Episode 11 of Behind the Seams was jam-packed with tons of insight on recent MLB offseason moves and what they mean for the human side of things, as well as a full breakdown of PJ’s only hit in the major leagues as a pitcher (you won’t want to miss this!).
But more importantly, we had an incredible discussion with former Boston Red Sox pitcher and current NESN analyst Lenny DiNardo. We often touch on the fact that every player’s journey to the big leagues and their careers are all different. DiNardo’s career is a great example of just that. He had a long career full of ups and downs, playing overseas, being part of a World Series championship team and much more!
DiNardo didn’t have the same journey to the major leagues as most do. He was originally drafted in the 10th round by the Boston Red Sox out of high school but decided to attend college and went to a small school in Stetson. It paid off for DiNardo, as he was taken in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB Draft by the New York Mets.
Throughout the interview, DiNardo talked about how he was always fighting for a spot regardless of being taken in the third round. He topped out at 89 mph with his fastball from the left side and wasn’t gifted with electric stuff. It was constant hard work and dedication.
“I had to be that guy because I just was not born gifted with a 95 mph arm,” DiNardo said. “I’m very thankful that I had a dad and mom that were willing to take me to the cage, to help catch my bullpens as a kid all the way up into high school.”
Two years after being drafted, DiNardo was taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the original team that drafted him, the Boston Red Sox. He made his major league debut in 2004, the year the Red Sox broke the curse. It was career-changing for him, as he had the opportunity to play for a legend in manager Terry Francona and to be around some of the game’s best veterans.
“Any player that talks about Tito always says that he is a players manager, and that is absolutely correct,” DiNardo said. “His door was always open.”
DiNardo talked about how Tito always believed in the eye test and always put having conversations with players first to see how they were feeling that day. Those types of memories always stuck with him.
“I always appreciated him as a manager and a friend,” DiNardo said. “I’m glad he had the career he had after the Red Sox.”
DiNardo’s career with the Red Sox lasted through 2006, and he was eventually selected off waivers by the Oakland Athletics. He spent one more year with the Royals and then found himself in independent ball in 2011 and eventually playing overseas in Taiwan in 2012.
His career had a long and winding journey, but DiNardo always remembers the good memories and highlights. Some of those included his only hit and making contact off of the legend and Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.
“Matt Cain threw me, I guess it was like 95 up and away. I don’t know if you saw the swing, but it was like maybe a half swing, like a check swing one of these, and I barely hit the ball but ended up blooping into left field,” DiNardo said. “I’m almost as proud of my at-bats against Tom Glavine. I got the bat on the ball against Tom Glavine.”
Regardless of his career coming to an end, DiNardo knew he had more to offer the game. He started to give lessons to kids and eventually made his way to the NESN broadcast booth where he is now an analyst. His stories from the game and how he transitioned to life after baseball are ones you won’t want to miss!