EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 26, 2013

Baseball is in his blood

Andover's Harry Roche setting foundation for big league future ... as GM

By Hector Longo

---- — ANDOVER – Harry Roche figuresays he has watched the baseball movie “Moneyball” only four or five times.

“But that scene where (Brad Pitt as) Billy Beane works the phones with the Giants and the Mets at the same time, just to get the relief pitcher (Ricardo Rincon) he needs to lock down the division title? I’ve probably watched that 35 times. That’s exactly how I want to spend my life, running a Major League Baseball team just like that.”

Roche, the Phillips Academy senior catcher, has already set the wheels for that lifelong ambition in motion. The quest might wait, though.

This junior executive par excellence has got a little playing to do.

“My dream has always been to play college baseball, but for a while I really wasn’t sure if that could happen,” said Roche.

Barely used as a junior, Roche, who turns 18 next week, put the offseason and workout time in to force himself into the lineup.

Fresh off a Central New England Prep title, the Big Blue brought in a legit blue-chip catching prospect in Dover’s John Simourian. It did little to deter Roche, who outworked them all, forcing coach Kevin Graber to use him in the lineup.

Sweeping Worcester and Deerfield, fourth-seeded Phillips repeated as CNEP champ and Roche stood right in the thick of it, with two hits, two RBIs, reaching base three other times in the twinbill.

“Coming into this season, I never really expected to play like this, but I did a lot of work,” said Roche, who obviously has put similar effort in the classroom with his 4.2 (on a 6.0 scale) gpa and his 2,000 on the SATs. “I spent a lot of time with my ‘Hitting Doctor’ Dave Bettencourt. He always seems to know what’s up with my swing.”

In the fall, Roche will attend Division 1 Villanova University, making a serious bid to walk-on.

“I probably could play Division 3 baseball somewhere, but I went to visit Villanova and I fell in love with the school first, and that’s what they say you’re supposed to do.”

Roche will be up against it, as he has most of his life, battling through the youth ranks in Andover. But considering the strides he’s made at Phillips, few would be unwise enough to doubt him now.

“As my dad always tells me, keep your head up at all times,” said Roche. “Whatever is there to knock you, something good is going to follow if you keep your head up and focus on the positive.”

Harry’s dad is Dan Roche, North Andover native and longtime Boston sports anchor on Channel 4. While it’s “cool,” having your dad on TV almost every night, what’s been even better is that the father and son share an adoration for baseball.

While Dan graduated from Syracuse University, he originally attended Div. 3 Nasson College in Springvale, Maine with express purpose of playing college baseball. He had planned all along to attend Syracuse b

The school went defunct after his freshman year and transferred to Syracuse with his baseball playing career over.

”I had a blast playing at Nasson,” said Dan. “And then I went to Syracuse for four years and started my broadcasting career. It was awesome.”

Through the years, the two have spent countless hours talking the game, talking about players, analyzing situations and enjoying themselves every minute.

“I always told (Harry and his younger sister Torii) that if you catch, you learn the game better and no matter when you stop playing, you can watch baseball with a solid knowledge of the game,” said Dan.

“The thing about Harry is that I’ve said to every coach he’s ever had, from Little League all the way up, is if you put him on your team you’ll thank him by the time he’s done playing for you. You won’t find a better teammate and he does all the little things to help you become a better team.”

Anyone who has seen the elder Roche ply his craft understands Harry’s passion and optimism, especially when it comes to baseball and Boston sports. Dan actually found positives in the Red Sox disaster of 2012.

It’s that kind of faith that motivates Harry to make something happen for himself.

This summer, thanks to Graber and his connections, Harry will hook up with Yankees New England Director of Scouting Matt Hyde – a Phillips alum – and head to the famed Cape Cod League.

He’ll live as a player, with a host family courtesy of the Wareham Gatemen, and then apprentice for Hyde, who will leave after the first two weeks and allow Roche to ride solo.

“I will be expected to scout the whole league and rank every player on the Cape. There will be a ton of responsibility and statistical analysis to go through. I can’t wait,” said Roche.

Obviously, this opportunity is huge. It had to be for Roche to slide over to the dark side.

“Oh, I’ll still love the Red Sox,” Harry noted, “But now, I have to hate the Yankees a little less.”

Harry has already scouted the lay of the land on the Cape.

He’s locked down spots in workout facilities and planned times to swing the bat and hone his game on the field as well.

“I’m hoping to find a team to play on down there, too,” he said. “I will need this summer to get ready to try out in the fall.”

Either way, Roche will be well on his way to the majors, having a foundation few teens will ever match.

“I’m not sure at all about his future as a player,” said Big Blue head coach Kevin Graber. “But I’m positive that some day we’ll see him running a big league team.”

MEET HARRY ROCHE Phillips Academy Senior Catcher Hometown: Andover Athletic heritage: His dad, Dan, played baseball for North Andover High but is best known as the one of New England's top media presences as an anchor/reporter for WBZ-TV, Ch. 4 sports. His mom, Pam (Moran) Roche was a three-sport standout at Methuen High School and a scholarship hoop player at Merrimack College. Harry's exploits: Roche has played on back-to-back Central New England Prep baseball champions at Phillips Academy. This year he's been a regular contributor for the Big Blue, toting a .300 on-base percentage and committing no errors in the field. He will attempt to walk-on at Villanova in the fall. Did you know: Roche played basketball and football at Phillips through his junior season when he decided to focus completely on baseball. "When I started to see these monster 300-pound linemen, and these amazing 6-foot-8 point guards out there, I realized baseball was the sport for me," he jokes. Proud big brother: Roche's younger sister Torii made the Andover High varsity softball team as a freshman. True story: After Harry's first Little League homer, his dad was on assignment at Fenway Park and proudly mentioned the home run to former Sox manager Terry Francona. "When Harry got home from school, there were messages of congratulations not only from Tito, but from Kevin Millar and Curt Schilling. That was pretty cool," said Dan.