Big Leaguers Bring Experience, Expertise & Catering to McCoy Rehab Stints

PawSox Pitcher Hector Valazquez enjoys a catered meal

The PawSox take on Toledo Friday, August 16th at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

At times, the most popular players in the PawSox clubhouse are the ones who you know are only borrowing a uniform for a few days.

These, however, are not your typical temp workers. Some have All-Star and World Series credentials. Others have come to McCoy Stadium with impressive statistics on the back of their baseball cards, along with an array of awards (Cy Young, MVP, Gold Glove).

More often than not, you can expect these temporary minor-league contributors to bring the notion of being a “big leaguer” to new heights – particularly when the subject turns to lavish post-game spreads.

If a Boston Red Sox player happens to be down on an MLB rehab assignment with the PawSox, the odds are pretty good that the McCoy kitchen staff will be informed about taking the night off – they’ve got this. It’s the big league player’s way of thanking his temporary teammates for their hospitality. Now go get something good to eat!

We’re talking about steaks from Fleming’s and The Capital Grille. This season, the PawSox have been able to enjoy fine eats from two of Providence’s more popular dining options, courtesy of infielder Eduardo Nunez and pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

Mind you, there isn’t a set-in-stone rule that MLB players must treat those in Triple-A to a feast that many times leaves no stone unturned in terms of variety. It’s their money. It’s not coming out of the team’s pocket.

The big leaguers who make a Triple-A pit stop do it because, well, they remember what it’s like to scrap and claw for everything prior to hitting that massive payday in the form of a big-time contract.

“It’s sort of a pay-it-forward kind of deal,” said Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland one Sunday afternoon last month. “When I was coming up, usually you had one or two (rehabbers) come around and try to take care of the guys. Hopefully they do the same when their opportunity comes.

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“It’s something that’s kind of an unwritten rule,” added Moreland.

Talk about eating like kings. On Friday, July 19, Eovaldi purchased a lavish spread for the PawSox players and coaches from Fleming’s, which included steak, lobster tail, lobster mac & cheese, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and cheesecake.

“Best spread of the year,” declared PawSox first baseman Josh Ockimey. “Just delicious.”

On Sunday, July 21, it was Moreland’s turn to treat, this time from P.F. Chang’s: crab wontons, pot stickers, orange chicken, beef with broccoli, sesame chicken, and white rice. Clearly, the tradition of major leaguers coming down for a rehab assignment and springing for a meal from some place nice remains alive and well – and don’t think for a second those who spend a great deal of time in the Pawtucket clubhouse are taking it for granted.

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Unpacking catered meal for team

“They’re so great to do it for us. They don’t have to do it, but it’s greatly appreciated,” said Ockimey. “They’ve been through it and for them to give back, it shows what they think of us.”

The groundwork of putting something that’s both mouthwatering and out of the norm on the clubhouse menu begins when the Red Sox rehabber approaches PawSox clubhouse manager Josh Liebenow.

“They’ll ask what we’ve had this year, what the guys like, and what we haven’t had in a while so they can switch it up and get something that’s different,” said Liebenow.

Just this season alone, the PawSox have been treated to Chick-fil-A, courtesy of pitcher Brian Johnson, and Italian food ordered from Uncle Tony’s, located in East Providence, via second baseman Dustin Pedroia and relief pitcher Heath Hembree. “Basically, the players will defer to me and ask what I think,” said Liebenow. “Usually, they don’t talk about money. I’m the one who asks how much they want to spend.”

To feed everyone on the PawSox roster along with the coaching staff and trainers, at the minimum you’re looking at a $700-$800 price tag. Going above and beyond the call of duty with side dishes will push the tab well into the $1,000 dollar range.

“If you’re getting steak and seafood, it’s going to get up there quickly,” Liebenow noted.

Once a restaurant has been confirmed, Liebenow is on the phone to place the order and arrange a pickup time.

“Usually when you say it’s so-and-so from the PawSox, they’re more than accommodating and make it happen for us,” said Liebenow. “Ideally, you like to know the day before so you can reach out and give an amount. We’ve also called the day of … a couple of hours before the game.”

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With a large order, the hardest part is timing everything out. You could be in the sixth inning and the game appears to be sailing along, Next thing you know, you hit a lull and you need two hours to wrap things up. That’s when Liebenow and his legion of clubhouse workers cross their fingers hoping that the food that someone was so kind enough to purchase doesn’t sit in heated containers for an extended period.

“If it’s sitting in the warmer, that means it’s continuing to cook,” said Liebenow. “You try to time it out as best as you possibly can.”

“On the other side of that, if you backtrack it too much and the game starts flying, now you don’t have enough time to prep it,” added Liebenow. “It’s a constant juggling act.”

What is simple is saying thank you, which the PawSox make a point of doing after their temporary teammate from the Red Sox goes above and beyond with the postgame meal.

“They were all grateful, coming up and saying thanks,” said Moreland.

The PawSox take on Toledo Friday, August 16th at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

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