Man in motion
Busy Valentine touches lots of bases
Bobby Valentine was running late yesterday morning, the drive from his home in Connecticut to Boston having taken four hours instead of the usual three. The traffic in Hartford just wouldn’t budge.
The new manager of the Red Sox also needed a cup of coffee and somebody to fix his iPhone, which inexplicably would not send e-mails.
“Figure this thing out for me, would you?’’ Valentine said, handing his phone over. “I’ve tried everything.’’
As days go, this one had not started well. But when Valentine walked through the backdoor of the District 4 police station on Harrison Avenue, the frustration slipped off his shoulders and his personality flipped on.
Bobby V had arrived.
Valentine spent 45 minutes shaking hands, signing autographs, and posing for photos. Nobody was turned away and his smile never faded. Valentine spent as much time with patrol officers as he did with Captain Paul Ivens, the station commander.
“If you’re late, you’re supposed to bring everybody coffee,’’ one of the cops cracked when Valentine apologized for his tardiness.
“If you guys had given me an escort, I wouldn’t have been late,’’ Valentine shot back.
Valentine was especially happy to meet Billy Dunn, the burly detective who stands watch in the Red Sox bullpen at Fenway Park and fist-bumps the relievers when they’re called in.
For regulars in the bleachers, Dunn is as well known as the players.
“You’ll keep an eye on those guys for me, right?’’ Valentine said as he signed an autograph for Dunn.
Ivens then presented Valentine with a T-shirt, a cap, and other souvenirs.
“This is a great thing,’’ Ivens said. “I can’t remember something like this in the past. It’s something special that Bobby would take the time to do this. You could tell he really cared.’’
Valentine jotted down Ivens’s cellphone number on his way out, promising he would stay in touch. He then got back in his BMW.
The car was cluttered with empty water bottles, old newspapers, and assorted pieces of clothing, evidence of a life than has been in constant motion since he took the demanding job of managing the Red Sox.
The next stop was the big firehouse on Purchase Street, home of Engine 1, Rescue 10, and Tower Ladder 3. Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser was waiting for Valentine along with Fire Chief Steve Abraira.
Valentine was immediately hit with a question about Carl Crawford and his disappointing first season with the Sox.
“He’s the left fielder. I’ve heard of that guy,’’ Valentine said, smiling. “Don’t you worry about him, he’s going to be fine. We’re going to see to that.’’
Abraira, who was hired in November after a career in Florida and Texas, was impressed that Valentine dropped by.
“I’m new here and I don’t know much about the new manager of the team, but it’s pretty neat,’’ Abraira said. “I think it’s awesome that he would do that. I can’t wait to see some games. I’m excited about that.’’
Valentine posed for a group photo and then told the firefighters that he appreciated what they did.
For Valentine, a police station or a firehouse is nearly as comfortable an environment as the ballpark. He spent the last year as Public Safety Director in his hometown of Stamford, Conn. What was initially a ceremonial post quickly turned into a real job for Valentine, who even directed traffic in a blizzard one day.
“People who sign up to do those jobs, they’re special people,’’ he said. “Sometimes they’re either invisible or seen as doing the wrong thing. Then when you need them, there aren’t enough of them. It’s the least I can do, to make these visits.’’
Other first-responders in Boston, the Coast Guard, also received a visit. Valentine toured the Boston base and stepped aboard a 45-foot jet-propelled boat used for Homeland Security missions.
Lieutenants Garrett Meyer and Joseph Klinker conducted the tour. Valentine stopped at one point and signed a Yankees cap he saw on a bench.
“It’s nice to be recognized and have some time with a person we get to see on television,’’ Meyer said. “We have people we look up to, as well. It was definitely a great experience. It’s an honor for us to host him and show off what we get to do.
“Just to know that somebody cares about what we do is great for our guys.’’
Valentine said getting to know the city and its people is important for him.
“When the season starts, I don’t want to be wondering where Atlantic Street is,’’ said Valentine (who eventually will figure out that it’s Atlantic Avenue). “There will be people coming in and I want to be comfortable in saying, ‘I’ll come meet you and we’ll spend an hour at lunch or get a drink after the game.’ If I’m less frazzled about the city, I can do my job better.
“Being up here in the winter is important. I wanted to learn the guys around the park, learn the front office. I wanted that familiarity with the place and all the people there. I’ve got it, too. I’ve got everyone’s name down.’’
Valentine is nearly finished planning for spring training, an undertaking that has taken several weeks of work with bench coach Tim Bogar. With the Red Sox moving into a new complex, they had to envision how everything would flow.
The Red Sox will have tougher days than they did in previous springs and spend more time on fundamentals.
“Timmy has been fun to work with,’’ Valentine said. “We have a nice plan now. I’m excited to get down there and be in uniform and be with the players.’’
Bogar, who briefly played for Valentine with the Mets in 1996, is amazed at how much energy the 61-year-old has.
“Bobby’s always trying to take care of business,’’ Bogar said. “It’s 24/7 for him. He wants everybody to know that he’s all in. He wants the players to know that. He wants the coaches to know it, and he wants the public to know it.
“People should understand that this is a big deal and we’re going to do this right.’’
Before the night was over, Valentine was back downtown to attend a charity event hosted by third baseman, Kevin Youkilis. Within minutes of his arrival, he was pulled aside to meet Senator Scott Brown.
The day that didn’t start well wasn’t ending any time soon. There were more people to meet and hands to shake.
“I’m loving it, I really am,’’ Valentine said. “I’m giving this everything I have.’’