Buddy Hausmann knows Ryan Kalish, which is why he dubs the Red Sox outfield prospect, “my younger brother.”
“You want to make sure nothing is bothering him,” expressed Hausmann, the current head baseball coach and former assistant at Red Bank Catholic High School in New Jersey, where Kalish was a three-sport standout. “He won’t leave, whether it’s going to spring training or (or Athletes Performance in Arizona, a noted workout hangout for pro athletes) until he has dinner with my wife and I.”
Their friendship is so tight, so like clockwork, that Hausmann now anticipates the next phone call – usually materializing after a productive day by Kalish. There’s also a flip side to this pattern of a prized pupil touching base with his former high school coach. Hausmann knows that no phone call, not even a simple text message, is forthcoming if Kalish endures a tough day at the office. There is no way for Hausmann to gauge Kalish’s mindset because of the incommunicado, no peppy words he could invoke to lift the 23-year-old’s spirits.
It’s Kalish’s move, Hausmann rationalizes.
Hausmann wanted to reach out immediately upon learning Kalish had injured his left shoulder while making a diving catch last Thursday. He opted to hold off. “He’ll call,” Hausmann wholeheartedly believed. This may have not been a 3-for-4 game with two stolen bases, but what ensued in short centerfield at McCoy Stadium required some counseling and reassurance that the injury – officially deemed a significant shoulder sprain – was merely a short-term derailment.
At last, Kalish broke the silence around 7:30 Friday night. It was the same day he underwent a MRI in Boston and Kalish needed a friend to console with. At the same time Hausmann needed to hear from Kalish that with rest and treatment, he would be back on the field in no time.
“He thinks he’s going to be fine and ready to go in 3-4 weeks,” said Hausmann when reached Thursday. “(Surgery) sounds like a possibility. If he were a pitcher, I would say he was done for the season and come back next year ready to go. As an outfielder, what is he going to make? Two or three throws per game? I think he could suck it up and make that throw and ‘OK, pain for 15 or 20 seconds’ and then he’ll be fine.”
If surgery is deemed the course of action upon Kalish’s re-evaluation consultation, such a development would crush him.
“He would be a nut because he can’t sit still,” said Hausmann, drafted in the 32nd round by the New York Mets in 2001 after pitching at Seton Hall. “I would hate to be around him if that’s the case.”
Hausmann mentioned that during last Friday’s conversation, the idea of Kalish strictly DH-ing for the remainder of the season was discussed. Not patrolling the outfield would probably cause some initial angst for Kalish, who prides himself in being a two-way ballplayer. Still, he could afford additional time for the shoulder to mend while guaranteeing four or five at-bats per night.
“We talked about getting his swings in. (Pawtucket) has outfielders like (Daniel) Nava and (Josh) Reddick, so they don’t need him for that,” Hausmann said.
With that, the topic of Kalish’s ailing shoulder was momentarily dropped as Hausmann shed some light on where Kalish was psychologically heading into the season.
“I asked him right before the season, ‘are you relaxed and ready to go?’ Physically, it’s the best he’s ever felt. Then he says he felt more pressure this year than he did last year,” Hausmann shared. “I was like, ‘you already made it to the big leagues.’ He goes, ‘yeah, but I’m the No. 1 prospect. Everyone knows me now.’”
Hausmann continued, shedding some light on perhaps why Kalish was struggling offensively at the time of his latest injury (.236 average and a .309 slugging percentage in 14 games).
“Ryan did say he was worn out from spring training because he traveled so much. Any time a big leaguer wanted a day off, he was there,” he explained. “I don’t see him taking a day off when he is a veteran big leaguer. He just wants to play. I could see him being the first one on the bus for a split-squad scrimmage.”
Besides starring on the diamond at Red Bank Catholic High, Kalish was a standout quarterback/safety for the football team. Hausmann briefly chuckled was asked if being burnished with a football player’s mentality is both a blessing and a curse Kalish carries to the ballpark.
“He doesn’t care about his body like that. It’s, ‘I’m going to help the team win and I’m going to make this play and suffer the consequences after,’” said Hausmann. “It’s like the play he made on [Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton last August, a summersault catch on the Tropicana Field turf that took away extra bases]. He’s always respected the game in that aspect. That’s why I think Boston has soaked him up and has enjoyed every second of seeing him.”
Viewing a replay of Kalish sprawling all-out is a scene Hausmann knows all too well. When Kalish was in high school, his compete level was off the charts. He became such a big deal that by his senior year, scouts from around the majors – “we had guys walking in with World Series rings,” recalls Hausmann, – would flock to New Jersey.
The problem is that Kalish was dealing with a sore back, limiting him to DH duty for several games. Hausmann makes no bones that Kalish would have been scooped up in the second or third round of the 2006 amateur player draft. Even he realized, though, that Kalish posed somewhat of a flight risk, hence why his draft stock suffered.
“There’s no way I would have given $600,000 or $700,000 with how he was,” declared Hausmann about Kalish, eventually taken in the ninth round by Boston.
Hausmann was then asked to gauge the mood of Kalish in wake of his shoulder ailment compared to when he fractured the hamate bone in his right hand in 2007 while with short-seasoned Lowell, missing the season from mid-July on.
“He seems a little more optimistic (regarding the shoulder) because this is more of a challenge. He has 3-4 weeks before seeing the doctor again. With rehab, he has a shot (of avoiding surgery),” said Hausmann. “With the hamate bone it’s, ‘here’s the surgery, here’s the rehab, good luck.’
“He plays the game he wants to, and he got hurt,” Hausmann continued. “He can deal with that.”
Hausmann learned a long time ago never to doubt Kalish’s grit and determination.
“Knowing him as a high school kid, you knew he had a shot,” Hausmann. “I played with kids who were better talent-wise, but none of them had the mentality he had. You can tell he has a tremendous shot to become successful because of his makeup.”