Signs of Spring: Future Sox stars shine at Pawtucket Hot Stove

From left, Red Sox prospects Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Allen Webster sign autographs for fans at the annual PawSox Hot Stove Party on Saturday (Photo/Cameron Merritt).

by CAMERON MERRITT

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — There were signs of spring in sight on Saturday at McCoy Stadium as the 2012 Governor’s Cup champion Pawtucket Red Sox hosted their annual Hot Stove Party.

This free event gives fans a chance to go behind the scenes and visit the clubhouses, batting tunnel, and take a look at the club’s collection of trophies, pictures, and other memorabilia, along with a town hall-style meeting with team president Mike Tamburro, general manager Lou Lou Schwechheimer, and an autograph session with several projected players and the new PawSox manager, Gary DiSarcina.

Two of the more popular players at the event were top Boston outfield prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr. and RHP Allen Webster, who was one of the key pieces from the Dodgers in the Red Sox blockbuster Gonzalez-Beckett-Crawford trade this past August. Both will be making their Pawtucket debut this season, but as two of the club’s top prospects, expectations are already high for them to accomplish some big things this year and beyond.

Before they began the autograph session, Bradley and Webster took some questions from the fans.

When asked what kind of a ballplayer fans could expect to see out of him, Bradley, the two-time College World Series champion with the South Carolina Gamecocks, said. “I’m [going to] hustle, give it my all. I’m very confident… I’m just having fun and I’m enjoying myself.”

Born and raised in the South, he was wearing a scarf along with his jersey and joked about how he was finally getting used to this weather. He also addressed a story that, before a game in the College World Series, that he threw a ball from home plate all the way over the center field wall.

“That’s a true statement,” said Bradley. “I also like to do flagpole to flagpole. I was at the College World Series, and I saw [former UCLA Bruin and current Cleveland Indians RHP prospect] Trevor Bauer doing it, so I wanted to do it as well… I ran over [to the] right field line and wanted to see what I could do. So I threw it outside of the stadium [by] the left foul pole.”

When a young boy asked what his best hitting strategy was, he said to much laughter, “I try to hit the ones that are right down the middle. Every time, if it’s there, I try not to miss it. I like swinging at my favorite pitch, and maybe I’m guessing on a few, and hopefully I guess right.

Webster was asked about what his experience has been being out in New England and meeting with Red Sox fans. “The fans are great; they have a lot of enthusiasm, which makes this just a great town.”

On when he first heard that he was coming to the Red Sox from the Dodgers, Webster told the crowd, “It was a great honor for me, [to be a part of] a trade that big… As soon as I came over, it was amazing; they’re so nice to me.”

He also took a question from a young girl, who asked him who his favorite teammate was, who paused, looked to his left and said “Jackie Bradley,” and the two of them laughed, along with the crowd, and the PawSox employee running the question-and-answer session said, “Good answer.”

A great showing by both fans and players alike, both will be hoping for another good season for the team, and hopefully for a better one by the parent club, as they will try to defend their International League title.

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