps was solid except the one hiccup to Helton. He lasted six innings and allowed three hits.

Like Phelps, Nicasio settled into a groove after encountering early trouble. He allowed two hits in the first — including Wells’ seventh homer of the season — but only gave up a walk to the next 15 hitters he faced.

Nicasio went five innings in the no-decision, striking out five and walking one.

Girardi employed a different type of strategy on Wednesday, inserting pitcher David Phelps into the No. 8 spot in the batting order and moving catcher Austin Romine to ninth. Girardi borrowed the idea from former St. Louis skipper from Tony La Russa.

Girardi’s tactic was a way to gain more favorable matchups deeper in the game against the Rockies’ bullpen. It’s the first time a Yankees pitcher has batted in a spot other than ninth since interleague play began in 1997, according to STATS.

The last Yankees pitcher to bat eighth was Don Larsen in 1957, STATS said.

Weiss decided to hold out Tulowitzki for a second straight game. Not so much because of soreness in his legs as the soggy weather. Weiss didn’t want to take a risk with his All-Star slugger.

Tulowitzki said he ran earlier in the day and his legs “felt good.” He missed most of last season with a groin injury that required surgery to remove scar tissue.

The Yankees are no strangers to players missing from the lineup, with shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, third baseman Alex Rodriguez and infield Kevin Youkilis all sidelined.

“Of course, they’re a better team with them on the field. But they’re still the Yankees,” Gonzalez said. “They always find a way to win, always find a way to be competitors.”

NOTES: Before the game, the Rockies presented Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with a $5,000 check for his foundation. … The Yankees will send LHP CC Sabathia (4-3) to the mound Thursday in the series finale. The Rockies will counter with LHP Jeff Francis (1-2).



Never a doubter: Brennan Boesch barrels onto scene, collects two AL Rookie of the Month awards and makes significant impact for Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Instead of trembling hands soaking brand-new batting gloves, a hawkish Brennan Boesch dug into the box and took a bold rip at the first pitch in his Major League debut.

Bruising the left-field wall in Arlington, Texas, the lefty’s double on April 23 signaled the start of what’s been a special rookie season for the Detroit Tigers left fielder.

A week later at Comerica Park, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder approached the plate against the Los Angeles Angels to the soundtrack of Eminem’s “Not Afraid.” He then deposited a Joel Pineiro fastball into the Halos’ bullpen for a grand slam — the first home run of his brief career while living up to the Motown rapper’s lyrics.

“In this game, there’s nothing positive that comes from doubting yourself,” Boesch said before Tuesday’s win over Baltimore, just minutes after receiving news he’d been named American League Rookie of the Month for the second consecutive month. “You just trust yourself, your ability, whatever it is that got you here and continue to use it to be successful.”

What got Boesch here was a 15-game blitz of the International League while in Triple-A Toledo, where he batted .379 with 17 RBIs.

Called up to replace then-injured Carlos Guillen, Boesch quickly moved from designated hitter to left field, bumping veteran Johnny Damon from his defensive post. The former University of California star is hitting .341 with 12 homers — second only to Miguel Cabrera (.347 and 21).

Boesch is third on the team with 47 RBIs and he’s collected 17 doubles, three triples and posted a .595 slugging percentage leading up to a key three-game set against Minnesota, the final series before the All-Star break.

Those were All-Star numbers, but Boesch wasn’t voted onto the AL squad, not even by his own manager.

“I don’t agree with that,” Tigers skipper Jim Leyland said of the popular opinion that Boesch was snubbed. “I don’t think he should have made the team. I think it would have been a nice story and certainly could have been, but you’ve got guys who’ve been playing a while and are having big years. Like the (Stephen) Strasburg kid didn’t make it and I don’t think he should have yet. It’s a catch-22 because you’d like to see it happen, but I don’t have any problem with it. I actually voted for (Magglio) Ordonez as an extra outfielder.”

Damon felt the rookie should have made the team and even put in a call to AL manager Joe Girardi on the 25-year-old’s behalf.

“I was trying to push hard for him to get to the All-Star game,” Damon said. “The fact that he’s upset that he didn’t make it shows you how much he cares about the game. I had to talk to him a little bit and say, ‘Hey, outfielders and first basemen, there’s always that snub. You’re a great player, and without you we could be 10 games back now or maybe more.’ He knows his importance with the team.”
Now Boesch knows a bit more about baseball’s unwritten rules, though he’s moved on.

brennan-boesch-2jpg-91616b69f83f20c4_large “It’s kind of in the past for me now and I’m not really thinking about it,” he said. “It will be nice to relax here in Michigan, recharge and be ready to go.”

Boesch said he’s learning something new each day he spends rubbing shoulders with his Tigers teammates. His folks, Phil and Vivian, are getting an education as well.

“We were going through the Detroit airport Monday,” Vivian Boesch said. “We were going through security and as my husband’s suitcase was going through the X-ray machine, they stopped and asked, ‘Whose suitcase is this?’ They looked at us and said, ‘What do you have in there?’ My husband said, ‘I think it’s my son’s (first AL Rookie of the Month) trophy.’

“At the last minute I had to buy some sweatpants at the Tigers store because I didn’t bring enough clothes. I had these huge Detroit Tigers sweatpants on, something I ordinarily wouldn’t wear, and they asked who our son was. We said, ‘Brennan Boesch,’ and they wanted to see the trophy. It was so cute. They were holding it up in the airport.”

Boesch, without much time to take stock of life outside of his cyclonic rookie ride, was unaware of his family’s airport ordeal.

“That’s funny,” he said. “Well, I’ve been relying on them my whole life, but maybe I need to come up with something else, like shipping (his latest trophy) home.”

Wes Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or 269-388-8400.