11th Banquet Record Turnout!

Teammates Statue - Fenway Park

It is hard to explain what the Ruffnecks Banquet is all about.  We endure miserable traffic on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.  But we still gravitate to The Fours in Quincy, where the generosity and hospitality of the Colton family and the waitstaff continue draw us back.  We can only hope that we have not outgrown the place.  On Monday, November 19th, an estimated 190 folks gathered, ate, laughed, and listened.  The new ‘Necks (new 13U class) sat bug eyed just like those who have sat along the side wall in past years.  We can’t explain…  We just can’t explain the feeling, the sense of purpose and accomplishment, the air of humility and respect for the game, the “little things,” whatever those words define.   But the message remains the same… TEAM.  And thankfully, and consistently, the message is delivered by way of wonderful guest speakers who believe in the message themselves.  365 days ago, Red Sox President of Baseball, Dave Dombrowski, shared the message at last November’s Ruffnecks Banquet.  While he made no predictions, it is no surprise that the 2018 Red Sox delivered a title in the context of that message of TEAM.  We were fortunate to hear the same message, validated, and underscored, by several speakers at this year’s Ruffnecks Banquet.

Hot Stove Chatter

“Hot Stove” gatherings are a tradition in New England during the baseball off season.  For some old timers, the Ruffnecks Banquet hearkens back to the purest, most essential, original hot stove events not often experienced anymore.  It is appropriate that our tradition holds the event on the Monday at the beginning of Thanksgiving week.  It is good food!  But it is a night of thanks as well.  What makes those of us who love the Ruffnecks, actually love the Ruffnecks, is the sight of players seeing each other again, crowding (literally) together around tables, standing, talking, laughing.  They pore through the Yearbook and enjoy the video presentation.  Players and families anticipate the presentation of the Johnny Pesky Teammate Award, and they actually listen to what the speakers have to say!  This is pure Hot Stove.  No media.  We do not bring attention to ourselves.  No boasting.  Just celebrating the TEAM, and playing the game of baseball.  Sounds trite, corny, anachronistic.  Perhaps.  But not for those who come to the Banquet.

Speakers Share the Message

Lt. Commander U.S. Navy (Ret.) Adam La Reau

There is a reason Matt Hyde speaks every year.  And it is not for pay!  He speaks to an audience that willfully listens.  And his message and tale about a local, big league player, and his story of adversity and perseverance was right on point.  Rich Gedman, whose contributions to baseball, particularly to Red Sox baseball and youth baseball, fall so far beneath the radar of self-promotion or personal gain that his tremendous talent as an MLB All-star (and his spot in baseball history) go almost unnoticed.  But Geddy was spot on too!  He had an integral part in the success of the 2018 Red Sox World Champions, as hitting instructor for much of the lineup during their minor league days, and in the capacity of post-season coach this October.  And what was Geddy’s heartfelt message?  TEAM.  Not just the 2018 Sox, but he communicated how much it meant to lose the World Series in 1986 with the same kind of TEAM.  You see, players cannot always expect to be in the lineup, or to be on a list of top prospects.  They certainly can not expect to be champions! And they can’t do it alone.  Moments of individual success and heroics emanate from TEAM.  And sometimes, even failure leads to success… someone takes it for the team… as Geddy made very clear.

Lieutenant Commander U.S. Navy and Navy SEAL Adam La Reau shared the same message.  BUDS is not Spring Training.  And neither is Ruffnecks Baseball anything close to BUDS.  But the fundamentals are the same.  Successful people fail, as do teams.  But the effort, shared passion, and reasons for being in the “game” are all about those around you and those with whom you choose to be around.  The evening was capped nicely in the poetry and smile of the only living person in the acclaimed book The Teammates, Dick Flavin.  Mr. Flavin regaled the banquet gathering with several poems, including the poem he said at Ted Williams’ death bed, which was memorialized in the account of the visit to “The Kid” with Johnny Pesky and Dominic DiMaggio.  The book itself is memorialized in the bronze statue at Fenway Park.

Yes, it is difficult to explain to those who have never been to a pure, grass roots, Hot Stove dinner.  As Geddy said at the end of the evening, “Baseball is spoken here.  I love this event.”