Through my writing as the Red Sox baseball writer on the Bleacher Report, I have had the pleasure of meeting several of my boyhood heroes. Each time I meet someone, I can feel my palms sweat and my saliva glands go into production overload.
Oh sure, they put their pants on like I do, one leg at a time. But just as a good Catholic must feel should they be lucky enough to meet the Pope or how honored a good American must feel about meeting Barack Obama, I feel this way when I meet one of my baseball gods.
So how do you think I felt when I met the last Red Sox catcher ever to play the entire season for the Sox while still batting .400? Like a little boy—not the 47-year-old journalistic wannabe that I really am.
Red Sox catcher? Stayed up the entire year and batted .400?
Fisk? Gedman? Elston Howard? Varitek? Hatteberg? Nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope.
LaFrancois owns and operates ctdugoutclub.com. A nicer man you will never meet. LaFrancois played for my beloved Red Sox from April to October 1982. He was a third catcher behind Gary Allenson and Worcester's own Rich Gedman.
LaFrancois had the honor of warming up baseball and Red Sox legends such as Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Dennis Eckersley, Bob Ojeda, Bruce Hurst, Mike Torrez, Mark Clear, Tom Burgmier, and Bob "Steamer" Stanley. He also played pepper and took showers with the likes of Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Tony Perez, Carl Yastremski, and even the "Rem Dawg," Jerry Remy.
LaFrancois averaged one at-bat every 16 games and still managed to go 4-10 over the course of the season. That means while Gedman and Allenson were splitting 650-750 AB, LaFrancois was warming up pitchers, taking batting practice, scouting opponents, and handling pitchers in between starts.
He was rarely even called upon to pinch run, as he appeared in only eight games of 162. Yet, he will forever be listed in Red Sox lore as a .400 hitter.
And just for good measure, LaFrancois caught for the Pawtucket Red Sox in the April to June affair in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. The game that lasted 33 innings goes down as the longest baseball game in MLB history and featured the likes of Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs.
So what business does LaFrancois have hanging around with the "big guys," you may ask? A 10-game MLB career hardly warrants a Bleacher Report story, right?
Well, LaFrancois and his Connecticut Dug Out Club are helping to reinstate the feel-good sport that was formally known as baseball. In January, Roger sold out the joint with an event that featured Bob Stanley, Rich Gedman, and LaFrancois himself, along with other players who had cameo appearances in the Bigs.
As you can imagine, I was beside myself.
I've already reserved table space for my wife Kate, my son Corey, and myself at upcoming events featuring Bill Lee, Walt Hriniak, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Lonborg, and even the guy who wears the name of the surgery, Tommy John.
In this week of A-Rod and the crumbling of the sport we love, what could be better than leaving the yuck we now know as baseball aside and participating in your own personal "Field of Dreams" with your children?
So no, this isn't an infomercial for my new friend Roger. It is an infomercial for baseball.
Check out Roger's site at www.ctdugoutclub.com and leave the economic and steroid woes behind. For less than the price of a medium-priced dinner for two, you can re-instill the passion of baseball. Your kid will love you forever.