EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 26, 2011

Baseball bond runs deep for Gedmans

By David Willis
dwillis@eagletribune.com

LOWELL — The two men stood side by side just in front of the Lowell Spinners dugout, longtime Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman resting his hand on the shoulder of son Matt as he passed along a few words of advice.

"It feels like old times," said Rich Gedman. "I use to drag him to the ballpark and throw him pitches, and watched all of his Little League games. Now he is following his dream."

At 22 years old and now noticeably taller than his dad, Matt Gedman still listened closely to his father's advice, just as he has done his entire baseball life.

"On the field he is coach," said Matt. "But off the field he is just dad. To see him every day, to be around him is amazing. He's been working with me since I was a little kid."

Little League has now been replaced by professional baseball, but the two Gedmans again find themselves in the same dugout, father and son donning the uniform of the Lowell Spinners.

Matt, after a stellar senior season at UMass, is kicking off his professional baseball career as an infielder for the Spinners, the same year his father has returned to the Red Sox organization after 21 years away to serve as Lowell hitting coach.

"My goal this season was to work as hard as I could to get here (to Lowell)," said Matt. "It really hits you that you are being paid to play for the Red Sox organization."

From a young age, baseball bonded the two Gedmans.

Matt — the middle of Rich and Sherry's three children — was born at the end of the 1988 baseball season, Gedman's ninth as a member of the Red Sox. His son became a fixture at the park during his final 1 1/2 seasons in Boston, then half a season in Houston and two final campaigns in St. Louis.

"I was too young to remember his Red Sox days," said Matt. "But I remember St. Louis and going to spring training. It was so much fun."

After Gedman retired, the family moved back to Massachusetts and Matt began playing baseball.

"Every dad coaches their kid," said Rich, who grew up in Worcester. "I let their coaches coach them when they got older, but if they needed advice or wanted to throw the ball around, I was always there."

Matt blossomed at Belmont Hill, where as a senior he hit .511 with nine home runs and 51 RBI. He was recruited to play both baseball and hockey at UMass.

Gedman spent two seasons playing both sports, but struggled on the diamond, hitting .276. But after leaving the hockey team, the reserve goalie found his swing. As a senior this spring he hit .402 and was named NCBWA District 1 Player of the Year.

"I was excited to play for anyone," said Gedman. "Then the Red Sox took me and it was even more special. I have loved the Red Sox my whole life."

The Red Sox chose Gedman in the 45th round of the draft and sent him to the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .282 in 32 games before being promoted to Lowell.

Matt admits that the family connection initially weighed on his mind.

"I was trying to prove that I wasn't here because of my name," said Matt. "I tried to do too much and didn't put myself in the position to succeed. I put too much pressure on myself."

But, while it has been an adjustment, Matt said it has been a joy being around his father.

"We have a great relationship and I have missed him," he said. "I respect and am proud of what he did in baseball. I think it is so cool my dad played in the majors. But to me he is just my father. I can talk to him every night about hitting and anything."

When asked about his son, the soft-spoken Gedman couldn't help but glow with pride.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself," he said. "He is following his dream. He has earned the right to be here. He can play and he has passion. I am so proud of the way he has handled the game and gone about his business.

"I think, when we look back, we will realize how special this is. We will realize how lucky we are."

VIDEO TEASE

For video interviews with Matt and Rich Gedman, visit eagletribune.com.

Tools of ignorance

While he followed his father into baseball, Matt Gedman chose not to become a catcher like Rich.

"I caught some as a kid," he said. "But having pucks shot at me as a goalie (in hockey) was enough of being hit by stuff."

The Matt Gedman file

Age: 22

Team: Lowell Spinners

Position: Infield

Drafted: 45th round, 2011 draft by Red Sox

High school/college: Starred in high school at Belmont Hill, hitting .511 with nine home runs and 51 RBI as a senior. Played four years at UMass, finishing with a .334 career average with 14 homers and 94 RBIs in 142 games. Once played all nine positions in one game as a member of the now-defunct Lowell All-Americans summer league team. Also was a reserve hockey goalie for two years at UMass.

Professional career: Played 31 games for Gulf Coast Red Sox, hitting .282 with 15 RBIs. In 16 games with Lowell Spinners, hitting .143 with a homer.

Family: Father Rich played 13 seasons in the major leagues, 10 1/2 with the Red Sox. Brother Mike played baseball at UMass Amherst, hitting .327 with 13 homers in his final two years. Sister Marissa is a hockey star at Harvard (ECAC All-Rookie team). Mother Sherry is the No. 2 softball career ERA in UConn history (0.57 in 1980-81).