Eagles vs. Red Sox 2016

Eagles huddle up before exhibition game.
The Eagles huddle up before starting their exhibition game with the Red Sox in Florida. The annual contest, which began 26 years ago, has become a popular gathering event for BC alumni. (Photo by Jim Pierce)
Athletics & Recreation / Sports | March 01, 2016

Eight months after tossing a shutout in the state championship game against Auburn High, freshman Steve Langone took the mound and prepared to throw the first pitch of his Boston College career.

It was the fourth inning of BC’s 1997 spring training exhibition against the Boston Red Sox at City of Palms Park in Florida, and the first order of business for the former Reading High star was facing Reggie Jefferson, who had hit 19 homers and batted .347 for the Sox the previous season.

“I struck Reggie out on a sidearm breaking ball, probably because he never saw anything so slow,” Langone recalled with a smile. “I really had some butterflies. I remember throwing a pitch behind [Sox batter] Jeff Frye and that I got out of the inning without giving up a run when our right fielder threw out Troy O’Leary at third base.”

It was the beginning of an All-American career for the right-hander, who was inducted into the Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2008.

“And years later, it’s come full circle for me,” said Langone, entering his fourth season as the Red Sox major league advance scout, as he watched the Eagles lose, 5-0, in the 26th annual BC-Red Sox game Feb. 29 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

Firmly entrenched as a tradition, the BC-Sox spring match-up is far more than a game: While BC players get a chance to rub shoulders and chat with big-league icons like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, alumni like Langone have the opportunity to reflect on and share baseball-related memories with others from the BC family.

“I played against the Red Sox four times in college, I pitched one season [2005] in their farm system, was hired as intern in 2009 and promoted to full advance scouting coordinator in 2010,” said Langone, a finance major who graduated from the Carroll School of Management in 2000.

Steve Langone and Mike Gambino.
Red Sox major league advance scout Steve Langone, left, with his fellow 2000 alumnus -- and former BC baseball teammate -- Mike Gambino, now the Eagles' head coach. (Photo by Jim Pierce)

A teammate and classmate of current Eagles head baseball coach Mike Gambino, Langone won 24 career games and was 8-2 his senior year when he led the nation with a 1.54 earned run average. He also had a career .356 average with 30 home runs as a DH and first baseman.

Langone was named Beanpot Tournament MVP his junior season after hitting two home runs – one over the Green Monster – at Fenway Park against the University of Massachusetts and the next season went nine innings to defeat higher seeded Notre Dame to give the Eagles their first-ever win in the Big East Tournament.

“Those are lasting memories,” said Langone, who always felt confident with Gambino behind him at second base. “Mike was a gritty player and a trusted teammate.”

Although Langone was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, injuries derailed an impressive pitching career, and he was out of professional baseball after 2006. But he stayed in the game playing with with the Wakefield Merchants of the Intercity League, with whom he played in high school and as a BC freshman and sophomore.

He was on track for a career as a financial advisor, but one day while at Fenway Park Langone bumped into Red Sox player development director Ben Crockett, his former Merchants teammate. Crockett offered him an internship with the Red Sox, and Langone – who’d been “looking for a foot in the door” – accepted on the spot.

“It was the best decision I ever made.”

His current job – which began during the Sox 2013 championship season – requires a sharp mind and a packed suitcase for as many as 30 days of travel at a time. Drawing on past experience as a pitcher, hitter and baserunner, Langone takes notes on the strengths and weaknesses of opposing players, watching how each team runs its bullpen and focusing on specific game situations. He files those reports the day before each series and goes over key points via a conference call with the Sox coaches.

“My high school coach, Peter Moscariello, made us pay attention to detail and that has stayed with me to this day,” said Langone.

Langone still has a copy of the NESN broadcast of his BC debut against the Sox; it’s on multiple DVDs shared with his parents, Paul and Marlinda, who were in the stands that day, and family friends.

“It seems like yesterday,” he said, “but that was 19 years ago.”

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BC players watch David Oritz during batting practice.
Boston College players watch Red Sox slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz get in some batting practice. (Photo by Jim Pierce)

When Shrewbury, Mass., native Diane Van Parys ’80 threw out the first pitch at JetBlue on Feb. 29, the moment was both exhilarating and poignant.

Van Parys, leader of the more than 400-member Southwest Florida Chapter of the BC Alumni Association, wore a Don Kessinger model glove given to her by her late father, Philip, 47 years ago.

“I was playing in the Lassie softball league and I remember it cost $6.99 and I used a magic marker to print my last name [Eckland] on one of the fingers,” said Van Parys, a retired sales and marketing executive with Coca-Cola and Mobil Oil, who resides in Naples, Fla.

The moment is preserved on her Facebook page. “The pitch went in the air, so no grounder and I was very happy,” she said.

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Former Eagles baseball players Dave Bowen ’60 and Jerry Greely ’62, teammates on BC’s 1960 College World Series team, and Brian Sullivan ’63, MA ’65 were among those gathered at the well-attended pre-game alumni reception.

Sullivan, who grew up in Dorchester and once played against Sox legend Tony Conigliaro while at Boston College High, noted that his four sons and three daughters-in-law attended BC and that his granddaughter Sarah is a current sophomore. He is former director of BC’s Institute for Scientific Research.

Bowen, an infielder who grew up in Attleborough and attended Coyle-Cassidy High, and Greely, a sports star at Gloucester High who pitched for the ’61 College World Series team, recalled laughingly that during their time at BC, “our Southern swing was to Providence, RI.”

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Senior outfielder Logan Hoggarth of North Port, the only Floridian on the team and one of the Eagles’ best hitters, was energized by the crowd at JetBlue, which is only about 50 miles from his home. Among those attending were his parents, Gayleen and Kevin, and high school friends.

“I always look forward to this game,” said Hoggarth, a communication major. “I had dinner with my parents over the weekend.”

Hoggarth and his teammates improved to 7-0 after winning three games at the Snowbird Classic in nearby Port Charlotte the weekend prior to the Red Sox matchup. Because of a scheduling quirk, BC practiced during the Classic at Hoggarth’s old high school field. “This was the first time I played there since I graduated,” he said. “It gave me goose bumps.”

Hoggarth said he became a devoted Red Sox fan after Hurricane Charlie destroyed the Little League field near his home in 2004.

“The Red Sox held a fundraiser at City of Palms Park to help rebuild our field,” he said. “I remember Tim Wakefield pitched to us and Jason Varitek caught. That’s pretty exciting for a young kid.”

By Marvin Pave | Special to the Boston College Chronicle