Articles > Red Sox Rookie Has Roller Coaster Ride
By Rabbi Mitch Smith
September 27, 2005 --- With the 2005 Major League Baseball season coming to a close, Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Adam Stern hasn't gotten to see much action. He injured his thumb during the first game of spring training, and while rehabbing that he pulled his hamstring. He missed the first 83 games of the season, and wasn't really healthy until July.
Even with all the frustration that come with injuries, it has been a great ride for Stern, who spoke with The Center for Sport and Jewish Life during one of the team's final road trips of the season.
"Last year at this time I was playing Double A ball in the Atlanta Braves organization, and I ended up getting "Rule 5'd" over here (to the Red Sox) coming off a World Series win, so it was pretty huge for me to join this club. The day the Rule 5 happened, I was hoping I would get called but you can never bank on it. I got a call from the Atlanta Braves organization to say that I was taken by Boston, and right away I called my mom, and my parents were so excited – it was a big day for us. For a young guy like me to join this organization is a huge deal."
Rule 5 specifies that a drafted player who hasn't been called up to his organization's major league club in his first three years can be acquired by another club. Drafting Stern from the Atlanta organization in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft meant that the Red Sox were required to keep him on their active roster or disabled list during the entire 2005 season.
"The Red Sox saw him as an outfielder with a good arm and good speed" said a team spokesman. "He's done a good job as a pinch runner this year. His spring training injury kept him out of action, and it's taken him until the beginning of July to be completely healthy."
Still, the season has brought the 25-year-old some accomplishments of note. He has been tabbed for a couple of starts, his first one coming against Baltimore on the day he was activated from the DL in July. His first Major League homer came on July 22, a 9th inning 2-run blast. Red Sox relievers in the Fenway Park bull pen retrieved the ball from the stands with the help of a security guard. After the game, the ball was waiting for Stern in the locker room.
"I didn't expect it, because fans sometimes don't give them back," he noted. "It was cool."
Despite Stern's efforts, the Red Sox lost that night to the White Sox 8-4. Manager Terry Francona noted afterwards, "He was a pretty excited young man. That's good to see. I think we all like him. He plays defense, he runs, he throws. He has a pretty good idea at the plate....He's opened our eyes, or he wouldn't be here."
When asked if it was a bit intimidating to suddenly find himself in the bigs, Stern answered, "You work your whole career, in college and afterwards, to be in a situation like this. Of course it's a big deal when you first get called up, there is a bit of nerves, but once you're up here and see what it's like, you just want to be a part of everything, and you want to try to help the team win. You try not to let things get out of proportion; you just try to feel as comfortable as you can – to feel like you belong."
Does he ever look around the locker room and say to himself, "I can't believe that Johnny Damon is my teammate?" or "I can't believe that I get to play with Jason Varitek?"
"I think that later on it will hit me, but for right now you don't want to get caught up in that. I think that when you get here you just kind of let go of all that and go out and do your job," Adam answered. For now, whether starting or sitting on the bench, coming in as a pinch runner late in the game or not at all, he is focused on maintaining a professional approach, both physically and mentally.
"Every day has got to be the same. You can't change your routine according to whether you're starting, or coming off the bench, or not even playing. The big part is getting your work in every day, regardless, because that keeps you sharp, and you want to stay sharp if you're coming off the bench because you never know when you're going to get called on. You've got to stick to your routine throughout the whole season."
Stern joins veteran outfielder Gabe Kapler, recently back with the Sox following a stint in Japan, and 2nd year player Kevin Youkilis to give the Sox a roster of three Jewish players. Not since Sandy Koufax and brothers Norm and Larry Sherry were teammates on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 60's have three Jews been on the same ball club. Stern agreed that "It's a rarity to find even one Jew on a baseball club, let alone three. It's a cool thing to be part of."
Stern, whose father is Jewish but mother is not, related that "Growing up, we celebrated Passover and other holidays. My dad has a pretty big family that lives in Montreal, and we usually went there for Passover."
As a Canadian, Stern is a baseball rarity on that front as well. "It's weird being Canadian and not being a hockey player, but I don't think I was good enough to play hockey. I don't know if my parents just didn't want me playing hockey, but I'm here in Major League Baseball, and I don't think I would have ever made it to the NHL." Stern played minor league ball with the London (Ontario) Badgers, and started attracting the attention of scouts. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 22nd round of the 1998 draft, but elected to play collegiately at the University of Nebraska, in the competitive Big 12 Conference. He was named to the Second All-Conference Team, as well as the First Team All Academic Team, graduating with a degree in sociology. He was drafted again – this time by the Braves - in the third round of the 2001 draft. Playing in the Braves farm system, Stern led all Braves farm club system in 2002 with 30 stolen bases. Later on, he was tapped by the Canadian national team to join the squad that played in the 2004 Olympics." With Atlanta's approval, he was able to take a leave of absence from his professional duties to enjoy that once-in-a-lifetime experience. "Marching through the tunnel into the Olympic stadium, with some 72,000 cheering in the stands, and representing my country, gave me chills. It is something I wouldn't have missed for all the world," said Stern.
With a full season now under his belt, what does Adam think he has learned from playing in the bigs?
"Being around these guys – with all the experience that is in our clubhouse - you obviously learn a lot. These guys have been around a long time, so whether it is the routine, or what it takes to play a 162-game season – you have to learn how to pace yourself for an entire season – in the workout room, on the field, and elsewhere. Everyone has been there to lend a helping hand."
Regarding the chance to advance to post-season play, and even repeat in the World Series, Adam commented, "You can't look too far ahead right now. We just have to go out and win every game we can, but we can't look ahead."
Whether looking ahead to the future, or back to the past, or just staying focused on the present, the view, for Adam Stern, has been pretty good.
More Red Sox notes.....
Not long after the Red Sox 2004 World Series triumph, outfielder Gabe Kapler signed a contract to play with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Things didn't exactly go as hoped, and Kapler was able to get released from his contract, and rejoined the Sox in late July. But his season came to an end when he ruptured his Achilles heel on September 14. Two days later, he was on a flight to his home and surgery in Southern California.
The team would love to have Gabe return east and spend time in the clubhouse once he recovers from his surgery. Manager Terry Francona told the media, "I tried to explain to him, 'Gabe, there are certain people that have the ability to impact a team when they're not playing, and you're one of them.' It may work out where we see him back here, even for a couple of days, because we appreciate him so much."
According to a team spokesman, Kapler – the ultimate team player – was uncomfortable with the attention being placed on his injury. Despite the frustrating turn in his season, Kapler remained in good spirits. "I see it as another piece of the baseball puzzle," he said. "I don't see this as necessarily larger or smaller than any other."
Kapler becomes a free agent in November.
Kevin Youkilis is also out, for at least the remainder of regular season play, with a fractured index finger. If the team makes the playoffs, he may have a chance to return to action by then.
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