“PawSox Wired” Premieres Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. on YurView (Check Local Listings)
Folks who worked at McCoy Stadium during the mid to late 2000s often contend that when it came to Ron Johnson, they broke the mold. He was affectionately known as “R.J.” during his five-year run as manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox (2005-09).
In Torey Lovullo’s case, his run as PawSox skipper was brief – just one year in 2010. Like Johnson, Lovullo was able to parlay his time at McCoy into a big-league coaching opportunity. Today, Lovullo is the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Before that, he was a bench coach on the 2013 Red Sox team that captured that year’s World Series.
While Johnson zigged, Lovullo zagged. Born in California, Johnson wore his Tennessee roots on his sleeve – right down to the flannel button-down shirts, blue jeans, and Cowboy boots in which he would be proudly dressed as he paraded through the clubhouse prior to putting on his uniform.
After leaving the PawSox, he next served as first-base coach for the Red Sox for two seasons (2010-11) before returning to the Triple-A managerial ranks in 2012 with Norfolk.
Also from California, Lovullo had a Senator-esque quality about him. His smile was inviting, his outgoing personality a fitting ode to the unique job his father Sam held as an executive producer for “Hee Haw,” a TV variety show featuring country music.
These are two baseball lifers who will forever be linked by having sat in the same McCoy office while running the same clubhouse. However, the bond they share stretches beyond writing names on a Triple-A lineup card.
In short, Johnson and Lovullo know what it’s like to conduct a live in-game interview while coaching third base.
When Cox Sports Television broadcast PawSox games during Johnson’s and Lovullo’s tenures, a regular feature of the show had both men participating in “PawSox Wired” segments. These segments involved the broadcast booth interviewing the managers during the actual play of the inning. No topic was off limits.
Perhaps Cox’s answer to Reality Television, the chance to engage with Johnson and Lovullo while they were smackdab in the middle of their baseball element was enjoyed by fans because it produced unscripted, spontaneous content. The managers reacted to the action while the PawSox were taking their offensive cuts. Many times, they would leave the broadcast team (and presumably the audience) in stitches.
(As a media member who covered Johnson and Lovullo, I can remember all activity inside the McCoy press box typically slowing to a crawl whenever “PawSox Wired” rolled around. It was television that was not to be missed.)
For those who continue to miss baseball, Cox’s Yurview is doing its part to fill the void by putting together clips of the best of the “PawSox Wired” segments; placing the two former PawSox managers front and center. It’s a 90-minute trip-down-memory-lane that premiers on Tuesday June 23 at 7 p.m. (Cox Channel 1004 in Rhode Island).
What Yurview has done is pull back the curtain, offering a glimpse into the unique role a Triple-A manager in the Red Sox farm system plays. With Pawtucket less than an hour away from Boston and Fenway Park, it was common for Johnson and Lovullo to need to quickly respond to a roster which often could change daily.
We’re talking about overseeing an operation in which players could be returning from the majors, coming up from Double-A Portland, or brought in from another organization.
Baseball at the Triple-A level has often been described as a fluid situation, hence it takes a special breed of manager to deal with differing player situations – from prospects to journeymen to those on rehab assignments. Johnson and Lovullo understood the complexities, yet neither was afraid to express themselves when the cameras were rolling.
Case in point, one “PawSox Wired” segment that made the cut for the “Best of …” show features Johnson being his absolute jovial self when the larger-than-life presence of David Ortiz made a rehab appearance at McCoy in July 2008.
“He looked fine,” said Johnson in response to a question from Cox announcer Dan Hoard about how Ortiz looked during that day’s batting practice. “First of all, if he can hit my batting practice, he’s ready to go. He hit one that I thought was going hit him in the kneecap, but he’s no different than anyone else. He’s got to see pitches.”
Johnson was conversing with the Cox broadcast team while Ortiz was in the batter’s box. The at-bat culminated with Ortiz lining a shot into the right-field bullpen that sent McCoy Stadium into a state of utter delirium.
Once again, Johnson proved to be a master of the moment.
“I feel good. I feel my BP was a success,” said a smiling Johnson after high-fiving Ortiz.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg from a Television program that offers up a hearty helping of television gold, PawSox-style. If you want more, you’re advised to tune in!