As the associate head coach at Norwalk (Conn.) Community College, Patrick Vigilio enjoyed a front row seat to see Erik Bedard go from an unknown with tried-and-true Canadian roots to a bona fide staff ace.
“Erik was a hockey player for the most part. Most kids in Canada are because they don’t have high school baseball up there,” recalled Vigilio in a telephone interview Friday. “He was throwing in the mid 80s when he started out, but through hard work he was able to take his game to the next level, obviously.”
That said, Vigilio would like to set the record straight regarding Bedard, who pitched for Norwalk from 1998-99. Whatever you’ve heard or read about Bedard after the Red Sox acquired him last Sunday, don’t believe it. He may not wear his emotions on his sleeve, but to those who knew him back when, that’s simply Erik being Erik.
“He’s a very even-keeled person. He never gets too high and never gets too low and his demeanor hasn’t changed much at the professional level,” said Vigilio. “If you watch him regardless of what the situation is, if he’s up 8-0 or down 4-0, his composure pretty much stays the same. He’s always had a professional approach to what he did.”
Vigilio’s statement almost seems too good to be true, especially when referenced in the same sentence as the tweet ESPN.com baseball writer Jerry Crasnick fired off just days before Bedard went from a last-place team (Seattle) to a Red Sox club that could very well be counting on the southpaw to pitch meaningful innings come October.
Crasnick claimed Bedard, “has J.D. Drew’s durability and John Lackey’s media relations skill. He’s the perfect Red Sox player.”
Again, Vigilio would like to clear up any misconceptions about Bedard.
“After being around Erik for two years, you’re not going to compare kids when they’re 18- or 19-years-olds at the college level compared to what they’re doing as a 30-something at the major-league level,” he said. “To me, not much has changed. Your personality and competitiveness are pretty much defined when you’re 18 or 19. As you move on, you learn more effective and better ways of doing things.
“Erik has established himself in the big leagues for quite some time and has overcome some injuries that others have never returned from,” Vigilio went on. “I think things like that speak volumes about his determination and willingness to continue to be a professional baseball player. He’s going to give a great effort when he goes out there for Boston just like he did with Baltimore and Seattle.”
Vigilio didn’t mince words when dubbing Bedard, “a New England baseball success story.” As a freshman he went from mere walk-on to major cog in helping Norwalk reach the Division III Junior College World Series.
The following year he earned Div. III National Player of the Year kudos and was drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore.
“We lost a winner’s bracket game in ’98 by a 1-0 score and Erik had something like 12 strikeouts in eight innings,” Vigilio said. “The next year he started throwing in the 90s with a pretty dominant curveball. At that time he was throwing a knuckle-curve that was absolutely ridiculous, but they haven’t allowed him to throw it at the professional level. It was a pretty impressive pitch because he could throw it any place he wanted for a strike, and with velocity.”
Asked what his reaction was upon hearing Bedard was Boston-bound, Vigilio replied, “Myself and coach (Mark) Lambert [the head coach at Norwalk] have been trying to reach him since the trade. We’ve had a lot of contact with New Englanders and his teammates at the college level are pretty excited he’s back in the region. He’s basically looked at as a New England kid and I’m sure he’s pretty excited about pitching for the Red Sox, especially since they’re involved in a pennant race.”
Vigilio was unable to catch Bedard’s Boston debut Thursday night, a five-inning stint in which he allowed three runs against Cleveland.
Judging by the highlights he saw Friday morning, Vigilio feels Bedard will prove a fine addition for the Red Sox – once he moves past the knee problems that slowed him earlier in the season.
“His demeanor is that he takes things in stride, but he’s probably one of the most competitive people you’ll be around,” said Vigilio. “Very quiet intensity and controlled aggression is how I describe Erik. Just because it’s not let out in a showmanship capacity as a lot of athletes do today doesn’t mean he doesn’t care just as much about his performance as the next guy. There’s an internal fire that burns for success.”