Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: NESN's Caron waiting for Red Sox return like rest of us
I should be having lunch in the press dining room at Fenway Park today. I'm not the only one who thinks it feels a little empty that I am sitting in my kitchen writing this."It's so weird. Maybe more so because we were down there," said NESN's Tom Caron. "You're in such a bubble"
Caron, who has been with NESN since 1995, is the long-time, pre-game and post-game host of Red Sox coverage on the sports network.
Like the rest of us, Caron is in his home in suburban Boston, waiting for the all-clear signal that could return our world to a more normal status.
For those of us who were on high school and college sports beats during spring training, getting to Fenway or Yankee Stadium or Camden Yards is always something to look forward to. This pandemic has made us more than a bit antsy.
Imagine, however, you were Caron or the regular Red Sox beat reporter crew, who had spent nearly two months in Florida preparing for the start of 2020.
"I was down there for six weeks getting ready," he said. "All of sudden, you have the plug pulled out from the whole thing. Like everyone else, I've never seen anything like this.
"But it is so strange to get ready. I can't imagine the players, who were ramping themselves up and getting ready to go and boom, overnight, it's done."
The Red Sox home opener had been scheduled for Thursday, April 2, against the Chicago White Sox. Now, there's no telling when, or if, Major League Baseball will return.
"I find myself talking to Jerry Remy almost daily and Dennis Eckersley two times a week. Dave O'Brien and I talk all the time," Caron told me when we spoke last week. "It's because we have nothing to do. This will be my 19th year as part of the Red Sox broadcast and your biological clock, your vocational clock, the spring is supposed to be I'm going off every night and not hanging around the house. Now, I find myself doing yard work, which I haven't done in two decades.
"I guess it's good for the house, but it's not good for my psyche."
Not many were expecting a Red Sox team that would roll through the American League East. The trades of Mookie Betts and David Price, along with Chris Sale's Tommy John Surgery have left new manager Ron Roenicke a bit short handed.
And while NESN is owned by the Red Sox, Caron does not spout any kind of party line about how good the team might be. He does believe something that I concur with, that this team could be interesting to watch. Not necessarily successful, but interesting.
"I find this to be such an intriguing team, when they finally get started," he said. "It's not going to be a World Series championship team, at least not on paper. But there was so much uncertainty.
"One thing about this year, in the past we kind of knew all 25 guys and it was win-dance-repeat. This was going to be a team with a lot of different guys."
The NESN broadcasts were going to be as much about meeting the new players as it will be about documenting the success or failure of the team.
Caron said that the key to any success in Boston this summer will be how the starting pitching works out.
Three-fifths of the starting rotation from 2019 — Sale, Price and Rick Porcello — are either wearing new uniforms or hospital gowns. Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi are the two returning veteran starters in the proposed rotation. It sounds more like a Pittsburgh or Kansas City group of starters instead of one in Boston.
"The offense is going to carry this team when it gets going," Caron said. "They can still hit."
So while we sit and wait for the games to, hopefully get started, how do we maintain our sports fix? Caron said that NESN is doing its part.
"We've been running the 2013 playoffs and [the other night] was the Shane Victorino grand slam game. I tweeted out something about its a good reminder from Shane Victorino that every little thing's going to be all right," he said, referring to the Bob Marley tune that Victorino used as walk-up music. "He replied, 'Yes sir,' with an emoji. He was weighing in from Hawaii. We're doing the same thing with the Bruins.
"In the weeks to come, we're going to start unveiling some new programming ideas."
NESN has put a temporary halt to live programming for the moment. The network will start with more live programming when it gets a little closer to the start of games.
So has Tom Caron put a studio into his basement or den, as many broadcasters and reporters have done?
"I'm taping stuff that's going to be on social media," he said. "We've all got tripods for my phone to tape stuff on my phone. We're all making little studios. You've got to have the obligatory shelves full of books. I've noticed that's what every CNN reporter has.
"I keep joking with our producer that the next time I do one, I'm going to do it with shelves of toilet paper, just to show everybody that we're OK."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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