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Home » HistoryFebruary 2007 » Pitcher, Heal Thyself

Pitcher, Heal Thyself

This is the third in a series summarizing the presentations from the Martin Luther King, Jr. SABR gathering. The next column will feature Red Sox executive Dick Bresciani.

Craig Breslow
“You will never be able to turn on a TV to see a game without thinking that could have been you.”

When you’re in a room full of self-avowed fans who revel in the lore and formulae of a sport, those who are actual professional athletes tend to stand out.

Not athletes like Craig Breslow. Breslow, a 26-year old left-handed pitcher, was of a modest stature and demeanor despite his accomplishments. He was given the advice to speak of that which he knows best, and he figured “the one thing about which I am an expert in is myself.” His undergraduate degree from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry beg to differ, however.

While at Yale the lefty played for the four losingest seasons in the esteemed university’s history. Despite the squad’s record, however, Breslow performed well enough was drafted in the 26th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002. So, the youth who had gone to college and happened to play baseball instead of playing baseball while happening to be at college found himself with a shot at living every boy’s dream.

After being released by the Brewers in 2004, Breslow had renounced the sport. He applied for medical school and was prepared to enter New York University School of Medicine in the fall when the San Diego Padres called.

Everyone but Breslow’s agent (of course) said he should go to med school. People in his parents’ neighborhood would ask about when he would open his practice so they could be treated by the neighborhood kid turned physician. His parents’ friends were “aging, and not so gracefully,” relying on him to do their hip replacements in the near future.

Facing the prospect of going back to the diamond or entering med school, it was the first time this young man found himself having to make a real sacrifice to play ball. He decided that school would always be there, but there is a small window to achieve success in the majors. So he would toil in San Diego’s system for two years, not entirely in vain. He appeared in 14 major league games for the Padres before his contract was not tendered.

He had been released before, so rejection’s sting was not as strong. He signed a minor league free agent contract with the Red Sox in January of last year and made his debut on July 16. In that game he struck out two, allowed one hit, and hit Frank Thomas with a pitch.

The Red Sox completely revamped the bullpen in the off-season, acquiring the likes of J.C. Romero, Hideki Okajima, and Brendan Donnelly. Despite the churn, Breslow remains in the mix for a role even though he himself admitted that he is “the most right-handed left-handed pitcher in baseball.” He won’t follow in the footsteps of his role model Trevor Hoffman, but it could be a while before a “Breslow, M.D.” sign is installed over the door of an office in Trumbull, Connecticut.

For more on Breslow, see Gordon Edes’s column about him and his friend Matt McCarthy’s parallel lives.

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