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Morning report: Wish you were here ...

2/19/2013

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where it promises to be a beauty, the kind of day that Pedro Martinez would write a sonnet about, if his attentions were occupied less by Daniel Bard than by the Bard. As you may have seen in my posted story about Martinez on ESPNBoston.com, the man waxed poetic about the coming of spring in New England.

Here’s what he said:

“I miss seeing the flowers in the spring, when they come out. The first part of the season, when the leaves are first coming out and the flowers are starting to come out. I love that time. And it starts getting warm, and then the summer hits, and it’s all flowers, blossoms green and beautiful. I missed all that the last few years. Even though I visited, but not like I used to. Now it’s going to get more often. I’ll get to see it more often.’’

Martinez also chastised reporters, as he should have, for trampling through some of the plants near the picnic bench. “Don’t walk on the plants,’’ he said. “I’m a gardener.’’

Memo to Catherine Varitek: Mrs. V, you more than anyone know how much personality Jason has. After all, you married him. He has taken a very low profile since being hired in a similar position as Martinez, a special assistant, apparently believing that he doesn’t want to deflect attention from the current players. Personally, I think he should take the opposite tack, being more engaging than ever. I had the privilege of spending time with him one offseason in Atlanta, when he dropped his all-business façade and shared far more of himself than I’d seen in covering him on a daily basis for years. I suggest, since he doesn’t have to be The Captain anymore, that you urge him to be more open, sharing all the knowledge he has accumulated over the years, not only in the clubhouse, but with an audience that would be thrilled to learn more about a man they’ve respected all these years, and would love, just as with Pedro, to read more about him. Just sayin'.

Meanwhile, if you had any doubts about how much Will Middlebrooks has embraced the experience of Boston, even though his rookie season was spent sorting through the wreckage of a 93-loss season, read Joe McDonald’s piece here. http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/8960469/will-middlebrooks-hopes-stay-boston-red-sox-long-term

"I realize to play in Boston you've got to be a special kind of player, and that's not me blowing smoke," Middlebrooks told Mac. "It's hard to play in Boston. There's a pressure to win in Boston. I'd rather play here. I don't mind the fans being pissed when we lose, I like that because that means they're behind us. They want us to do well and that's what I like. I like the pressure to win."

And finally, let me tell you about a couple of things about Mark Hamilton, one of the non-roster players signed by Ben Cherington to audition for the role of left-handed hitting reserve first baseman/outfielder. Hamilton comes from the Cardinals, where he was stuck behind Albert Pujols for years, and then had his hopes dashed again when the Cards imported Lance Berkman to play first.

“When I heard they might draft me, I talked to my agent, and said, ‘What about Albert?’’’ Hamilton said. “He said, ‘Who knows if he’ll even be there in a couple of years?’ Well, he was. That turned out to be an impediment, to say the least. And they had corner outfielders as well. They had guys in my way.

“Just got squeezed out. That’s the nature of the business.’’



Speaking of impediments, Hamilton starred at Tulane, where he was supposed to attend orientation prior to the first day of his junior year when he got word that classes had been cancelled. There was a hurricane bearing down on New Orleans. They called it Katrina.

“Katrina hit on what was supposed to be the first day of classes,’’ he said. “We packed up a bunch of stuff in my [rented] house, put a bunch of stuff on cinder blocks, thinking that would help.’’

Hamilton followed orders and evacuated, driving to his parents’ home in Houston, a trip that normally would take 5 1/2 hours. With the highways clogged with folks fleeing, this trip took 29 hours.

“I watched it all on TV,’’ he said. “I used Google Earth to see what my house looked like. We could barely see the roof. We got like seven feet of water in the house. The water was up to the roof line, and we could see fence pieces floating by when the levees finally broke.’’

Returning to campus for the fall semester was out of the question, of course. Hamilton and the rest of the Tulane baseball team were informed they would be going to school and playing at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

Hamilton’s wife, Lauren, however, was a schoolteacher in New Orleans, and was summoned back before he was, asked to teach not only the children who had been left behind or were gradually returning home, but also the kids of all the contractors who had flocked to New Orleans to help rebuild the devastated city.

“My wife and parents went to the house to try and salvage stuff,’’ he said. “I had a few things from the NCAA regionals, the college World Series. They put on oxygen masks to go in. They said it was like a war zone.’’

He would see soon enough first-hand. “The National Guard running around with Humvees and 50 cals,’’ he said. “Very different.’’

Hamilton returned for the spring semester, but in different housing. They bulldozed his rented house, which was unsalvageable. The Green Wave played in Zephyrs Park, home of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. They were grateful for the chance, but it posed an unforeseen challenge for Hamilton, inasmuch as it was a ballpark known to be inhospitable to left-handed power hitters.

Still, he was named an All-American and drafted on the second round by the Cardinals, but not before fears of Hurricane Ike sparked another evacuation and this time a 35-hour ride to Houston.

Nearly seven years later, he is here, hoping to win a job. The Red Sox called, right around Christmas.

“I looked at their history of calling up NRI guys,’’ said Hamilton, employing a shorthand for non-roster players with a major-league invitation. “Do guys like me ever make the team? Bos has a history of you can play your way into a spot.

“That’s all I ask for, to come in and be given a fair look, fair treatment. If I can play my way on and show I can contribute, that’s wonderful. If someone beats me out, that’s how it goes. It’s a competitive game.’’