The Rawlings glove that resides in the back seat of my car all summer long has been replaced by the winter gloves, my Nike cleats still caked with dried mud and infield turf have been abandoned in favor of a pair of Cabela Snow Runners, and the Louisville Slugger has been packed away in favor of a snow brush.
As snow piles up outside the window of our Massachusetts home and hockey is being played at, of all places, Fenway Park, the thought of spring training couldn't be further from reality.
But thanks to the former Boston Red Sox catcher Roger Lafrancois and his Ct Dugout Club, thoughts of spring training, the smell of leather, and the sounds of rawhide meeting white ash may be closer than you think.
For the second year in a row, The Ct Dugout Club will be bringing current and past stars of major league baseball to southern New England, as it presents "The Road to Success", featuring three Connecticut natives John McDonald of the Toronto Blue Jays, Rajai Davis of the Oakland Athletics, and Pete Walker, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The event will be held, Monday, January 11th from 6-9 PM at the Groton Inn and Suites in Groton, CT. Tickets are $15 for students and $25 for adults and include complimentary hors d'oeuvres, autographs, and a lively question and answer session featuring these three legends of the Nutmeg State.
"John McDonald, Rajai Davis and Pete Walker are the personifications of leadership, commitment, and excellence," explained Lafrancois, the owner of Ct Dugout Club and Lafrancois Marketing Consultants. "Both John and Rajai were not drafted out of High School and not recruited. Both went to UConn Avery Point. Each of the three players have a great story to share with young people about their road to the major leagues."
"All three are hard nose players who worked very hard to get to the big leagues and being local players as well, makes it possible for every child from Connecticut to believe in their dreams."
McDonald, who is known by his Toronto fans as the "Minister of Defense" for his defensive abilities, is entering his 11th season in the bigs. The native of East Lyme, Connecticut has a .973 lifetime fielding percentage. Primarily a backup last season behind Marco Scutaro, McDonald will be splitting time this season with former Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
McDonald, who plays second, short, and third base, signed a two-year contract in the offseason worth a reported $3 million for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Davis, the speedy center-fielder for the Oakland A's, hails from Norwich Connecticut. Entering his fifth major league season in 2010, Davis had a breakout season last year with the A's, batting .305 with 41 stolen bases, while playing 125 games in center-field.
As a youngster, Davis played Little League baseball in nearby Willimantic and helped his All-Star Team win the District 11 championship. In 1994, Davis helped get the Willimantic Senior League All-Star team to the District 11 championship and the eventual Connecticut State championship, losing 9-8 to South Windsor at Palmer Field in Middletown, CT.
Walker, the only one of the three guests who carries the word "former" before his position, retired in 2006 after spending parts of eight seasons in the majors. Walker boasts a lifetime record of 20 wins and 14 losses and an earned run average of 4.48 lifetime.
Born in Beverly, MA, Walker played for the Mets, Padres, Rockies, and Blue Jays and also spent a season pitching in Japan for the Yokahama Blue Stars. He is currently a roving pitching instructor in the Blue Jays organization.
Lafrancois, who batted .400 in ten lifetime at bats during the Red Sox 1982 season, is also a coach for the Worcester Tornadoes of the CanAm League when not running The Ct. Dugout Club and Lafrancois Marketing.
He was the backup catcher to the Red Sox Rich Gedman during the 1982 season. The two backstops still spend their fair share of time together, as Gedman manages the Tornadoes.
Lafrancois promises a lively discussion of baseball during the Road to Success event, where the players will describe their "personal roads to success" and will provide insight on "perseverance, leadership, patience and the qualities that lead to success in baseball and in life."
"With the will to succeed, a kid growing up in Eastern Connecticut really has a chance to make it to the Major Leagues", he adds.
The master of ceremonies for the event will be Ron Coderre, sports columnist for the Norwich Bulletin. Tickets can be purchased at the Ct Dugout Club website.
Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report, Seamheads and Sports, and Then and Now. All his work can be found on his new blog, The 'xoxo' of Sports . He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award winning children's story that teaches Paying it Forward through baseball.