PAWTUCKET – The topic was Ryan Lavarnway and the most prolific home run hitters to ever to suit up for the Pawtucket Red Sox. After all, when you’ve amassed 13 round trippers in 43 games – Lavarnway’s mashing rate heading into Monday’s action – you start flashing back to names like Jim Rice, Sam Horn, Phil Plantier and Izzy Alcantara and the baseballs they made vanish.
“The thing about Sam Horn was that he 30 home runs for us [in 1987] prior to getting up by Boston in middle of July. He was a towering guy,” noted PawSox president Mike Tamburro, serving as the official guide for this power-packed discussion. “He may have had the biggest home run year ever if he hadn’t gotten called up.”
The same argument also applies to Lavarnway, who has belted 27 homers between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland this season.
“It’s great to have a rising power hitter in this organization, somebody who’s homegrown,” noted Tamburro. “I’m not sure we’ve had one since Plantier.”
As a franchise the PawSox have seen a player connect for more than 25 home runs in a given season on 22 occasions. In case you were wondering, the single-season record is 36, shared by Earl Snyder (2004), Jack Baker (1976) and Alcantara (2001).
“Plantier was almost like a rattle snake. He had a funny stance and just coiled out of it and attacked the ball,” said Tamburro, referencing Plantier’s “toilet seat squat,” for which he can thank former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan.
“Baker and Izzy were raw power hitters in which the ball would jump off of their bats,” Tamburro continued. “Sam Bowen was a little guy and he hit 28 home runs [in 1979] and 27 [in 1981].”
There’s more to a slugger than just how many souvenirs he deposits over the fences, feels Tamburro. He’s an attention grabber, someone you don’t want to miss whenever his turn is looming.
Tamburro believes Lavarnway falls into the “worth watching” category.
“He’s a guy you look forward to see come to the plate with the game on the line, and so far he’s been a guy that wants to hit with the game on the line,” he said. “I love to watch him go about his business at the plate.
“There’s nothing like a home run hitter,” Tamburro added. “I think there’s a little bit of excitement or buzz in the crowd when that type of guy comes to the plate, and people are starting to realize that Lavarnway is that type of player. They’re also associating his name with the long ball.”
On July 19 at McCoy Stadium, Lavarnway sent a majestic blast to straightaway center that landed halfway up the roof on the concessions area/warehouse beyond the outfield wall.
“I immediately thought about Juan Diaz because he’s the only one to hit it over the concessions building [doing so in 2001],” was the flashback Tamburro had as he watched Lavarnway’s towering drive. “You thought Lavarnway had a shot when it first came off the bat.”
Lavarnway isn’t an all-or-nothing slugger in which he’ll either go yard or whiff. His numbers – .352 average with 16 doubles and 41 RBI – back up said claim, which further strengthens Tamburro’s belief that the Yale product is one of those rare talents that fans better enjoy before he’s off terrorizing major league pitching.
“I’m not sure who has stepped up with the power production from Double-A to Triple-A as quickly as this guy has,” Tamburro said, “but he’s also been an accomplished hitter. Look at all the doubles he’s hit.
“He’s a great addition and we’re fortunate to have him, especially in the middle of a pennant race” Tamburro said in closing. “To have a slugger as we try to make our move during the month of August, it really makes it a lot of fun.”