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Brunansky’s ‘still in awe’ over honor from Red Sox

May 8, 2012

Rochester Red Wings hitting coach Tom Brunansky (left), shown talking with fellow coach Riccardo Ingram during a recent workout by the Red Wings, will return to Fenway Park tomorrow when the Boston Red Sox pay tribute to the former right fielder’s sliding catch against the Chicago White Sox that clinched the A.L. East title in 1990.

PAWTUCKET — Say this about the Boston Red Sox – the organization is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to commemorating the centennial anniversary of Fenway Park.
As part of the season-long celebration, the Sox have set aside this month as a prime chance to revisit some of the ballpark’s most spine-tingling moments and salute the players primarily responsible for creating them.
One such act of preservation unfolds Thursday when Tom Brunansky’s Houdini Act along the right field line – a sliding catch that put a bow on Boston clinching the A.L. East title in 1990 – is revisited and relived.
Presently the hitting coach with Rochester, Brunansky came across as self-effacing with a dash of humble pie while sitting in the visiting dugout inside McCoy Stadium Tuesday. To have his catch – a pretty big one considering a spot in the playoffs hung in the balance – be considered among the crème de la crème of Boston baseball lore, it’s downright humbling.
“I’m still in awe,” the player affectionately known as “Bruno” remarked. “I knew about the 100 years deal and what they were planning on doing after running into (Red Sox historian) Dick Bresciani during spring training. To find out that they were including me, it’s still numbing in the sense of ‘How do I fit?’
“Just to be remembered for some brief moment in Red Sox history that’s considered special in time, it puts a smile on your face,” added Brunansky, who spent three of his 14 major-league seasons with Boston, averaging 15 home runs and 72 RBI for the 1990-92 squads.
In an era where professional teams in all sports pay homage to a specific player based on a career rooted in production and longevity, the fact that Boston is specifically setting aside time to reminisce about a defensive play speaks volumes to the frozen-in-time image that Brunansky helped generate.
“It’s a part of the game that kind of goes overlooked,” says Brunansky. “Everyone looks at the guy who hits the home run or strikes out the last guy out … those are the things that get the notoriety.
“There are parts of this game that are so small and intricate,” he expounded further. “I trained not for that specific moment, but for a situation like that.
“Every day I played in the minor leagues on, it all stems from standing in the outfield and shagging fly balls during batting practice. You prepare for that situation and work on it.
“(The catch) didn’t happen,” he said. “It was an instance where I knew what I was supposed to do and reacted to it.”
To find a date that would prove convenient for player and team didn’t prove such a chore. Looking out at the Red Wings players, Brunansky remarked “I have a priority; these are my boys,” when referencing why he was unable to attend last month’s birthday jubilee at Fenway Park that was highlighted by the return of ex-Red Sox players by the boatload.
With Thursday’s PawSox-Red Wings contest featuring a noontime start, Brunansky will be able to let his guard down for one night before rejoining the Rochester ball club Friday in Syracuse.
“That’s how the Red Sox think,” said an appreciative Brunansky. “To take the time, check the schedule and set up the arrangements, it’s just another little feeling of ‘wow.’”
Whenever Brunansky finds himself in the company of Red Sox fans, naturally the first question is how he was able to maintain his concentration while keeping an eye on the sinking liner off the bat of Ozzie Guillen, the Chicago White Sox hitter who sought to become a Boston villain in the same fashion that Robert Andino of the Baltimore Orioles morphed into last September. Replays show that Guillen was halfway between first and second before realizing that somehow, Brunansky had corralled it.
(In true Guillen fashion, the present day manager of the Miami Marlins tossed his helmet, a knee-jerk reaction likely rooted in disgust or disbelief, or perhaps both.)
“It’s always fun to bring it back; the memory never goes,” Brunansky said.
Originally drafted by the California Angels in 1978, the bulk of Brunansky’s salad days came while playing for the Minnesota Twins from 1982-88. The 51-year-old was on the Twins’ World Series-winning ’87 team before ending his career with 271 round trippers and 919 RBI in exactly 1,800 games played.
To bring those credentials to the table – Brunansky was Double-A New Britain’s hitting coach last year – has helped in striking a cord with his clientele.
“A lot of these kids, they weren’t born yet when I was playing. Thank God for Google, which allows them to go back and check it out,” Brunansky stated. “Through that comes with credibility, which helps to build up a persona that they look into your eyes and feel that they can trust you.
“When we’re talking about their hitting ability, they’re putting their trust in me,” Brunansky continued. “My whole thing is that we’re building blocks to the point that we’re so solid in our approach that it’s going to be tough to get out of it. My goal is to get these guys consistent at-bats.”

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