FOX Sports Exclusive
Wacha's family big part of his success
Some leftover notes from the past few days:
• In preparing for our Game 2 broadcast, I spoke with Rob Childress, Michael Wacha’s coach at Texas A&M. Childress said Wacha’s character and work ethic exceed even his talent and credited those traits to the right-hander’s parents, Karen and Tom, whom Erin Andrews interviewed during the game.
The Wachas lived in Iowa City, Iowa, before moving to Texarkana, Texas, when Michael was 3. Childress said the first time he saw Wacha pitch in an American Legion game, he noticed Tom was the coach and that Michael’s younger sister, Brette, was the bat girl. It was a classic American scene that led to a classic American success story.
Michael, 22, is the second of the Wachas’ four children. Brette was named after Brett Favre; Wacha’s parents are huge Iowa fans and huge Green Bay Packers fans, Childress said. Michael also has a younger brother, Lucas, who is starting at outside linebacker as a redshirt freshman at Wyoming.
I asked Michael about his parents during our postgame interview on Fox Sports Live. Check it out, he gave a thoughtful, touching answer and was terrific talking about his first World Series start.
• A touching scene went unnoticed at the end of Game 1. Red Sox catcher David Ross turned to plate umpire John Hirschbeck before walking off the field, expressed his condolences about the recent passing of umpire Wally Bell and congratulated Hirschbeck on his work during the game.
Both men confirmed the conversation Thursday; Ross said he kept making mental notes to himself in the ninth inning so that he would remember to acknowledge Hirschbeck before shaking hands with his teammates.
Bell, 48, died of a heart attack Oct. 14. His funeral was Sunday at Austintown Fitch High School in Austintown, Ohio. Hirschbeck and Bell were close; Hirschbeck lives in Poland, Ohio.
The Series umpires are wearing “WB” patches to honor Bell, who was an ump in the 2006 World Series and three All-Star Games, including the last one.
• Speaking of the umpires, on Thursday I spoke with two major league managers who are not involved in the Series, and both expressed dismay over the reversal of second base ump Dana DeMuth’s botched call in Game 1.
The umpires made the correct decision after conferencing, but the managers said they were worried about the precedent, believing it could lead to additional challenges of close plays throughout the Series.
“It’s as if replay already has started,” one of the managers said.
Actually, replay would have resolved the issue sooner. Red Sox manager John Farrell requested that the umpires meet to discuss the play. The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny then came out to argue when the call was overturned.
I expressed the concerns of the managers to Hirschbeck, who did not agree that the situation would lead to additional challenges. Hirschbeck said the play amounted to an extraordinary circumstance; the other five umpires agreed that DeMuth’s call was wrong.
There were no umpiring controversies in Game 2.
• Just more than a year ago, while the Cardinals were facing the Nationals in the Division Series, Matt Holliday’s mother, Kathy, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Kathy underwent surgery on Oct. 18, 2012, hours before Game 4 of the NLCS, to remove a tumor and section of her colon.
Matt said he used sort of a mental on-and-off switch during that time, devoting himself to the Cardinals when he was at the park and to his family when he was not. “Not ideal,” is how he described the situation, in his typical low-key style.
The good news: Kathy is in remission and watched Holliday’s three oldest children in St. Louis during the first two games in Boston. Holliday and his wife, Leslee, brought their 4-month-old baby, Reed, on the trip.
• The Red Sox’s Ross could not be more excited to be playing in his first World Series at age 36. He stood at the batting cage admiring the Series logo behind home plate before Game 1 and also snapped photos of the Series logo on his jersey and nameplate above his locker.
After Farrell told Ross he would catch Jon Lester on the eve of Game 1, Ross sent his wife, Hyla, a text saying, “Playing tomorrow.” His parents were with Hyla at the time, as was Ross’ best friend, Florida Atlantic pitching coach Jason Jackson. Needless to say, they were all excited.
Ross said he and Jackson grew up together in Tallahassee, Fla., and attended Game 1 of the 1992 World Series at Atlanta’s old Fulton County Stadium. Damon Berryhill hit a three-run homer off Jack Morris that night to give the Braves a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays.
“We thought we were big time,” Ross said, recalling how excited he and Jackson were to attend the Series at age 15.
Twenty-one years later, Ross is experiencing what big time really means.
• And finally, here is a great story about the faith second baseman Dustin Pedroia had in this year’s Red Sox, even going back to spring training.
In mid-March, Pedroia went to dinner with his agents, general manager Ben Cherington and the team’s owners. They were discussing his eventual contract extension, but Pedroia made it clear, even then, that he expected the 2013 Red Sox to win — and win big.
“He spoke out very forcefully,” club president Larry Lucchino said. “I was not surprised to hear it from him. I was surprised at the certainty with which he spoke.
“He was certainly very bold and very bullish about the quality of the team. He was one of the early voices who saw which way the wind was blowing.”