Bobby Valentine toured the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Allston today then spoke to a group of grade-school kids in their after-school program.
I tagged along wanting to ask him a few questions about the Red Sox. But I left much more impressed with the impact he had on the kids.
Valentine grabbed their attention and held it for about 10 minutes, speaking about personal values and the need to be responsible for your actions, respectful of others, and grateful for the opportunities that arise in life. When his talk was over, he helped hand out gift bags and sneakers courtesy of New Balance.
Valentine waded into the fray, making sure the kids had the right sizes and kneeling down to tie loose laces. By the time he left, it seemed like every kid and staff member had spent at least a few seconds with him.
"You're doing a great job, ladies," he said to the receptionists on the way out. "Merry Christmas."
Being the manager of the Red Sox is about a lot more than making out lineup cards and calling in relief pitchers. The Sox are part of the fabric in New England the manager has to represent them the right way.
Leaving 100 or so people in Allston with a good feeling won't win the pennant. But it's important. In Texas, New York and Japan, Valentine made community service a big part of his job. In his short time in Boston, he is doing the same thing.
As for the baseball stuff ...
• Valentine was in Fort Myers Wednesday to take a look at the new park ("World class," he said). Then he drove across the state and spent some time with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and his family.
“It was good. He let me into his home and I met his wife and kids,” Valentine said. “We had a good talk.”
• Valentine said he is prepared to go into spring training needing to identify his closer and set the roles in the bullpen.
“I’m fine with that,” he said. “I’d like to know, just like anybody else. But the team that won the world championship [the Cardinals] changed their closer during the season. You can win a world championship that way. I’ll figure out how to do it.”
• Valentine said he likes what he has learned about Mark Melancon so far. “His fingerprint is excellent,” he said. “He has the pitches and when we talked, I liked the things he said.”
• Valentine is traveling with a laptop loaded with scouting reports and video of players on the roster and is immersed with learning everything he can about his new team.
• Asked about the slow offseason in terms of player acquisition, Valentine smiled. “It’s not the individuals that matter, it’s the group,” he said. “I’m sure Ben [Cherington] is going to put together the right group. I’ve been very impressed with everything we’ve done so far."