Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hide The Women And Children, Nashua: El Guapo's Coming To Town!

Three years ago, the Nashua Pride signed former major league outfielder Dante Bichette, who came back from two seasons out of organized baseball to hit .312 with 18 homeruns and 54 RBI despite not playing at all until the end of July (the show he put on in August, with 16 or 17 round-trippers, was unbelievable to watch – watching him try his hand at pitching was even more so).

Last year, the team went after another ex-Red Sox player, pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, but that deal was ultimately cast aside after news broke that he was facing federal charges in Mississippi for threatening his ex-girlfriend and her son.

This season, however, Pride management may have outdone itself, reaching into the Venezuelan Professional Winter Baseball League and snapping up Rich “El Guapo” Garces, one of the biggest cult heroes in recent Boston sports history.

Garces was respected in Boston for the fact that he provided the team with a reliable bullpen option in the middle innings (when the Red Sox won the wild card in 1999, he finished 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA and allowed only three inherited runners to score in 30 appearances), but he was beloved for another reason entirely: despite the fact that he was listed at 6’0” and 250 pounds (like most players, the height is probably too tall and the weight is probably too low) and he was possibly the world’s least sexy individual, his nickname was “El Guapo” – “The Handsome One”.

That still makes my list of the twenty best sports nicknames ever.

Sadly, Garces’ excess baggage was only fun while he was pitching reasonably well; though he went 14-2 in 126 games between the 2000 and 2001 seasons, his ERA climbed and he allowed more inherited runners to score. It all led to the inevitable meltdown during the train wreck that was the 2002 season: 0-1, 7.59 ERA in 26 games before being released on August 1.

Even though things didn’t end well in Boston, I can’t say I’m not excited to see El Guapo coming to Nashua this season. I usually try to get to at least 3-5 Pride games a year (after seeing 130+ in 2003-04, that’s about all I can handle), and the chances of that will only increase if he is in town. Unfortunately, it’s tough to trust anything that happens in independent baseball at this time of year; absolutely anything can and does go wrong (the Boyd situation is a prime example).

Be optimistic. And if you’re in Nashua this summer, come on down to Historic Holman Stadium and help me start a “Vive El Guapo” chant.

Pride Sign Former Sox Reliever Garces (Nashua Telegraph)
It's Fat Tuesday! Former Sox Reliever Joins The Pride (New Hampshire Union Leader)
Photo Credit: ESPN


Marco said...

As a former employee of a minor league baseball team (You haven't lived until you have to pick up George "The Animal" Steele at the airport), that story made me laugh

One More Dying Quail said...

Which team?

I worked for the Pride for almost two full seasons. On my first day, I stood within five feet of Rickey Henderson.

It was pretty much all downhill from there.

And oh, the tarp pulling stories I could tell...

Marco said...

Hahaha the tarp, your taking to someone who has already had a concussion from the tarp. Can't appreciate it until you've done it....worked for the Harrisburg Senators by the way

One More Dying Quail said...

marco, I don't know if I can explain this, but I'm gonna try:

Not sure how you did it, but when we folded our tarp, it went in half, then in half again, then in half again. Then we rolled it.

To pull it out, we grabbed the top layer, ran it out. Went back, grabbed the top fold, ran it out - so on and so forth, until it was done.

One day, we got hit with a fast rain storm. We're rolling the tarp out with about eight people, get it all set - and I grab the bottom fold. It was awful. Instead of unfolding the tarp neatly and efficiently, we had to drag the whole thing out. It was awful.

Almost as awful as the aftermath, when the operations manager screamed at me from left field to the first base line. I'm glad I don't work there anymore.