John Farrell, who pitched for Gary Ward at OSU and pitching coached for Tom Holliday at OSU, now is the Boston Red Sox manager. He’ll be in the dugout Wednesday night as Boston hosts the Cardinals. For the Wednesday Oklahoman, our man Mike Baldwin wrote about Farrell’s OSU ties. You can read that here.
Farrell also was on my Total Dominance Hour segment Monday on The Sports Animal. Farrell and Jim Traber are old OSU teammates, and Farrell came on to talk about a variety of subjects with us.
Here’s a sampling.
* I asked Farrell what he learned from Ward. We always think of Ward as some kind of hitting guru, but the truth is, his OSU pitchers had just as good a ratio at major league success as did his hitters.
“I was having a conversation with (New England) media today, some of the questioning went back to Stillwater, playing at OklahomaState,” Farrell said.
He said coaches have “the unique ability, you influence the person as much as coach their abilities on the field. When I go back to Gary Ward, he was so goal-oriented, and the process to achieve the goal, that still influences me today.”
Farrell said Ward and Holliday, Ward’s pitching coach, would have three- and four-hour meetings in the “attic” at Gallagher Hall (yep, Farrell played before the 1987 renovation to Gallagher-Iba Arena).
Those meetings were to set goals.
“Motivational speeches, motivation tape, clear-cut goal-setting. He was so relentless, how could we not be.
“Gary Ward, he was so far ahead of his time for the way he coached our minds. Not our bodies. He was light years ahead.
“He demanded so much. That came out in the physical work, 6 a.m. conditioning, cleaning the football stadium (as a baseball fund-raiser). Anything along the way, he created such a strong framework for us to work in. We knew what the boundaries were.
The way he was very consistent with us, very demanding for us. More on the mental side of it.
“As an 18- to 22-year-old, we need that more than anything. That was a huge challenge. He clearly pulled it off.”
* Farrell made baseball history a year ago. He managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two seasons, 2011 and 2012, but last October was traded, along with pitcher David Carpenter, to the Red Sox for infielder Mike Aviles.
Farrell had spent four years as the Boston pitching coach, including on the 2007 World Series title team. He clearly impressed the Red Sox brass.
Only a few times – Farrell said six or seven – has a manager’s contract been traded.
“I tell you, there was a 10-day period where I was a little bit in the dark when those talks were going on,” Farrell said. “It was definitely different.
“It’s very unique, humbling in a lot of ways. Coming back, my relationship with the ownership, knowing what I was about, allowed us to hit the ground running. Looking back, a year ago today, this all came down. A lot has happened in 12 months.
I’m thankful to Toronto as well.”
* Farrell was the pitching coach in Boston for Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox to World Series in 2004 and 2007. Francona was a consummate professional. But the Red Sox replaced Francona with Bobby Valentine, who has a history of volatile dugouts. Things quickly went south with the 2012 Red Sox. How was it replacing Valentine?
“Like I’ve approached everything, as honest and candid and as consistent as I can see myself functioning every day. I was familiar with a number of guys on the roster. There was some initial understanding on both sides.
Still, I had to re-earn the respect, reestablish what we wanted to get done as a team.”
Farrell said from the first day of spring training, his message was the same. Focus on the team, focus on the game every night, all our preparation will guide us. A group of guys sacrificing for one another.”