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October 31, 2013

Frank Thomas: North Andover's Hriniak the best

BOSTON — Former Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas is in Boston working for the MLB Network and he made it known that there is a friend of his about 30 miles away who he will never forget.

His former hitting coach Walter Hriniak, who resides in North Andover.

“Walt is the best hitting coach I ever had. It’s not even close,” said Thomas, who played 16 seasons with the White Sox and has a resume that may earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame. “He always had answers. Other coaches, some of them pretty good, had suggestions. He had answers, especially when I was going bad. He always knew what was wrong.”

Thomas won two American League MVPs (1993, ‘94) with Hriniak as his official hitting coach. Hriniak left the game after the 1995 season but remained Thomas’ personal hitting instructor his entire career. Thomas sometimes made trips to Boston to see Hriniak.

“Walt will always be my guy, always,” said Thomas, who finished with 2,468 hits and 521 home runs, the latter of which tied him with Ted Williams on the all-time home run list. “The best thing about Walt is he always had a program. It was always the same day-in and day-out whether you are going good or bad. I owe him a lot for helping me with my career.”

Speed factor

The Red Sox entered last night with just one stolen base in five World Series games. That’s a far cry from their 11 combined steals in the American League Division Series and American League Championship Series.

Boston certainly has speed. Jacoby Ellsbury already has set a club record for most steals (6) in one postseason. But Cards catcher Yadier Molina and the Cards pitchers have neutralized the Red Sox running game.

Stealing off Molina, who just won his sixth straight Gold Glove and has a cannon for an arm, surely isn’t an easy task. Molina threw out 43 percent of base stealers this season and is at 45 percent for his career. He has led the league in caught stealing percentage three times, including throwing out 64 percent in 2005.

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