A missed opportunity with Big Papi

During the summer of 1997, I attended a kids baseball clinic put on by the Butte Copper Kings at Alumni Coliseum.

The Copper Kings were a rookie-league team of the Anaheim Angeles, as they were called back then. Bill Lachemann was the 63-year-old manager of the team that summer.

At 80, Lachemann, a Great Falls resident, is currently a roving catching instructor for the Angels. He is a baseball lifer and an old-school baseball man who demands that the game is played the right way.

Lachemann, who played nine seasons of minor league ball in the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers organization, hit .307 with 10 home runs for the Great Falls Dodgers in 1960.

As a young reporter, I learned a lot from Lachemann. For one thing, I found out the hard way to never misquote him.

I also learned that he doesn’t put up with players who don’t hustle down the first baseline, even when they are going to be out by a mile.

One July day, Lachemann went through some baseball drills for a couple dozen young Copper Kings fans with his players looking on, hanging on every word of their white-haired skipper.

Lachemann summonsed Copper King slugger Steve Hagins, who was known for his perfect hairdo as much as he was the 17 home runs he hit that season, to demonstrate what to do when he hit a ground ball.

“You see that,” Lachemann told the kids. “Steve was out, but he still touched first base. You always touch first base. If my guys don’t touch first base, I fine them $100.”

If David Ortiz played for Lachemann, he’d be broke. That, or the Boston Red Sox designated hitter would hustle down the line.

I am a life-long Red Sox fan, and Ortiz might be my all-time favorite player. After all, Big Papi has delivered three World Series titles for the Red Sox.

The team wouldn’t have won any of them without Ortiz, especially last year’s title when Ortiz was out of his mind. If Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had the sense to walk Ortiz, Butte’s Rob Johnson would be wearing a World Series ring as we speak.

Still, Ortiz doesn’t hustle down the line, and it drives me nuts. He probably never hustled down the line on a groundout, but this year it really stands out as Ortiz has walked down the baseline repeatedly during the worst baseball season on record.

He hardly ever touches first base if he is out.

Ortiz isn’t the reason the Red Sox are losing. In fact, he’s one of the only players to put up decent offensive numbers for the Red Sox this season.

He has also appeared to be a selfish player at times this season since his team is losing. It seems like he only cares about hitting a tape-measure home run so he can flip his bat to show up the pitcher.

During one stretch, he had two at bats that, I think, proved he is all about himself in 2014.

One time, the Red Sox were down two runs and Ortiz swung at a bad 3-0 pitch and tapped into an inning-ending double play.

I’m not sure if it was a day or two before or a day or two later — all the screaming at the TV this season might have led to some brain damage — that Ortiz was in a similar 3-0 situation. This time he started walking to first base before the pitcher released the ball, as if he was mad he was being pitched around.

About that time, I was glad that David Price drilled him in the butt with a pitch. Price was right when he said Ortiz thinks he is bigger than the game.

I hope Price and other pitchers continue to drill Ortiz so he will get it through his head that he isn’t. Even Babe Ruth had to hustle every once in a while.

When you hustle down the line, the chances of the infielder rushing and making an errant throw go up by 73.8 percent, according to a stat I just made up. Walking or jogging down the line is insulting to your teammates, opponents and fans 100 percent of the time.

If opposing pitchers can’t get through to Big Papi, then Red Sox fans should try. They should boo and heckle every time he dogs it on the base path. They should tell him he should hustle when they see him in public.

Scott Ferguson of Butte had the opportunity to do just that Saturday in southern California.

Fergie was sitting in a mall when he was shocked to see Ortiz walking by. Fanboy Fergie, though, did what any Red Sox fan would have done in that situation. He panicked.

Fergie was so nervous that Ortiz had to show him how to work his iPhone so he could snap a selfie with the slugger.

My response to the news of the photo was to ask if Fergie had the sense to tell Ortiz to start hustling down the base path. Admittedly, Fergie was too nervous for such straight talk.

I consider that a lost opportunity because later that night, during a painful 19-inning loss to the Angels, Papi hit a week inning-ending pop out to left field in the 11th.

Ortiz tossed his bat in the air and angrily slapped at it. Then he walked down the line as the ball hung in the air.

Even though Ortiz hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly his next time up, that at bat gave me the feeling that the Red Sox were going to go to lose yet another game, and I was right.

More than anything, it also made me wish Bill Lachemann was the managing the Red Sox.

—Bill Foley, who would also take Marcel or Rene Lachemann as his team’s manager, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.



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