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Dan Shaughnessy

For Lowrie, the future is now

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / July 23, 2008

SEATTLE - Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed . . .

It was back in the early 1990s, and the Lowrie family would pile into the Ford Windstar minivan, drive three hours from Salem, Ore., and watch the Mariners play in the Kingdome on Sunday afternoons. The big thrill came after the game when the club allowed kids to run the bases while the parking lots cleared. That's when 7-year-old Jed Lowrie made his first appearance on a major league field.

Imagine then how it must have felt for Dan Lowrie, Miriam Lowrie, grandma LoydAlice Lowrie, and a raft of relatives and friends to watch 24-year-old Jed playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox against the Mariners at Safeco Field Monday night.

"It's surrealistic," said Jed's dad, Dan, after watching his son go 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs in a 4-0 victory. "He was always determined. He wanted to do this, and it seems like he's stepping up to the challenge."

"Coming back here is pretty exciting," said Jed Lowrie. "It was always a childhood dream."

Just about every little boy who swings a fat bat thinks he's going to be a major league player. The dreams usually fade when overgrown 12-year-olds start throwing curveballs, but sometimes talented kids keep moving up the hardball chain.

Lowrie went from running the bases at the Kingdome to North Salem High School to an All-Star baseball camp at Stanford University's sunken diamond. Cardinal coaches liked what they saw and said they'd have a spot for him if he wanted the best academic/baseball experience in all of Division 1.

Lowrie was on the bench for the first few weeks of his college career, but by 2005, he was a reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year and the Sox drafted him with the 45th pick. Then it was on to Lowell, Wilmington, Portland, Pawtucket, and, finally, Boston.

A switch-hitting infielder (No. 12 in your program) whom Terry Francona likens to Bill Mueller, Lowrie was the organization's offensive player of the year in 2007.

He enjoyed a cup of java with the Sox in mid-April this season, but was optioned to Pawtucket May 11. He figured he might be at Triple A until the September call-ups, but everything changed when Julio Lugo went down with a quadriceps injury. Lowrie was invited to rejoin the pennant race July 12. He's officially sharing the shortstop job with Alex Cora, but Lowrie is going to get most of the shifts as long as he keeps hitting .300 and making all the plays. He's the Red Sox' shortstop of the future, and the club wants to see what he can do now.

"My role on this team right now is to help out wherever I can, whatever Tito wants me to do," Lowrie said after Monday's win. "When I can help out like this, it's nice. In this organization, you don't get many opportunities like maybe in some other organizations. I felt like I was able to make an impact today."

Francona had the kid back at short, batting in the No. 7 hole against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey last night. It was his fourth consecutive start. He cracked a single in the second inning and made a nice running catch on a difficult popup in the third, then added a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Lowrie can play third and second base, but it's not easy to win a job in the Red Sox lineup. Ask Brandon Moss. The Sox are loaded with big names and big contracts, and it's tough to unseat a shortstop (Lugo) who still has two years left on a contract that pays $9 million per year.

"This is an opportunity for me to go out there and show not only the Red Sox but the rest of the league what I can do," Lowrie said. "I see myself as an everyday shortstop. It's just a matter of going out there and proving that to myself and everybody else in the clubhouse every day.

"You get opportunities when you're here to be around guys and see the way they play. You get the experience to watch how guys like Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz handle themselves and get ready to play. It's a real blessing as a player to see guys like that play."

There are other things about the Boston baseball experience that remind a young man he's no longer in the Pacific Northwest.

"When I first got called up, I was in a mall and I bought a pair of jeans," said Lowrie, "and the guy behind the counter saw my credit card and asked me if we were going to get the game in today. That was before I had ever showed up at the ballpark."

That probably doesn't happen to Seattle first baseman Bryan LaHair.

Lowrie left 17 tickets at the pass gate last night; alas, none for a niece or nephew. Lowrie is an only child and he's not married, so we must unfortunately report that he is Uncle Jed to no one.

The kid will commute to work from his apartment in North Providence, R.I., when the Sox return to Fenway against the Yankees Friday night. No more quiet anonymity of the Pacific Northwest. He's shipping up to Boston and an ancient ballpark where everybody knows your name.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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