PAWTUCKET — Lacey Middlebrooks arrived in this city, fully expecting to see brother Will Middlebrooks hone his craft with the Pawtucket Red Sox while fulfilling her internship requirements with the Triple-A ball club.
Borrowing from an idiom, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” Yes, there is a Middlebrooks presently at McCoy Stadium, yet instead of someone making connections with fans seated behind the outfield fence, this particular Middlebrooks is building a rapport as a pre-game, on-field coordinator and press box contributor.
Lacey Middlebrooks performs the aforementioned tasks all while keeping a close eye on her brother’s at-bats with the Red Sox. In fact, watching Will on television has proven helpful with Lacey passing on her observations whenever the pair chat on the phone.
Her credentials as a star pitcher/designated player for the University of Tulsa softball team undoubtedly grants this 21-year-old passage into a realm that isn’t typically seen in a brother/sister duo.
“We can talk about anything so that I can say, ‘From TV view, it looks like you’re half a second too early,’” says Lacey Middlebrooks. “I’m nowhere near a coach, but you can offer constructive criticism. Anything helps, no matter how small it is.”
Lacey Middlebrooks started making plans to spend the summer of 2012 at McCoy as far back as last fall. Will Middlebrooks had joined the PawSox in August, and given her hectic schedule as a student-athlete, Lacey asked Will to inquire about internships with the PawSox that were geared specifically toward public relations.
Shortly following a wintertime phone interview from her Oklahoma dorm, Lacey was informed she met the qualifications for the position. A communications major, all she had to do was make it through her junior season with the Drillers – Lacey transferred to Tulsa after spending 2010 at the University of Minnesota – and she would be Rhode Island-bound, watching Will take those final steps needed to become a big leaguer while simultaneously acquire hands-on experience in an area she wishes to someday have a career in.
Then came May 2, the night Will Middlebrooks made his debut with Boston. Naturally Lacey was elated by said development. Speaking earlier this week, she admitted that the ramifications of Will’s promotion – ones pertaining to big brother looking out for little sister – didn’t resonate until Tulsa’s elimination from NCAA Tournament play.
“Knowing that my brother was going to be (with the PawSox), I was going to know someone,” Lacey said. “Then everything changed. It kind of threw me for a loop; I didn’t know anyone (in Pawtucket).”
Growing up in Texarkana, Texas, Will and Lacey Middlebrooks were always around one another. A basketball and softball standout in high school, Lacey’s advanced athletic talents allowed her to dip in the same pool of friends as Will. The life lessons she learned as a Lone Star State youngster were carried over to college with Lacey understanding the importance of budgeting her time all while adjusting to foreign surroundings.
In time, she became familiar with the art of fending for oneself, a skill she would tap into upon situating herself with the PawSox. Thankfully, she didn’t have to worry about accommodations as there was a place in East Providence that had a vacancy – one created by the big-league promotion of brother Will.
“I adapted a lot quicker than I assumed I would,” said Lacey, coming off a spring campaign that saw her named Co-Pitcher of the Year in Conference USA and MVP of the conference’s postseason tournament. “Once the unknown was figured out and I knew who I was working with and what I would be doing, it made the process a little bit easier.”
Lacey Middlebrooks isn’t one of those need-to-know family members devoting time to reading what the press is writing about Will. Simply put, she knows Will Middlebrooks as Will, not some hotshot rookie third baseman whose play made Kevin Youkilis expendable in a trade.
“Dating back to high school, we always said, ‘Don’t pay attention to the stats or what everyone else is saying,’ Sometimes (the writers) are giving people what they want to read,” Lacey acknowledged.
That doesn’t mean she’s the picture of calm whenever Will’s turn with Boston comes up.
“I stress and get nervous for him because I want him to do so well,” said Lacey. “By the same token, it’s awesome to be able to sit there and watch him because [being a pro ballplayer of the highest order] is something that he’s always talked about.”
Lacey Middlebrooks officially started working for the PawSox on Memorial Day weekend. She had to be patient as whenever the Red Sox were home, so too were the PawSox. Finally on June 19, Lacey made the trek to Fenway Park to see Will play in person.
“Just being there to support him and experience the atmosphere for myself, I was in awe just because of what he’s getting to do,” Lacey recalls.
At Fenway, Lacey got some face time with Boston shortstop Mike Aviles, someone who’s been looking out for Will Middlebrooks as far back as spring training.
“(Aviles) makes jokes that he’s the dad and Will’s the son,” shared Lacey Middlebrooks. “Everything I’ve heard from Will, just being able to live with someone (Aviles) and learn every single day rather that being by yourself … Mike’s been a great mentor.”
Switching gears slightly, Lacey Middlebrooks expressed what Youkilis meant to Will. “From spring training, I remember seeing the two of them together. Anyone that understands sports knows that you don’t get anywhere by yourself. There’s someone you’ve watched that you’re inspired by.
“Everyone knows that if you play on a team and there’s a person above you, your competitive nature is telling you to beat that guy. You want to beat him because it’s competition,” added Lacey. “Youkilis pushed Will and vice versa.”
As Will Middlebrooks’ fame and popularity with Red Sox fans has risen over the past two months, Lacey has been asked whether her brother has changed.
“He’s extremely driven and we come from a driven family,” she said. “There’s no bias in this at all, but he’s the same Will that he was when he was 18 and going into something he had no clue about.
“He’s so humble because he knows things can change. You can have this amazing at-bat one day and the next day, you can’t touch anything,” Lacey delves further. “You can’t get ahead of yourself because that’s when things happen. That’s why he’s tried to grasp every moment and appreciate the opportunity he’s been given.
“He really is the person that he seems like.”
For someone who anticipated spending the summer with her brother, Lacey Middlebrooks is just fine with the concept of following her brother through the prism of big-league baseball.
“I don’t want to see him anywhere (near McCoy Stadium),” she remarks while smiling.