Bobby V. talks luck.
Webster defines it as “a purposeless, unpredictable force that shapes favorably or unfavorably for an individual, group or cause.”
It has also been defined as “events that influence one’s life and are seemingly beyond one’s control.”
Bobby Valentine has seen his share of the sometimes elusive one throughout his days as a ballplayer, manager or entrepreneur.
Valentine was the guest speaker at the Second Annual Torrington Titans Hot Stove Dinner, held Saturday night at the Cornucopia Banquet Facility in Torrington.
“When you are lucky,” Valentine said. “Stuff happens. How’s this for luck. After my junior year of high school I was lucky enough to play in the Cape Cod League. I got there because of a guy who coached at Providence College. He’s a 24-year old guy who is going to get the job at Yarmouth, a place he had played as a player in the Cape Cod League.”
Turns out the coach happened to be having dinner in Stamford, Connecticut where he ran into the high school coach who asked if he wanted to take in a game Valentine would be playing in the very next day.
“I get four hits that day, including two home runs,” Valentine said. “After the game, the coach went up to my parents and told them he want me to play for center field for him in the Cape Cod League.”
Turns out that coach made quite a name for himself over time, as did the kid from Stamford.
“That coach is now the President and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils and his name is Lou Lamorillo.” Valentine told the crowd.
From there, Valentine got drafted number one by the Los Angeles Dodgers (fifth overall) and played nine years in the majors before managing for 16 years in the majors with three teams and seven years in Japan.
He won a pennant with the New York Met’s in 2000 before falling to the dreaded New York Yankees in five games in the World Series.
Talking about how and what it takes to make the big show, Valentine told the group that a lot of it is about timing.
“It’s sometimes about being at the right place at the right time.” Valentine said. “It’s a grind, you have to dodge bullets.”
His college roommate was one Bill Buckner, a stellar ballplayer in his own right who is unfortunately remembered sometimes for the wrong reason, the ball that went through his legs during the 1986 World Series against the Mets while he played first base for the Boston Red Sox.
Buckner found himself on the wrong side of the above mentioned luck at many times during his career.
“He was with the Dodgers at the time and it was two days before the trade deadline.” Valentine said. “Billy played first but on this day, they asked him to play left so they could play Steve Garvey at first. Everybody was sure Garvey was being traded before the deadline but he got the game winning hit that day, started the next day at first and didn’t leave for 12 years.”
Buckner would be traded to the Chicago Cubs before moving on to the Red Sox and the rest is truly history.
When talking about the college game and why summer baseball is important to MLB, Valentine spoke of the challenges of playing spring ball in the Northeast.
“Scouts have a hard time seeing players when they weather is what it is up here in early spring.” Valentine said. “We (he is currently the Athletic Director at Sacred Heart University) had a game scheduled against UConn this past week but because the fields where not playable, had to move the game to Long Island. No scout is going to be able to follow these changes.”
The summer gives those scouts a chance to see kids they may have missed while they were playing for their college teams during the summer months.
Ahh summer. With another day on Sunday scheduled to be in the 30’s, the days of June can’t come soon enough.
For one night, in a nice warm hall, summer seemed a lot closer. With a little of our own luck, hopefully sooner than later.