When Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was a rookie with the team in 1981, he quickly became comfortable with the NBA game and did not feel far behind the veterans. But when he was a rookie infielder with the Blue Jays in 1979, he was much more inquisitive, much more green. So he was thankful to have Red Sox legend Bobby Doerr, who was then Toronto’s hitting coach, as a mentor.
“Our relationship was great,’’ Ainge said. “I loved him. He really cared. I thought he was a great teacher. He had a very calm and trusting demeanor. I thought he was brilliant in his ways of teaching hitting.’’
Doerr, a Hall of Famer and nine-time All-Star, died Monday at the age of 99. He saw Ainge blossom into an NBA All-Star and two-time world champion in Boston, the same city where Doerr shined for 14 seasons. But their unlikely bond was created in Toronto, after Doerr had left Boston.