John Farrell shows his passion for the game when recalling the amazing first season he had with the Boston Red Sox. And when he talks about his team, it’s obvious the skipper can match any ballplayer’s competitive drive with every breath he takes.
The 2013 World Series championship manager had come to Salt Lake City to headline the Utah Utes baseball pre-season dinner. Articulate and enthusiastic, Farrell shared baseball tales with the packed house as if they were old friends—perhaps in part because the room was awash in red. The Utes ballplayers wore their team polo shirts and many diners were sporting Red Sox uniforms and caps.
“We wanted a team that had one another’s backs. You guys understand what that is. You protect one another in between the lines. You protect one another outside the lines. And more importantly, they had to embrace all that is possible.”
Farrell believes winners possess three key qualities he looks for: smarts, toughness and character. Someone who has these qualities sees beyond himself and his individual needs. As an example, Farrell spoke of how the players responded to hearing the news of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 16. They immediately reached out to the community with a social media campaign, commemorative jersey and numerous community visits.
Throughout his speech, Farrell made a point to draw parallels between his professional athletes and the young ballplayers in attendance. He cited Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dustin Pedroia as having the kind of character coaches and managers want to see. Farrell then noted that for young prospects hoping to move up to the next level, including the annual MLB draft, scouts are looking for those same qualities.
“They can go to the stopwatch. They go to the radar gun. They want to know what’s inside you, as they’re talking to your coaches,” said Farrell as he pointed towards a group of Utes ballplayers.
Farrell remarked more than once about what an exceptional group they had assembled in Boston. In his opinion they more than outstanding athletes, they were exceptional men who were “checking that ego at the door” for the sake of the team. They went to dinner together, enjoyed each other’s company and looked out for each other.
There were plenty of lighter moments as well. As many Red Sox fans remember, on opening day at Yankee Stadium, Dustin Pedroia jammed his thumb badly sliding headfirst into first base. The room erupted with laughter as Farrell recounted how Pedroia hopped into his car after the game to have the injury checked by Boston doctors. Later that month, Pedroia admonished a Cleveland cab driver to drive more carefully because that car was carrying the 2013 World Series champions. The date was April 16. When Jake Peavy was traded from the White Sox, Jonny Gomes greeted him with an understated stamp of approval, “Another day closer to the parade.”
Near the end of his speech, after describing the various challenges the team had faced throughout the course of the regular and post seasons, Farrell told a story to illustrate the huge difference in temperament between cautious owners and competitive ballplayers. Shortly after clinching the American League Championship Series, Farrell asked long-time owner John Henry when he realized their team might go all the way. Henry replied, “[Forty minutes ago] When Victorino hit the grand slam.”
As he wrapped things up, Farrell gave the Utes one more piece of advice, “If you can find a way, to not make it about you. Find a way to make it about ‘you guys.’ And you’ll be surprised about what you can overcome.“