Bulldogs in Beantown

Ryan Lavarnway ’09 was called up for his second stint with the Red Sox on Aug. 1.
Ryan Lavarnway ’09 was called up for his second stint with the Red Sox on Aug. 1. Photo by Charles Condro.

Pitcher Craig Breslow ’02 and catcher Ryan Lavarnway ’09 were never teammates at Yale, but they have been brought together with the Boston Red Sox.

Breslow and Lavarnway became the first Elis to be Major League teammates since 1949 after Lavarnway was called up from Triple-A on Aug. 1, a day after Breslow was traded from the Diamondbacks to Boston. Then, on Aug. 18, they became the first All-Yale battery in the majors since 1883.

Although the two are now on the national stage, they have not left Yale behind them.

Lavarnway said that he still talks to head coach John Stuper and several of his teammates from his days in the Blue and White. But his friends are not the only thing he misses from New Haven.

“Whenever I drive home, I always try to stop there,” Lavarnway said. “I miss the food … I always loved Alpha Delta Pizza [and] the Wenzel.”

Breslow, a Trumbull, Conn., native, has also kept ties to the University. His Strike 3 Foundation is in its fourth year of helping to fund the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation Program at Yale-New Haven Children’s hospital.

For Lavarnway, Yale may not just be a part of his past, but part of his future as well. The catcher left Yale following his junior year when he was selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round, but he said that he wants to return to Yale to finish his degree.

“There wasn’t a lot left for me in Ivy League baseball at that point,” Lavarnway said. “It was tough to leave Yale, because graduating was definitely a priority of mine. I wanted to spend senior year with my friends, but when an opportunity like that appears you’ve got to take it.”

Having withdrawn for “personal reasons,” Lavarnway said that when he finishes his career he will have to take two semester-long classes from an accredited university before reapplying to Yale.

Although he already graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, the possibility remains that Breslow could also return to school. He was accepted to New York University Medical School, but deferred enrollment to pursue his big-league dream.

“The window to play professional baseball is significantly narrower than the one to go to med school,” Breslow said on his decision to defer medical school. “For my whole life I’ve been playing baseball, and I didn’t know what it would be like waking up and not thinking about practice or a game … I just felt like I still wanted to play.”

He added that the length of his major league career, however, could lead him to decide against pursuing his M.D. upon retiring.

For their teammates, the two Elis are something of an oddity. Players near Lavarnway’s locker chuckled as he talked about majoring in philosophy. Breslow is not immune from the jokes either, and he was named the smartest professional athlete by Sporting News in 2010.

“I get made fun of,” Breslow said. “I don’t know what truth there is to that, or about the objectivity of the voting on that, but … considering the other things that people get made fun of for, it’s not that bad.”

When asked how he felt about having two Yale teammates on the Red Sox, former MVP second baseman Dustin Pedroia said jokingly, “Well, we could sure as hell win a debate.”

The Red Sox are 2–6 in the games Breslow and Lavarnway have played in together before last night.

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