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Legends On Deck

GCL Red Sox History (or How I Got Here, Part One)

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I was hired by the Winter Haven Red Sox (Class A, Florida State League) in the summer of 1982 to compile a daily stat sheet which would be distributed to the two media members who covered the team nightly, as well as an insert in the game program. At the time, league statistics were only mailed to each club every two weeks, unlike the pitch by pitch coverage the internet now provides on a regular basis.

I ended up doing a little bit of everything for the team over the next six years, including official scoring, running the scoreboard, PA, as well as general office help. This was in the days before minor league office staffs rivaled their parent clubs in size. Basically, the entire staff for most of the years I worked there consisted of the general manager, an office manager, a concessions manager and me, who did whatever the other three didn’t do, as well as covering for them on occasion.

In spring training 1989, I was asked by then Red Sox minor league director Edward P. Kenney if I would be interested in becoming the Gulf Coast League Red Sox official scorer, in addition to helping with administrative duties for the club, which would be run out of the same complex as the Class A team.

The Red Sox only previously had a rookie league club in the New York-Penn League (now known as a short season league), except for an ill fated attempt at running a co-op team with the Seattle Mariners in the Arizona Summer League the year before. I had no idea what to expect when
the June draft concluded and players began to show up for a three day mini-camp and started to work out and scrimmage against the extended spring training team which had been playing at the complex through April and May. Most of that group  were headed to the NY-P league, but the younger (mostly Latino) players would stay and comprise the first ever Gulf Coast Red Sox along with a number of June draftees.

Longtime Red Sox scout Felix Maldonado was chosen as the first GCL Sox manager, a job he held for seven seasons before becoming Boston’s Latin America baseball coordinator. Other managers who have spent time with the GCL team are Bob Geren (currently a major league coach with the New York Mets), former Phillies infielder Luis Aguayo, John Sanders, Ralph Treuel, Dave Tomlin, who won the GCL title in 2006, Darren Fenster and Tom Kotchman, the current GCL Red Sox manager who won the league championship last season (2014) and was the Winter Haven Red Sox manager when I was first hired in 1982. Kotchman left the Red Sox after managing Winter Haven again in 1983, spent 30 years as a scout and manager in the Angels organization and returned to the Red Sox in 2013.

Two of the first players who showed up for the mini-camp were infielders from colleges in the Northeast. Jeff Bagwell, a third baseman from the University of Hartford and first baseman Mo Vaughn from Seton Hall. Bagwell lasted five games with the GCL Sox before being promoted to Class A Winter Haven and Vaughn never set foot on the field before being promoted to AA New Britain when their first baseman Les Wallin, was injured.

Along with Bagwell, several players from that first GCL team saw some major league action, pitchers Paul Quantrill, Greg Hansell, and Vaughn’s teammate at Seton Hall, Kevin Morton, and also outfielders Jeff McNeely and Greg Blosser  The Gulf Coast Red Sox operated out of the Chain O’Lakes complex in Winter Haven for four seasons until the parent club’s move to Fort Myers, Florida in 1993, making the playoffs once in 1991 and losing a one-game playoff to the GCL Expos, led by future big leaguers Cliff Floyd, Antonio Alfonseca and Ugueth Urbina.

After the move to Fort Myers, the GCL Sox played at both City of Palms Stadium and the Red Sox Player Development Complex (three miles away) until relocating to the new 80 million dollar jetBlue Complex in 2012.

Over the years, the team has featured future major leaguers such as Nomar Garciaparra, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, Anibal Sanchez and numerous others, as well as rehabbing players from Boston’s major league roster. Personally, the largest crowd I have ever seen at a Gulf Coast League game happened several years ago when rehabbing Boston outfielders Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury played in a GCL game together at the Twins Complex in Fort Myers.

The Gulf Coast League, while not followed by large amounts of fans is nevertheless an important rung on the ladder to major league success.

Brian Mullen

Brian is a Boston native and art school student who took a summer job with a baseball team and never left. He has been employed by the Boston Red Sox in one capacity or another since 1982. He also follows and blogs college basketball. Follow him on Twitter @BostonBrian2015