Rivers still has impact on young Red Sox

Rivers still has impact on young Red Sox
September 11, 2013, 6:30 pm
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Athletes listen when Doc Rivers speaks, even if they don’t play basketball.

Over the years, the former Celtics coach has participated in the Red Sox Rookie Program. He has been invited to talk to young prospects about their transitions to the Major Leagues before they report for spring training.

His words have left a long-lasting impact on those in attendance. For some, his messages have lingered for months. For others, they have stayed on their mind for years.

Will Middlebrooks took part in the program in January 2011. More than 2 1/2 years later, he spoke about the now-Los Angeles Clippers coach’s address as if he had heard it yesterday.

“He was all about playing as a team, that’s what his whole speech was about, and playing as one group,” said Middlebrooks, who described Rivers as “a powerful figure.” “That’s really good to hear because in the Minor Leagues, it’s very individual. At that point I was going into Double-A. You worry about yourself  and getting yourself to the big leagues. The stuff that he talked about was definitely for once you get up here, playing together. You can’t win without playing together.”

When it comes to competing as a unit, the one player Rivers frequently spoke of was Kevin Garnett. He referenced the intense leader [who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets this summer] as an example of  selflessness, discipline, dedication and consistency.

“He talked about Kevin Garnett a lot,” said Middlebrooks. “He talked about how that’s his favorite player ever and how much of a team player he was. Every move he made was for his team. That really stood out to me.”

Xander Bogaerts attended the rookie program this year. He tried to soak up everything Rivers imparted, including the time-tested strategies of Garnett and Ray Allen, two future NBA Hall of Famers and championship winners.

“I remember how he talked about Kevin Garnett and his routine,” said Bogaerts. “[Rivers] said he’s one of  the best players he’s had. He said he does the same thing every day and plays the game the right way.

He even said there’s a security guard and when [Garnett] comes to the games he says, ‘How are you Mike?’ or whatever the guy’s name is. Every day it’s the same thing, the same thing. Ray Allen also, [he] would take shots from here, here and here, the same thing every time. They’re very routine and I think that’s helped them a lot.”

Bogaerts, an avid basketball fan, was well aware of Rivers’ achievements in basketball prior to the  program. After being around him, he could tell why he has had so much success. He believes Rivers will help the Clippers establish themselves as contenders by being at the helm.  

“I really like Doc as a coach,” said Bogearts. “Seeing him as a person, it’s really different. All the emotion  he uses when he speaks, to have him as a coach would be really huge. I definitely think the Clippers will be very good this year just because of his presence. He’s a very strong man.”

The rookies listened to several other speakers in the program and will hear other talks over their careers. Rivers’ messages, though, have stood the test of time thus far and the players don’t plan on  forgetting them any time soon.

“It was awesome,” said Middlebrooks. “His voice just stands out. He’s very outspoken and we were locked in.”