By Joshua Kummins / New England Baseball Journal
For Babson coach Matt Noone, who has served as a Red Sox assistant since 2004, and his players, who have enjoyed a unique vantage point, this World Series championship means something more.
Red Sox Nation has long spanned to the borders of all six New England states and far, far beyond, but there is no doubt that those involved in the local baseball community took especially great pride in watching the hometown Major League Baseball team win a franchise-best 119 games en route to its fourth World Series championship in 15 years.
However, few people in the region have had a closer view of all the action at Fenway Park than Babson College head coach Matt Noone. The Beavers' 17thyear boss has served as an assistant to each Red Sox coaching staff since 2004.
"I try to go in for most home games during the summer and help the hitting coach (Tim Hyers) and the other coaches with whatever they need," said Noone, who serves as a left-handed batting practice pitcher in addition to, among other duties, hitting fungos and working with players in the batting cage. "Babson obviously takes precedent, but it's an unbelievable opportunity for me to learn and grow as a coach at the highest level of baseball, so I make an effort to be there as much as I can."
Noone's role with the on-field staff has developed since he began throwing for the Red Sox under Terry Francona, who was the first of four managers with which he has worked. Noone remains one of the longer-tenured members of the staff, having played a small part in all four of the team's championships following the 86-year curse.
This title was different, though. And not just because Noone had a close view of the team's incredible work ethic and the day-in, day-out preparation.
"It's really hard to win and it's even harder to win a championship, so you have to give great credit to any team that wins a championship," Noone said. "But I took great satisfaction in this one because I felt like my Babson team had a small part in it."
Because of Noone's longtime relationship, the Sox entrusted him with numerous players who were injured and didn't travel with the team throughout the season.
For one, Brock Holt worked out on the Wellesley, Mass., campus throughout the winter, too, giving the Beavers an upclose look at the utility player's batting and fielding practices that their coach gets to see when he's working at Fenway. They also shagged balls for and observed the likes of shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers.
The Babson players' experiences rubbing shoulders with the Red Sox offered plenty of lessons for anyone competing at the college level, but the way in which they learned them — having them on campus prior to and during the season, and traveling to Fenway on multiple occasions — certainly was unique.
"One of the days I went in, Bogaerts had a pitching machine throwing him nasty curveballs, and every single swing was a line drive to second base," said Babson sophomore catcher Alex Reynolds (Hopkinton, Mass.). "You can watch these guys hit 400-foot home runs on TV, but they all go back to the drills that we did in high school. These guys are some of the best at their craft, obviously, and you can see why in their attention to detail in everything they do."
Reynolds and fellow catchers Sean Harrington (Walpole, Mass.) and Aidan Scott (South Glastonbury, Conn.) have gotten up-close looks of their own over the last year, catching bullpens for Craig Kimbrel, David Price and a number of other Sox pitchers.
"I've been a Yankees fan my whole life, but you have to put that aside because it's such an amazing experience," Scott said. "I think working so closely gave us all a different mindset about these guys. We caught (Kimbrel) in our gym, and three weeks later we were watching him pitch at Fenway Park on TV."
Like Holt during the winter, Kimbrel was, as Harrington put it, "a frequent flyer" at Babson when he stayed back from spring training to be with his daughter who was recovering from heart surgery at Boston Children's Hospital.
Kimbrel spent more than two weeks in Boston and made it back to the mound in time to open the season. The up-close experience made following this season's run that much more special for Noone and his players.
"I take great pride in the fact that they trusted me to work out some of the guys and get them ready while the team was away," Noone said. "It was a great source of satisfaction and pride for us when Kimbrel grabbed me after the parade and said, 'Just make sure you thank your team for all that they did for me because I'm not sure what my year would have been like if I didn't have you guys.'"
Working with Major League Baseball players doesn't just offer lessons for players. It's coaches, too. Noone knows that the attention to detail he sees in the Red Sox from his unique perspective is a major benefit to his Babson team.
"All these MLB teams work very hard, but there was something more to it this year with the preparation and diligence about the daily grind," said Noone, whose Babson teams have won back-to-back NEWMAC championships. "When you see the focus of Kimbrel throwing off a mound or you see the diligence of Brock (Holt) with his swings, it really rubs off on the guys and I see our practices improve."