By Bill Burt
---- — Brian Farley has heard the recent hype at World Series about Boston Red Sox phenom, 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts, and he is not surprised.
The Methuen native was managing the 2011 Netherlands national team to an incredible victory over Cuba in the World Cup in Panama — becoming only the second European team to win the title — when Bogaerts, only 19 at the time, was a backup infielder.
Everything being said about Bogaerts’ maturity now was being said about it two years ago.
”Xander didn’t play that much because we had some great middle infielders, some of whom are already very good major leaguers,” said Farley. “We had Didi Gregorius (with the Diamondbacks). We had a lot of talent on that team. But what strikes you the most about (Bogaerts) was his maturity and the way he goes about his business. Despite being this incredibly gifted young player, he was very team-oriented. ”
Bogaerts, according to Farley, has some maturity on the field, too, particularly when it comes to seeing pitchers. In fact, that has gotten as much play this postseason as his age and ability.
“His overall command of the strike zone is incredible, especially for his age,” said Farley.
“As long as I’ve known him, he just doesn’t expand the strike zone. He rarely chases bad pitches.”
Farley did recall one particular at-bat at the 2011 World Cup against Canada.
”It was late in the game. Xander was pinch-hitting,” said Farley. “He drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game up, which we eventually lost. But, he saw about nine pitches. That walk he had against (Max) Scherzer (of the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS) was amazing. That’s Xander.”
As for Bogaerts defense, Farley wasn’t able to assess that part of his game as much. But with his athleticism, he expects Bogaerts defense to not be a problem as he ages in the majors.
“If you’re from the Antilles (Islands), you grow up loving baseball and playing it year-round,” said Farley. “Most of the guys coming from there play in such poor conditions, with bad facilities, that they have to learn to play with their bare hands.”
Bogaerts grew up in Aruba, which is still run by Dutch Law, making him eligible for the Netherlands national teams.
“I am looking forward to watching his career,” said Farley, who was a scout for the Red Sox but resigned from the position. “Playing in this World Series is going to be a great experience. I’m thrilled he’s with the Red Sox, too. You’re going to love him, hopefully for a long time.”
The Farley File Brian Farley starred as a pitcher at Methuen High, St. Petersburg Junior College and Vanderbilt University before being drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. He toiled six years in the minor leagues with the Cardinals -- which included major setbacks from two shoulder surgeries -- splitting time between Erie, Pa., Macon, Ga., Springfield, Ill., and Savannah, Ga. In 1988 he pitched in Australia and later the Netherlands with Eerste Klasse. "For me initially, I was more or less a mercenary for hire," said the 52-year-old Farley. "I was not going to make a lot of money, but I was in middle of Europe. They paid for my room, car and I got spending money. I was planning on spending a summer playing Europe. Farley's plans changed three weeks into the season. The team was losing nearly every game and the coach quit. "They were desperate and they asked me to take over the role for awhile," said Farley, who once had a 92 mph fastball. "It really was like the Bad News Bears. I was pitching, managing and batting cleanup for a team in the second division of the country. It was crazy." After being involved with Dutch baseball for more than a decade, he recently resigned and teaches full-time. He is married to Reijnen Farley, who was a star softball player in the Netherlands, and they have an 11-year-old son Dylan. Farley and his family visited the Methuen area earlier this summer.