Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Catching up with Dave Flint, an architect for U.S. women's Olympic hockey team
The voice on the other end of the phone laughed when I called him the Dan Duquette of women's hockey.
Dave Flint, who played college hockey at North Adams State and is now the women's coach at Division I Northeastern, was the U.S. Olympic Team's assistant coach in 2010. Six of the young women who formed the foundation of the team that won the Gold Medal last week in Korea, played in their first Olympics under Flint and head coach Mark Johnson.
"It's great to see some of those players that were young and just getting into USA Hockey and playing with the national team back in 2009 and 2010, to see them in the spotlight now and winning a gold medal, it's great to see," Flint said.
Jocelyne Lamoureaux, whose shootout goal helped the U.S. beat Canada in one of the great gold-medal hockey games in Olympic history, was one of those young players who helped lead the Americans to gold.
Lamoureaux, her twin sister Monique, Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan, Gigi Marvin and Westfield native Kacey Bellamy, all played on that 2010 team for Johnson and Flint.
I called him the "Dan Duquette of women's hockey," because it was the Dalton native who built the foundation of that first World Series championship team for the Boston Red Sox. He wasn't in Boston to celebrate the title, but it is fair to say that without Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, and others, there still might be any World Series banners at Fenway.
These American women have won more than their share of World Championships, but hadn't claimed a gold in an Olympics since 1998.
Flint did say, however, that with all the success the Americans had had in non-Olympic years, it was a little surprising that it took two Olympiads to claim the gold.
"You go in with that confidence, thinking 'Hey, this is our time.' But Canada's found a way to get it done for so many years," he said. "I'm sure there were thought in the back of the girls' heads going into this game. They overcame that.
"I'm wondering if, going into overtime, they're thinking 'Here we go again, going into overtime against Canada,' and what's going to happen. They played a great game. They were definitely the better team."
What had to make Flint smile as much as anything was the fact that one of his own, another former Berkshire School hockey player, got to claim the gold.
Kendall Coyne, who won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top women's college player while at Northeastern, is a graduate of the Sheffield prep school. Coyne and Bellamy, along with Canada's Jillian Saulnier, all played at Berkshire. Bellamy and Coyne graduated. Saulnier played her freshman season in Sheffield then returned to Canada where she played junior hockey.
"Kendall's worked so hard and has been so committed to winning that gold medal. That's in her sights every single day she trains," Flint said. "Even when she was at Northeastern with me, that was on her mind. For her to be able to experience that, I was so happy. It was great to see."
So, maybe we'll get to see J.D. Martinez in New England after all.
Martinez reportedly agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, but as of Friday still hadn't signed it. He almost played in Berkshire County.
The wayback machine is set to 2009, and Martinez camethisclose to being a member of the North Adams SteepleCats.
"J.D. played summer baseball last year to gain experience with the wood bat in hopes of being drafted," then-SteepleCats general manager Sean McGrath said in an article. "He is having an eye-opening season and the MLB scouts have taken notice.
"It is a very real possibility hat J.D. won't play for the 'Cats this summer, because he would be drafted."
When I spoke to McGrath in April 2009, Martinez was hitting .472 at Division II Nova Southeastern, with 12 home runs and 44 runs batted in. At that point, he had led the Sunshine State Conference in every major offensive statistical category. He was named the player of the week twice.
McGrath said that some scouts had Martinez pegged as a 10th-round draft pick. Those scouts were wrong, as Martinez was selected by the Houston Astros in the 20th round in 2009. Coming out of high school, Martinez was drafted by Minnesota in the 36th round back in 2006.
"If J.D. signs with a Major League team, then we'll wish him the best of luck," McGrath told me at the time. "If he chooses not to sign, we expect J.D. to hit in the middle of our lineup every day."
Obviously, J.D. Martinez did not play for the SteepleCats, instead signing after draft day.
The Astros sent him to Greeneville of the Rookie-Level Appalachian League. He spent part of the season there before Houston promoted the outfielder-designated hitter to the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League. He played there under the watchful eye of general manager Rick Murphy, who ran the Pittsfield Mets for owner Bill Gladstone.
In his time between Greeneville and Tri-City, Martinez hit .348.
He missed it the first time, but now, J.D. Martinez will get to be at home in New England for a while.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter or 413-496-6253.
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