Keeping Score

Bayer pain relief

Good morning!

For the first time in years, having his shoulder iced won’t be part of Jeremiah Bayer’s routine this summer. “Any pitcher that tells you he doesn’t have some sort of arm issue is lying,” said Bayer, who retired from pro baseball this spring after four seasons in the Red Sox organization. “Particularly relievers. It’s up and down every night. We’re throwing every day. Most guys, it’s just soreness in the rotator cuff area. There’s days you’re hurting and you gotta go on guts. The pain is no big deal, it’s just part of being a baseball player.”

Bayer was taken in the 30th round of the 2009 draft by the Red Sox and pitched for their affiliates in Lowell, Greenville, S.C., and the final two seasons in Salem, Va. Though he was welcome back for another season he decided it was time to call it a career.

“I worked out like I was going to go back but I knew I’d be making the decision to retire,” said the 27-year-old right-hander. “There came a point where I had to be realistic. Right now I’m home in Greenfield, doing carpentry. That’s kind of what I’ve always done when I’m not playing baseball.”

Bayer worked out of the bullpen and had good numbers at each stop. During his two years in Salem, which is Boston’s High-A farm team in the Carolina League, he pitched in 56 games and compiled an 8-7 record with a 3.56 ERA.

Blogger Evan Lepler lives in Salem and covers the team. Upon learning of Bayer’s retirement he wrote, “Bayer was never considered a ‘money guy’ or an elite prospect, but that didn’t stop him from being a key bullpen arm and a quality teammate.”

Only seven percent of all players that are drafted ever make it to the major leagues and yet, “I never thought I didn’t have a chance. You can’t give up on that. The front office tells you it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

One such example was Jackie Bradley Jr., who was Boston’s starting left fielder for the season opener at Yankee Stadium after injuries put several regulars on the disabled list. “I played with Jackie and wasn’t surprised he made the bigs. In Salem, he was leading the league in average and doubles and I’ve never seen a better arm in an outfielder.”

Bayer graduated from Deerfield Academy in 2005 and transferred from the University of Vermont to Trinity College where he majored in political science and economics. During his two years in Hartford he pitched for coach Bill Decker, a Franklin County native who’s now the head coach at Harvard.

Those were glory years for Trinity, winning the Division III national championship in 2008 and qualifying for the NCAA tournament again in 2009 when Bayer was named Division III pitcher of the year, going 12-1 and leading the nation in ERA (0.85) and innings pitched (95.1).

He was taken by the Red Sox on the recommendation of scout Ray Fagnant and was chosen 908th overall.

For the first round picks and can’t-miss kids, the minor leagues are a brief and gilded stopover en route to the big time. Washington right-hander Stephen Strasburg signed a $7.5 million bonus. Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon signed for $6.5 million and the Nats’ Bryce Harper inked a deal worth $6.25 million. After being drafted by the Tigers, reliever Andrew Miller — who’s now with the Red Sox — had it written into his contract that he would be guaranteed a big league call-up during his first year in the minors.

The vast majority, however, are paid $1,500 a month plus $25 per diem for meals and other expenses while wondering if their dreams will become a reality during those long, dark bus rides to the next rickety ballpark.

“All the stories you’ve heard about bus trips are probably true, it’s the most grueling part,” said Bayer. “In Salem my first year our first ride north was seven hours to play the Maryland Blue Rocks, then we rode south to Myrtle Beach, then back north again. It gets pretty cramped and only the vets or rehab guys (from the big leagues) get a single seat. You gotta go to the bathroom, you gotta step over a lot of legs and people get grumpy when they’re sleeping on a bus.”

The beginning of the end came before last year’s all-star break. “I got injured. It was an inflammation thing in the back of the arm, so I rehabbed for about a month, pitched two or three weeks and re-injured it so they shut me down for the rest of the season.”

At this writing, Bayer was uncertain if he’d pitch for Manny’s, the local Tri-County League entry which began its season last night in Easthampton. Given his love of the game, chances are Franklin County fans will get a glimpse of him on the mound at Vets Field. “I definitely miss it. You don’t put that much of your life into it if you don’t have a competitive spirit.”

Looks like he might be icing that shoulder this summer after all.

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Ace Ticket has seats starting at $245 for Wednesday’s game versus the Penguins at TD Garden. That’s not bad, considering it’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against a villainous adversary. The seats are 12 rows up in Section 320, near the top row but still a good view.

Seats closer to the ice, eight rows from the boards near the blue line, are selling for $625. Or you could go the cheap route that night and watch the Red Sox play Texas at Fenway Park where a grandstand seat near the left field foul pole cost $27.

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Squibbers: Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on rookie miscues: “How do you get miles on you? You get miles on you by making mistakes and learning from them.” ... Laura Kaye asked me to take one for the home team and mention the Northfield Farmers Market is looking for new vendors on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Northfield Coffee and Books building. ... The 7th annual Owen Clarke Memorial Golf Tournament is today at Northfield Golf Club. Registration ends at 10:30 and the shotgun start is at 11. ... Overheard at the Family Dollar Store in Winchester after a customer stomped out thinking everything is a dollar: “Ignorance is bliss and this is a happy town.” ... Mark Fraser can start blowing his nose again. The Leafs defenseman was under doctor’s orders not to honk his horn for a month after Milan Lucic’s slapshot fractured his skull in Game 4 of the opening round. ... Lebron James owns a custom made Ferrari F430 Spider, Tom Brady drives a Rolls Royce, and David Beckham’s collection includes a Cadillac Escalade ESV. Up at his home in Nova Scotia, Sidney Crosby drives a Chevy Tahoe.

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At this writing, my daughter April is 10 days beyond her due date. Other than drinking castor oil she’s tried about everything, including eggplant Parmesan at Christina’s Pizzeria in Erving and Joe’s Café in Northampton, and an order of fried clams from the Big Y.

“I’ve done it all, I don’t really care,” she said, exasperated, on Wednesday.

Whenever I put something in the paper about which horse to bet, the nag gets scratched. Maybe by writing April’s baby is still in the womb, the little fella will make his cameo. Hey, it’s worth a shot. We’ll keep you posted.

(Update: April went into Labor at about 8 a.m. on Thursday morning while her husband Corey was driving her to Baystate Franklin to be induced. She delivered six hours later at 2:12 p.m., an 8-pound, 15-ounce baby boy named Carter Gordon Greene, healthy and strong.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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