Archive | Alumni/Player News

2019 Banquet – Thanksgiving

Alum Paul Campbell

For the 12th consecutive year the Ruffnecks program held its annual Banquet on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.  The atmosphere was festive, and as usual, it was a full house of 150 at The Fours in Quincy.  The ride to Quincy is always a difficult journey, but the commitment of so many to celebrate an evening with friends and teammates is a source of grateful appreciation for everyone in the program.  The 2019 Banquet featured wonderful talks by three individuals.  New York Yankee scout Matt Hyde, used the example of former Ruffnecks pitching coach Matt Blake in his talk about perseverance and the importance of studying the game.  Coach Blake was recently named the pitching coach of the New York Yankees.  He served the Ruffnecks program for seven years immediately following his college career at Holy Cross.  He also coached with Kirk Fredericks at Lincoln Sudbury HS during the same period.  His impact on the Ruffnecks program and at Lincoln-Sudbury is significant.  His experience at both places, along with his innovative partnership with Cressey Performance, led to an association with Matt Hyde as an associate scout with the Yanks, and then to a job with the Cleveland Indians.

Babson Coach - Matt Noone

The featured speaker this year was Matt Noone, Head Coach of Babson College.  Coach Noone has been at Babson for 17 years, and led his team to the NCAA Division III College World Series in 2019.  Coach Noone’s message centered around his personal relationship with Johnny Pesky and the significance of being a good teammate.  It is the Johnny Pesky Teammate Award that is the highlight of the Banquet evening each year.  It is anxiously awaited and respected.  It is the ONLY award the program hands out or recognizes.  Coach Noone wove a talk about teamwork, teammates, personal stories, illustrations of players who contributed without being in the lineup, and numerous other examples of what truly matters in a team sport such as baseball.  His support of the Ruffnecks program goes all the way back to 2004 when Babson College was considered our “home” field.

Former Ruffneck player and pitcher, Paul Campbell and his father, Alan Campbell also spoke briefly.  Paul is a terrific example of Ruffnecks perseverance, growth, and development.  He is currently a top pitching prospect in the Tampa Bay organization.  He is also a former Johnny Pesky Teammate Award Winner and helped to present this year’s awards.  His dad, Alan, gave a sincere and humorous talk about his experience as a Ruffnecks parent.  It was hilarious!  Of course, the Johnny Pesky Teammate Awards followed the talks, the 2019 video, the meal, and all the banter.  The 13U Teammate Award was earned by Aodhan Lee.  The 14U Teammate Award went to James Henshon (his brother, Mark, earned the distinction in 2017).  The 15U Award went to John Tully.  The 16U Award went to Jesse McCullough who came to the dinner directly from football practice!  And of course, the Seniors were recognized for their fantastic season.  This year there were TWO Senior Johnny Pesky Teammate Awards. Six year Ruffneck, Seamus Barrett (Lousiville commit), earned one recognition.  Five year veteran Richie McNamara (Bowdoin commit) earned the other recognition.  Of course the evening included a shout out for the tremendous, devoted, and instructive coaches at all levels of the program.  Lots to give thanks for!  On to 2020!

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Isan Diaz is a Ruffnecks 1st!

Isan Diaz with 13U Ruffnecks

Less than a month ago Isan Diaz was in Nashville with the Triple A Miami Marlins affiliate from New Orleans.  Fresh off his participation at the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland, Isan stayed in the Nashville hotel with his dad, Raul Diaz, who was coaching the 13U Ruffnecks at the CABA World Series during the same period.  In other words, he was in the same hotel as the 13U and 14U Ruffnecks… doing his own laundry in the same machines as we did the 13U and 14U laundry.  On Sunday night, July 14th, Isan Diaz made arrangements to provide tickets for the entire 13U team to the Nashville Sounds vs. New Orleans Babycakes game.  He met with the young ‘Necks, posed for a picture, signed a few things, and went about his business as a baseball player.  He hit a home run to the delight of the young players who just adopted a new “best friend” baseball hero.  Amazing.

The call to the Big Leagues came on Sunday, August 4th.  The first start was Monday, August 5th in a doubleheader at Citi Field against the New York Mets.  Of course Papa Diaz and the family, including Raul Jr. (17U Ruffnecks) traveled to New York to see Isan’s debut.  Also traveling to Citi Field was Dan Brookes, former Ruffnecks coach, who saw Isan Diaz in Springfield, Massachusetts and recommended the Ruffnecks program for the young 15 year old.  Many others from the Ruffnecks extended family were watching live on the MLB Network as Diaz found himself in the lineup for the 4:00pm game at 2B and hitting second in the lineup.  Among those watching from afar was Coach Kirk Fredericks, another Ruffnecks coach instrumental in Diaz’ growth and development.  In fact it was Fredericks’ tough love that provided a shot of reality to the young Diaz early in his first few weeks of summer baseball with the Ruffnecks.  The young Diaz was taken out of two consecutive games for simple reasons, such as not running hard.  Never happened before… but dad and Isan knew then that such lessons were tough, but formative.  Later that summer, at Auburn University, he sat another game for forgetting his uniform on the bus.  Another formative moment.  By the end of that summer and during the next season, Diaz attracted plenty of attention, including a potential offer from Vanderbilt.  But after his senior season in high school, Isan was drafted in the 2nd round, signed, and has worked hard ever since as a professional.

Home Run!

August 5, 2019 was the day that Isan Diaz became the first Ruffnecks player in our 16 year history to play in a Major League game.  And it was an extraordinary debut.  As his dad, Raul Sr., was being interviewed on television by the Marlins affiliate, Isan launched a two-strike pitch over the Mets bullpen for a home run… his first Major League hit in his first Major League game.  Off Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom!  The moment, and the reaction captured on video continues to go viral.  It is an amazing display of devotion and love for a son who has made it to the Big Leagues.  Many in the Ruffnecks extended family, from former Ruffnecks pitching coach Matt Blake (Cleveland Indians), former teammates, to current coaches and players commenced texting and calling each other with joy and amazement.  So happy for the first day, the first hit, the first HR… the first Ruffneck.  The joy continues.

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