Ex-Bay Sock Rose Blooms at Fenway Centennial
It’s a dream that is so hokey, because it never happens in real life.
This is the hokey dream that never happens in real life: You are a promising 22-year old rookie. You have idolized your hometown baseball team for all of your life and here you are, that team’s starting pitcher in their home opener. Starting in a ballpark where generations of baseball legends have trod before you.
The Home Opener. The game which always sells out. The day where every team is a contender. The most optimistic day in American sports save for arguably post time at the Kentucky Derby.
Ask Don Larsen how hokey it is to dream about throwing a Perfect Game in the World Series.
Ask New Bedford native Brian Rose how hokey it is to dream about being a rookie Opening Day starter for the team of your childhood.
The 22-year old Rose started the ’98 Fenway opener- as well as 53 other Major League games- in an 11 year professional career that featured five seasons in the Big Leagues.
This enabled Rose, a former assistant General Manager and pitching coach for the New Bedford Bay Sox, to participate in the Red Sox’ recent 100th anniversary celebration for Fenway Park.
“I think it was probably the classiest thing that I’ve seen in baseball, to give tribute to all of those players who walked through those doors at one time or another,” remembered Rose. “Who had a chance to compete for the Boston Red Sox organization. The teammates, coaching staffs, the people who have been involved for 100 years, to be a part of that was unbelievable.
“It was such an honor to walk out that gate in centerfield with players that I played with, players that I had watched and idolized as a kid. Players who I read about before my time. Being able to schmooze and shake hands and talk to these players and coaches…it was just,” Rose searched for the right words, “it was an absolute honor to be a part of that. It really was.”
As a high school senior, Brian Rose did not know all of this was going to happen. What he did know is that he had a great offer in his hand- a full ride to Michigan to play both hockey and baseball. It would take something special to trump that offer.
“When I was a kid, we only had 13 stations growing up and one of them was TV-38 where we’d watch the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics,” Rose described. “I watched the games on TV because that is what my Dad used to watch. I was an only child so there was a lot of focus and pressure on my schoolwork and my athletics.
“When I got the call in June that I got drafted by the Red Sox I can honestly say that if it were another team I might not have signed the professional contract. I knew the importance of schooling and getting an education and getting my career situated in case baseball didn’t work out. But when I did get the call saying I was drafted by the Red Sox, it did change the perspective. I was a lifelong fan and it was a dream of mine, and every other kid that grew up in New England to pitch for the Red Sox. I had to make a decision, and it was probably the most difficult decision I’ve had in life. But I’m very satisfied and very happy with that decision, and to have grown up in the Red Sox organization.”
Rose quickly worked his way through the Minor Leagues, earning an International League All-Star and Rookie of the Year selection in 1997 thanks to his 17-5 record and 3.02 ERA. That July, Rose made his Big League debut, becoming the fourth youngest person to play in the American League in the ’97 season. His debut is one of his two most memorable games.
“The first game I ever got to pitch was the second game of a double header against the Anaheim Angels. That was an unbelievable feeling, to walk out of the bullpen and look in the stands,” Rose described. “My heart was racing a million beats a minute. I looked up in the stands and there were soooo many familiar faces that showed up that night to watch me play and support the local kid. That was an absolutely unbelievable feeling.
“I kind of wish I just had the one inning,” he laughed, “because the first inning was real good. After that I felt everything settle down a little bit, but what an unbelievable feeling that was.
“The other memory was starting the Home Opener in ’98. How many kids don’t go to school, parents call in sick to work, to go watch that game? It was one of my better games and against a stacked Seattle Mariners line-up. I remember striking out Ken Griffey with the bases loaded with one out. I almost got out of the jam and threw a really good pitch to the next batter, Edgar Martinez. It was one of the best two-seamers I ever threw but Martinez was such a heckuva hitter that he did what he had to do- hit a little fly ball off the Wall and that chased me from the game.
“Mo Vaughn ended up hitting a homer in the bottom of the ninth to give us the win. So even though I didn’t have a say in the win, to be a part of that game, which was played on ESPN and NESN Classic games…it’s two great, great memories that I got to be a part of.”
In May 1999, Rose had one of the best weeks a Red Sox diehard could dream of having. He threw six shutout innings to beat the Yankees at Fenway. Six days later, this time in the South Bronx, Rose again got the “W” because of his six inning/one run performance against the eventual World Champs.
After a dozen starts for Boston in 2000, Rose was traded at the July deadline to the Rockies. “Breaking balls don’t break as sharply there as they do in other elevations,” he said. “The ball travels further in Colorado than it does in other elevations. My golf game was superb in Colorado as I could drive a ball 350 yards!
“But if I had to pitch in that environment then so did the other pitcher, so we’re both on the same page. It might give the hitter some advantages but if you’re on top of your game, keep the ball down, mix pitches and change speeds, and do those sort of things, then you can find success in that atmosphere.
“But if you hang a pitch,” he grinned, “it’s going to travel a long way.”
Rose settled back home in the New Bedford area after his retirement from playing. When the Torrington Twisters moved to New Bedford for the 2009 season, there was no better person to facilitate it.
Rose served as the team’s assistant GM and pitching coach for two seasons. He now runs his eponymous baseball school in New Bedford…where he focuses on helping other careers flower.
“Baseball is a pretty intricate sport especially from the pitching aspect,” he offered. “The physical, the mental, just the overall work ethic that it takes to play every single day is something that the college kids don’t quite have. The ups and downs, the constant competition and making adjustments in the game of baseball…those were some of the things that I tried to give back to the players in the short amount of time that I was with them.
“I think every person needs their own personal game plan and being the pitching coach and working with these guys every day, I was able to do that,” he explained. “To be a coach, especially a good coach, you can’t have just one way of doing things. Every person has their own hitches and flaws, and things they all need to work on to get to the next level. My job was to try and identify that and help them in their efforts to get to the next step.
Few are more qualified to speak on getting to the next level then Rose.
Just ask Ken Griffey.
Brian Rose’s Advice to the NECBL Class of 2012: “This game isn’t meant for everybody. It’s meant for the guys who are going to come to work every day, be consistent, work hard, stay focused and are going to have fun doing all of those things. For the players who get an opportunity to play at the next level such as the NECBL, the Cape League or even the Minors, that’s an opportunity. So when you get an opportunity in life, you really want to take advantage of them. Any time you get a chance to pitch on the mound or get an at-bat, it’s a chance to showcase your talents. It’s a chance to showcase who you are and what type of ballplayer you are. Anytime you go to the field, go to practice or have a game, make sure you bring your “A” game, make sure you bring 100% effort and are there for your teammates. All of that translates into the ultimate goal, which is to make it to the Major Leagues. Not everyone gets to do that, but those few guys that have the attributes to go there, it is all worth it. Believe me. It is all worth it.”
Article written by Don Leypoldt.