By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON More than 20 years after his last game in a Red Sox uniform, Rich Gedman is returning to the organization with which he made his big league debut.
On Monday, he was named hitting coach of the short-season Lowell Spinners, one of the Sox' Class A affiliates.
I think its wonderful, Gedman said. Im happy for the opportunity and looking forward to the opportunity and I hope that I can help.
Joining Lowell, the likelihood of which was first reported by CSNNE.com, is a little bit of life coming full circle, he said, working with players not much older than he was when he first signed with the Sox.
Its a chance to get back with the team that I started with, said Gedman, now 51. So, if that means full circle, yes. Its kind of neat. And I actually never played in the New York-Penn League, so Im excited to get an opportunity to be part of it, and get a chance to work with the kids and help them and take some of the things that people taught me and try to share it with someone else and hopefully help in their progress.
Undrafted out of Worcesters St. Peter-Marian High School, Gedman signed with the Sox in 1977 as a 17-year-old amateur free agent. He made his big league debut on Sept. 7, 1980, at Fenway Park, pinch-hitting for Carl Yastrzemski in a 12-6 loss to the Mariners. He spent 11 of his 13 big league seasons, and 906 of 1,033 games, with the Sox.
In 1981 he finished second in American League Rookie of the Year balloting behind the Yankees Dave Righetti, just ahead of teammate Bobby Ojeda. His best offensive season was 1985, when he hit .295 with 18 home runs and 80 RBI in 144 games. He hit a career-best 24 home runs in 1984. In 1990 he was traded to the Astros, and later joined the Cardinals as a free agent. His final major-league game was Oct. 4, 1992.
He will always be a part of Red Sox lore. On April 18, 1981, he was the starting catcher in the Pawtucket Red Sox 3-2, 33-inning win over the Rochester Red Wings, the longest game in professional baseball history.
On April 29, 1986, he caught the first of Roger Clemens 20-strikeout games. The next day, he had 16 putouts, for a total of 36 in two games, a record for a catcher in consecutive games. He was also the catcher in the 10th inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series against the Mets when Bob Stanley unleashed what was ruled a wild pitch with Mookie Wilson batting, allowing Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run. Red Sox fans dont need to be reminded what happened after that.
Gedman was a victim of owners' collusion when he became a free agent after the '86 season and, receiving no offers from other teams, had to wait until May 1, 1987, to re-sign with the Red Sox.
He was traded to the Astros during the 1990 season, after appearing in just 10 games with the Sox, hitting just .200 in 15 at-bats. He signed as a free agent with the Cardinals before the 91 season, ending his career, a two-time All-Star with a .252 average, 88 home runs, and 382 RBI, in 1992.
Gedman has been coaching and managing in the independent Can-Am League since 2003. For the past six seasons, he has managed his hometown Worcester Tornadoes.
Prior to that he was the hitting coach for the North Shore Spirit in Lynn, Mass. He led Worcester to a league championship in 2005, its inaugural season, being named the leagues manager of the year.
I love the daily routine, he said. I love going to the ballpark and being around the game, talking the game. Theres a routine to it that you miss when youre not around it all the time. Its a great game. Its not a good game. Its a great game. And some people, their education takes them to other things. Ive been fortunate enough to be able to stay in baseball. Im glad for a second opportunity with the Red Sox.
Gedman will be part of an entirely new coaching staff with the Spinners, joining manager Carlos Febles, pitching coach Paul Abbott, and athletic trainer Mauricio Elizondo. He knows he has challenges ahead of him, getting to know the players, gaining their confidence.
I think its just being around them, being there, he said. "Theyre not going to know me. So it's going to take me a while to get to know them and the way we do that is spend time together, whether it be in the cage or on the field, trying to get to know them, and how they feel about themselves and their swing, and what theyre trying to do, and where theyre trying to go. So, Ill ask around with other people that are in the organization, get a little heads-up on things. Ill find my way. But I look forward to working with them in the cage, and on the field, and watching them take swings, evaluating their swings, just finding a way to help them deal with the game.
The not knowing until I get there, the anticipation of it, once I see the guys,
the game is the game. Are there going to be challenges? I dont know what they
are but I know theyll be there.
Hell be passing on what he learned from his own mentors.
That Im here for you, he said. Im here every day to help you get better. You want to work, you wont have to look far. Thats the way Walter was when I was in Boston, hitting instructor Walter Hriniak. He was always there for you, teaching you the game, helping you work, teaching you the right way. So Im just going to pass it along.
Gedman was informed of his new job Monday afternoon, while he was giving lessons.
I was excited, he said. And now that its official, I feel like a little kid. Thats what baseball does for us even as adults. We remember it as a little kids game and we get into it as grownups. Its really neat that I have this opportunity. I feel like a young guy again. And Ive been around the game. Ive coached in the independent leagues for the last few years. Its just fun to have that feeling.
He had several messages waiting for him when he finished his instructions.
Sox minor league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez called me to congratulate me, he said. It was kind of neat to hear from him. So, I dont know how to react outside of Im pretty excited about it, and cant wait to get home and talk to my family and let them know.
Gedman is looking forward to being back in a Red Sox uniform. He wore No. 10 for most of his time with the Sox. Hes not sure what number hell have with the Spinners. But, that matters little.
As long as I have a uniform, he said, Then Im OK.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen