Herb Crehan: Do you agree with the sentiment that life begins again on Opening Day?
Frank Sullivan:You bet! Even though I watch almost all sports on TV, and we get plenty here in the islands, baseball is still the most fascinating game to me. I wish I had paid more attention to the overall game when I was playing. I only concentrated on days I pitched.
I was a rooter for my teammates but never got into things like stealing signs, or all the hundreds of things to notice that contribute to a win. Like if the enemy catcher just got hit by a foul ball off his finger tips. If you have a man on base it’s time to try and steal. Like stroking an umpire with, “Hey! You might have missed one there, but you have been damn good overall.” Like being a third base coach and knowing outfielders who don’t back up the guy next to him, so you can send the runner home if the ball gets by the first guy. And it goes on and on.
Herb Crehan: New Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino lives on Maui and you are on Kauai; do you feel a connection to Shane?
Frank Sullivan:I haven’t met him in person yet so I can’t say there is a connection. But the way he has conducted himself as a ball player and a citizen makes him a guy I want to meet. And if he can sustain what he is doing for the team at this point, he may be one of the best deals the Red Sox ever made.
Herb Crehan: Is it a coincidence that the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is wearing your old Red Sox number: # 18?
Frank Sullivan: Dick Bresciani [Red Sox VP and Team Historian] did me a favor and gave Shane my book [Life Is More Than 9 Innings]. He told Dick he knew about me and chose #18 because he knew it had been mine and we are islanders.
We that live in the remotest set of islands on earth have a common bond hard to explain. Living here for more than half my life I feel it to the core. And to think a kid on Maui or Kauai can break into the ring of any sports elite is extremely satisfying to us all.
Herb Crehan: You mention Dick Bresciani going out of his way to help get you in touch with Shane; how does the Red Sox ownership and management treat former Red Sox players?
Frank Sullivan: The present ownership is simply the best. In all of baseball, no other club comes close to the way we are treated. They even put out a magazine called Diamond Days twice each year that is filled with news of former teammates and events going on. And I’m not talking about a couple of pages. The last one was 43 pages. And they don’t sell it to the public! And believe me the ownership before this one could have cared less.
Herb Crehan: The 2013 Red Sox are off to a terrific start; how important is it to a club’s attitude to be playing winning baseball?
Frank Sullivan: Winning games has a way of snowballing, especially if the players like each other. There is nothing like being cheered on by your peers. And then add that the manager doesn’t seem to have his own agenda and you have a mix that can compete.
Herb Crehan: Do you agree that “it is always about pitching,” and what do you think about this year’s Red Sox pitching staff?
Frank Sullivan: Pitching is the first line of defense. And defense is absolutely a must in Fenway Park. To date the Red Sox staff has been outstanding! Other than [Andrew] Miller, the bullpen has excelled. And if Miller ever finds a pitch he can throw for a strike on demand he will be un-hittable.
Herb Crehan: Do you think it helps pitchers to have a former pitcher and former pitching coach like John Farrell as the Red Sox manager?
Frank Sullivan: Not necessarily. I think Farrell is to be commended for putting a whole new attitude in place for not only the pitchers but the whole club. I think he has the team trusting him. He seems to be an open guy with no hidden agenda. He seems to be their best fan.
Herb Crehan: April and even May can be pretty cold in Boston and the northeast; how much of an adjustment is it to pitch in 30-40 degree weather?
Frank Sullivan: Gripping the baseball is much harder when it’s cold. But the training staff can keep your arm and body warm enough with stuff they smear on.
Herb Crehan: We could use an upbeat Patriot’s Day story about now: what was it like to report to Fenway for the only morning game in all of professional sports?
Frank Sullivan: It didn’t bother me a minute. I loved going to the park and the time meant nothing. What could be better than going to the park and change clothes into what was required to work out and then relax in the environment you loved. I was one of those first-in-last-out guys. To tell the truth, if they had provided a few beers and a bed I might never have left the place.
Herb Crehan: I know it is awfully early in the season, but what does your experience tell you about the 2013 Red Sox chances?
Frank Sullivan: Every team will go through a particular phase of bad luck or key injury or poor hitting and pitching with the result there might be some doubt creep into play. If this team can weather those moments and keep coming to the park to win, and not come to find out who will win, I think they can be there at the end.
Herb Crehan This team seems to have better chemistry than last year’s underachievers; how important is clubhouse harmony to a team’s success?
Frank Sullivan: Once again, I put clubhouse harmony right behind good pitching and good hitting. When guys like each other they simply can’t stand failing in front of their pals.