Unlike many of his fellow North Adams SteepleCat alumni, Harrison Slutsky knew where North Adams was.
“I’m from [Canton] Massachusetts, and I like looking at maps, so I quickly figured out where it was,” Slutsky said with a laugh. “It’s about as far away from Canton as you can get and still be in Massachusetts.”
Slutsky pitched for the 2010 Western Division champion SteepleCats, coming to North Adams from Columbia University. He parlayed his college and NECBL experiences into a job in Major League Baseball with the Boston Red Sox. He is now in his third year as the Red Sox’s Director of Professional Scouting. Slutsky is one of two former SteepleCats, that we know of, who are not playing — but working — in baseball.
Kevin Martir is the hitting coach for the New York Yankees’ Tampa Class A team. The former University of Maryland catcher played at Joe Wolfe Field back in 2013.
“The one thing about North Adams that was great was the great turnout, the great support from that community. The Joe was packed,” he said. “It felt cool. It felt like minor league baseball.”
Slutsky pitched for Columbia, graduating before Great Barrington’s John Kinne arrived on the Manhattan campus.
The Red Sox executive said that he went to his coaches at Columbia asking about summer baseball. North Adams’ then-general manager Sean McGrath had a connection with Slutsky’s coach at Thayer Academy, and the rest fell into place.
“I felt really lucky to get the chance” to pitch in North Adams, Slutsky said when we spoke last week. “It’s a really good college baseball league.”
The right-hander made 54 appearances, primarily out of the bullpen, for Columbia. Slutsky went right to the Red Sox out of college in 2012, and is in his third year as the Director of Professional Scouting.
In 2010, Slutsky was 1-1 with a 3.73 earned-run average for the SteepleCats. He got his lone win in his lone regular-season start, going six innings in a 7-1 win over Danbury on July 31, which clinched the Western Division title for the SteepleCats.
He threw 21 2/3 innings in 15 appearances, striking out 19 and walking only nine. He was a North Adams teammate of current Taconic High School assistant coach Paul Procopio.
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence I had my best two years in college baseball, as modest as that is, after that summer in North Adams,” he said. “It kind of came together for me a little bit that summer. I think I started the last game of the year against Danbury. I remember that one.”
North Adams won the West with a 26-16 record, while Danbury finished with a 24-18 record.
“That was really cool that they had the confidence in me for that,” he said. “Look, I always wanted to start. It just never really came together for me at Columbia or in the summers. That was a cool moment for me.”
Now, Slutsky is trying to help young baseball players with their “cool moment,” a moment that could include wearing a uniform with “Boston” across the chest. It was, however, a road that the former right-handed pitcher did not imagine taking when he was on the bump.
“I wanted to keep playing, like I hope every college baseball player does,” Slutsky said. “I did not have good self-awareness. I thought I was going to be good enough and I wanted to keep playing.
“I had no clue I was going to work in baseball. I knew if I couldn’t play, I certainly needed to be around baseball or sports.”
The Canton native said that if he couldn’t pitch for the Red Sox, working for the team he grew up watching is a pretty close second.
“It’s a dream come true. There’s no way around it,” he said. “I grew up such a Red Sox fan. If you ask [Columbia coach Brett Boretti], he’s from [Beverly]. When we weren’t talking about Columbia, we were talking about Red Sox baseball. That’s always been my passion. Getting my foot in the door and working here, this will be year 10, it’s nothing short of a dream come true.”
It is not, however, Fantasy Baseball.
“I think you have to quickly remove yourself from [being] a fan and you’re now working in baseball. That’s certainly a different thing,” he said. “I always think about when I was a fan, and a little kid going to Fenway. I always hoped that people were doing everything they could to make sure the Red Sox were a good team.
“Every now and then, I have to take a step back and remind myself that I have a small part in that now. That’s my motivation, to try to keep that up and work hard for the next group coming up that’s rooting for the Red Sox.”