World series champs come home

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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

Just a few months after helping the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series, pitcher Craig Breslow ’02 and catcher Ryan Lavarnway ’09 made a special trip to New Haven to let the Yale community know they have not forgotten their roots.

The two former Bulldogs and current professional ballplayers visited the Yale Law School yesterday, bringing along with them the World Series trophies from 2004, 2007 and 2013, as part of a small “World Series rally” ceremony.

“I have nothing but great memories here,” Lavarnway said during the ceremony. “Walking around school, I’ve been eating at all my favorite places and have nostalgia going in my mind like crazy. It’s been great to see familiar faces.”

A few members of the Yale Law School community spoke in support of “Red Sox Nation” before turning the microphone over to Lavarnway and Breslow, the first Yale alumni to be teammates in the MLB since 1949 and the first all-Yale battery in the league since 1883.

Both players thanked Yale for the opportunity to come back to the school. Breslow had attended a similar event in 2008, after the Sox’s previous championship, because he had been playing in the Red Sox farm system during their victory that year.

He said he felt “more comfortable” being a part of the event this year because he was able to contribute more to the team — a 5–2 record as a relief pitcher with 33 strikeouts and a 1.81 ERA.

Breslow told the story of his first appearance on the Red Sox’s roster in 2007. He was called up to the team’s 40-man roster Sept. 1 because then-rookie Clay Buchholz was scheduled to start, and the team did not know how much relief he might need.

That was the night that Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second Major League start ever. He did not need any relief, let alone help from Breslow.

“After the game I was sent back to the minor leagues, earning the distinction as the only Major League player to ever receive a September call-down,” Breslow said.

Breslow also talked about his experience playing for a Red Sox team that won the World Series after finishing last in the AL East the year before.

He called the 2013 season “unique” because the teamwork exemplified by Boston allowed it to rise above many people’s expectations.

“The one thing that stood out to me was how well we came together as a single group,” Breslow said. “I’ve never played on a team that prioritized winning above any individual accomplishment.”

Dick Flavin, former Boston broadcaster and Red Sox poet laureate, emceed the event by performing a poem about Boston’s championship season, namely the beards that the Red Sox sported throughout the postseason.

“They hustled, they bustled, they played hard, they gave,” Flavin said in meter. “In fact, they did everything except shave.”

Former dean of Yale Law School and current law professor Harold Koh then gave a PowerPoint presentation providing “empirical evidence” that Yale had an influence on Boston’s recent success.

He mentioned Red Sox front office members, radio announcers and players from the past 10 years that have connections to either Yale or the New Haven area.

Koh jokingly took credit for initiating the team’s success with his term as dean and explained the results of the 2013 World Series by saying: “the starting pitcher doesn’t usually go all the way into the game.”

Law professor Michael Wishnie introduced Breslow and Lavarnway by listing their accomplishments in the Major Leagues, including Breslow’s achievement of being called “the smartest man in baseball.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell has even said: “Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.”

Law professor Dennis Curtis then explained his history of being a Red Sox fan through much of the team’s 86-year championship drought.

“It is not the winning alone that makes a fan,” Curtis said.

After the ceremony, both Breslow and Lavarnway said that they try to visit Yale as much as possible.

Lavarnway, who joined the “Big Brothers Big Sisters” mentoring program in his sophomore year, visited his little brothers from the program the night before the event.

“We have our favorite sandwich shops that we stop at on the road,” Lavarnway said. “I really love Alpha Delta, and you can’t miss Louie’s Lunch or Pepe’s, obviously. It’s nostalgia food for me, because I remember all of my great memories with my friends when I was in my formative years of college.”

Lavarnway also said that he has been talking with Yale administrators about finishing his degree in philosophy — he left Yale in 2008 before completing it.

Though the baseball season overlaps with both semesters, he said, he may take online classes to finish up his requirement.

“I’m willing to do the work and I want to get that degree, so we’re going to find a way to make it happen,” he said.

The event was initially open only to members of the Yale Law School community, but other students were allowed to enter after everyone from the law school had filed in.

Current members of the Yale baseball team David McCullough ’17 and Andrew Herrera ’17 said it was inspiring to meet baseball alumni who have had so much success on the big stage. Herrera said that it was particularly meaningful for him to see Yale baseball alumni return and show their support.

“It’s a pretty amazing event,” Herrera said. “They’re role models to me, so it’s an awesome experience.”

The event was organized by Larry Lucchino LAW ’71, president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, although he was unable to attend.

Breslow and Lavarnway both report to spring training workouts Feb. 17 in Fort Myers, Fla.

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