BOSTON — Gretchen Cherington couldn't have been prouder on the two-hour ride from Meridan, N.H. late yesterday morning.
Her only son, Ben Cherington, was ascending to probably the most important position in Boston professional sports, general manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Then she started going back and forth between the two Boston sports radio stations. She couldn't believe her ears.
"They were calling Theo (Epstein) every name under the sun," said Gretchen. "I couldn't believe what they were saying. Then it hit me: They might say those things about Ben some day. I don't think I could take it."
But in her next breath, she remembered the reason she was at Fenway Park. And, like all of us, she saw Ben handle himself like a media veteran during the introductory press conference while sitting beside Red Sox president Larry Lucchino.
"He's very good with people," she said. "He's been down here for a long time. He's been preparing for this job for it for a long time. Ben is ready."
As for her son's passion for the baseball, Gretchen said she's not sure if anyone other than Ben can take the credit.
It was almost as if the sport was part of Ben's DNA.
He attended his first Red Sox game with his grandmother as a 5-year-old. According to his kid sister, Molly, who took a day off from graduate classes at the University of Pennsylvania to be here yesterday, his baseball card collection was the best around town by the time he was 9.
"He did go on a trip with his dad (Alex) when he was 10," said Gretchen. "I think they travelled to every minor league park in the country. I don't know, maybe it was New England. All I know is they were away for two months."
Ben said when he was in junior high he made his mother drive to a store 15 minutes away just to get the Sunday Boston Globe so he could read their baseball notes page, which was loaded with names, stats and quotes.
"That was Ben," said Gretchen. "He couldn't get enough baseball."
Unlike his predecessor, Theo Epstein, Ben was a star player in high school, leading Lebanon High to a Class I state final berth as a junior.
He became the first Lebanon High graduate to attend Amherst College, which had as much to do with Ben being named general manager yesterday as anything.
At Amherst he played baseball for legendary coach Bill Thurston, who also coached Dan Duquette. Yes, that Dan Duquette!
"His guidance counselor, Nancy MacLeod, really thought Amherst would be a great place for him," she said. "She was so right. He loved it there. He met so many great people at Amherst."
Gretchen recalls one trip back to Amherst after Thanksgiving break when Ben was a junior.
"It was a great mother-son bonding trip," she said. "I asked him what he was thinking of doing when he got out of Amherst. He said he wanted to help a team win a World Series. Really, that's what he said. He didn't say the Red Sox. He said it's what he wanted to do. So I supported him."
It was Duquette, then GM with the Red Sox, who gave Ben his first internship.
"It was the best job he ever had," recalled Gretchen. "He would sit behind home plate and document pitches every game. Sometimes he'd even go on the road. He was in heaven."
The early years weren't easy. In fact, Ben left for Cleveland where he worked in their forward-thinking front office for one year before Duquette put him on the Red Sox payroll as a scout.
Since then, he has done everything and gone everywhere to help the Red Sox find players.
In fact, he was a key cog in the Manny Ramirez deal he signed in 2000, as he was one of the few employees to warm up to the Red Sox slugger because of his one year in Cleveland.
"I am very proud of Ben," said Gretchen. "He's a good person and he's got a healthy head on his shoulders. It's going to be tougher on me. I'll read the papers (today) because I think most of the stories will be positive. After that? I don't know."