Same Road, Different Directions

Life in the Minors
January, 2004
Part 1

Pitching coach sold on Paw Sox fans
By Joe Kuras

When Mike Griffin got promoted to Pawtucket as the pitching coach in 2003, he probably figured it to be just another minor league city and another rung up the ladder, closer to the major leagues. He probably never suspected the 2003 season to be such an enjoyable and memorable experience.

With an 83-61 record, Pawtucket finished in first place as the Northern Division champion. Manager Buddy Bailey got the most out of his team, even if they weren’t the most talented bunch of guys in the International League. Griffin had all winter to reflect on the season and all the good things that were done on the field.

“Overall, it has been a very good, memorable season for me,” Griffin confided.

Pawtucket pitchers had the fifth best ERA (3.83) in the 14-team league and were third in strikeouts with 983. But Griffin’s defining moment of the 2003 season was probably the fan reaction to Bronson Arroyo’s perfect game no-hitter on August 10.

“When he got the final out in the 9th, it was pandemonium. We were out on the field congratulating Bronson. We were walking off and I looked up at the people, and they were just standing, and I couldn’t believe it! I had to stop!” Griffin revealed. “My wife was in the stands. And I asked her, ‘did you see me stop on the field?’ I just had to take that in. I just looked up at all of our fans. It was unbelievable. I had goose bumps on my arms! That’s how unbelievable it was!

Fan support can make a minor league city a very special place. But it also does wonders when preparing the player for the major leagues. To Arroyo’s credit, the fan support, as the potential perfect game progressed, did not unnerve the 26 year-old right-hander.

Griffin describes Arroyo as a very levelheaded person.

“Nothing bothers him on the mound during a game. No matter how bad things may look, bases loaded & nobody out, he stays the same. He doesn’t change his demeanor or body language.”

A good work ethic, which translates to good habits on the field, results in a good command of his pitches. Arroyo had all of that working for him on the day of his perfect game, and the tremendous fan support didn’t take him out of his game. And that in itself is great preparation for the Boston fans and media in years to come.

“If there is a call from Boston, these players are able to step in, and not miss a beat,” Griffin concluded. “That’s what we work our game plan around here working to get these players ready for Boston.”

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