BENNINGTON, VT. >> It's not every day well-known television personalities visit Bennington, but community members and Southern Vermont College students alike had the opportunity on Wednesday to chat with a face known throughout Red Sox Nation.

New England Sports Network commentator and host of the Red Sox pre- and postgame shows, Tom Caron, visited the college to speak with members of the sports management department. Members of the community were invited to attend the first part of Caron's talk, during which he shared stories about working with stars such as Jim Rice and Dennis Eckersley, and gave his views on the current Red Sox team.

The Everett Theatre at the college's historic mansion was nowhere near filled to capacity, which Caron noted, joking that back-to-back last place finishes tend to thin the crowd.

"I love going outside of Boston," he said, noting that people in the city are inundated with every form of sports media, "to me, that's what NESN's all about."

"There are so many question marks surrounding this team," said Caron, who said he wasn't sure whether to predict an 80-win, last place finish, or a 93-win first place finish. He said the starting pitching includes several unpredictable pieces behind newly acquired ace David Price, and the offense is relying on young players and rebound seasons from veterans Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Asked by a member of the audience which player had the most positive influence on clubhouse dynamics, Caron mentioned second baseman Dustin Pedroia, long considered one of the leaders on the team, but then brought up young outfielder Mookie Betts, who he said this spring training took the entire team out to dinner (once there, the veterans refused to let him pay).


Caron said that Ramirez has been putting in incredible effort at learning first base this season, but that Sandoval's defense seems to have taken a step backwards at third base. He praised young third baseman Travis Shaw, who he said was putting pressure on Sandoval to perform. On Thursday, after Caron's talk, the Red Sox announced that Sandoval was being benched in favor of Shaw on opening day.

Caron also gave some insight into how the Red Sox will balance their three catchers, Blake Swihart, Ryan Hanigan, and Christian Vazquez, who will start the season in the minors rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. "Vazquez, I think, becomes the number one catcher on this team," he said, noting how much pitchers love to throw to Vazquez, and how Swihart's defense still has a long way to go, "Is it a month from now, three months from now, I don't know." He said that Hanigan would likely be the odd man out when Vazquez returns. He also compared the young players on the team, such as shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Betts, Swihart, Vazquez, and outfielder Jackie Bradley, to the young Red Sox core that came up to the major leagues in the '70s, including Rice, Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, and Fred Lynn.

Caron graduated from St. Michael's College in Burlington, where he majored in journalism, because, as he said, "I love to tell stories." After working at a small newspaper in Vermont, Caron moved to WPTZ-TV in Plattsburgh, New York, where he covered the Montreal Expos and Canadiens. He began working for NESN in 1995, and has been there ever since.

"I get paid to do what I'd be doing anyway," he said, "Watching sports."

He did caution students looking to forge out a career in broadcasting, however, "The money's not there at the beginning. If you last you can do okay, but for every Bob Costas there are three guys who gave up after a year to go find real jobs."

"I am so fortunate," he said, "to have a front row seat to what is now undoubtably the golden age of Boston sports."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.