All-Yale battery in jeopardy; Red Sox may shop Lavarnway

Former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway has had an interesting offseason. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

By: Joel Alderman

The unique all-Yale battery of pitcher Craig Breslow and catcher Ryan Lavarnway may be a thing of the past if the Boston Red Sox are able to move Lavarnway to another team. A writer for Comcast SportsNet New England is reporting that Boston has begun to shop Lavarnway.

According to Sean McAdam, the Red Sox have sufficient catching after acquiring free agent A..J. Pierzynski to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with the veteran David Ross still in reserve. In addition, Boston has two excellent prospects behind  the plate, Christian Vazquez and Daniel Butler, who will both probably start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

If Boston does not move the 26-year old Lavarnway, he would probably be sent to Pawtucket and play first base,  a position he has been experimenting with in spring training.

Lavarnway and Breslow first teamed up in September of 2012 when the relief pitcher entered a game at Yankee Stadium and Lavarnway was catching. They never could have formed a battery for coach John Stuper at Yale because their years in New Haven did not coincide. Lavarnway played for the Bulldogs starting four years after Breslow graduated.

When they finally teamed up it was in a ticklish major league situation before a worked up crowd at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox , who eventually won 4-1, were leading 2-1 in the eighth inning. There was one out and one on for the Yankees. The batter was the dangerous Robinson Cano. With a count of 1-0, Breslow threw a cutter and got Cano to ground to first baseman Adrien Gonzalez for an inning ending double play.

One of the Boston radio announcers, Dave O’Brien, then spoke two immortal words into his microphone, “Boola Boola!” How many of the listeners knew what that was supposed to mean? The lead announcer, Joe Castiglione, surely did. He could be heard laughing in the background. But Castiglione had to know the significance of “Boola Boola,” because he’s from Hamden, and comes from a Yale family.

Since its debut in Yankee Stadium the Yale battery occurred on several more occasions, almost always inspiring the announcers to comment. That includes Jack Buck and Tim McCarver on national TV, who obviously thought it was worthy of mention.

Lavarnway is having a really good spring training. He is both catching and playing first base, and is hitting well over.300 with a pair of home runs. But what happens in the next several weeks is out of his control.

The question here is whether there will ever be another “Boola Boola” for the all-Yale battery of Breslow pitching and Lavarnway catching.

Surprisingly, they were not the first of their kind in MLB history. It happened 129 years prior to Breslow and Laarnway, in the “dark ages” of professional baseball. A pitcher from Yale, Jack Jones, and another Yale man, Al Hubbard, was behind the plate for the Philadelphia Athletics in a late season game in 1883. That was even before there was such a song as “Boola Boola.”

If Lavarnway is traded perhaps it will take another 129 years before the next all-Yale battery is on a major league field. But if it still hasn’t happened, at least “Boola Boola” will probably still be around.

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