Friday, February 11, 2011

Former Red Sox great Dwight Evans says Carolina League is the best

In 2012 the Carolina Mudcats will drop from Double A to Single A. Some may think that's bad news but if you listen to former Boston Red Sox great Dwight Evans, going to the Class A Carolina League is no negative.

Speaking to fans of the Salem (Va.) Red Sox Thursday, Evans said that the Carolina League is "the best" Single A baseball played in the country. In fact, he said fans of Carolina League teams will see players who skip over Double A altogether and go directly to Triple A. As a matter of fact, that's what he did.

In 1971, as a 19-year-old playing for the Winston-Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, Evans batted .286 but was known from the beginning as a great fielding outfielder. The next season he was promoted past Double A directly to the Triple A Louisville Colonels of the International League. Before the end of that season, he was promoted to the Red Sox at the age of 20 and embarked on a 20-year major league career.

Evans won eight Gold Glove awards, made the all-star team three times and had more home runs in the 1980s than any other player during the decade with 251 of his career 385 homers.

His whole life is a testament to how quickly things can change. "When I was 15, I didn't make the team," Evans said. "I was an alternate and had to travel in street clothes. Two years later, I was drafted by the Boston Red Sox."

Seemingly always positive, Evans said he played with some great players but more importantly played with some great people. Interestingly, though he played only one season with the Orioles (1991), he specifically mentioned the Ripken family. Teammate Cal Jr., who played more consecutive games than anyone in major league history, was the biggest name but he reserved his biggest compliments for brother Billy who he said would "dive on cement" for the ball and his dad Cal Sr. who he said was a "great, great teacher" who would have made a great World War II military leader.

Evans' positive nature has come in handy in his personal life. Though he kept it quiet, much of the time he was playing baseball, he was worried about his children's health. Now both grown and fully functional, his sons both have Neurofibromatosis, a disease where nerve tissue grows tumors and can cause other serious problems.

One son almost died on the operating table during one procedure while the other is undergoing his 39th operation in March. Through the operations and hospitalizations, Dwight and his wife Susan kept it private. During his playing days, Evans often went to the hospital before and after a game. Sometimes he even left games mentally exhausted and went to the hospital while the game was still going on. Yet, apparently, few knew what his family was going through.

Over the years Evans has become involved in raising money for research of Neurofibromatosis, which he said is more common, even though less known, than Cystic Fibrosis or Muscular Dystrophy with one in 2500 being affected.

The Triangle Red Sox Nation club, based in the Raleigh area, got the idea to have Evans sign some balls and photos - which he did Thursday night - in order to auction them off for charity. The group, led by Sean Bunn of Raleigh, has raised more money for the Jimmy Fund than any other Red Sox fan club outside New England.

The Jimmy Fund supports the fight against cancer in children and adults at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The relationship between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund is the longest standing, most extensive, and most significant team-charity relationship in all of professional sports.

Half the proceeds from the sale of Evans memorabilia will go to the Jimmy Fund for Cancer Research and the other half will go to the neurofibromatosis nonprofit that Evans and his wife Susan have long supported, NF Inc., Northeast.

For information about the Jimmy Fund, visit www.JimmyFund.org, and information about NF Inc. Northeast can be found at www.nfincne.org. Membership in the Triangle Red Sox Nation is free. Baseball fans can join by visiting www.TriangleRedSoxNation.org.

1 comment:

  1. By the way, the Red Sox Organization has one of the most effective fan outreach programs in professional sports. Raleigh's Sean Bunn has been serving as the First Elected Governor of Red Sox Nation from North Carolina since 2008.
    Bunn approached Evans, a childhood hero, after the Salem Hot Stove Banquet with a fundraising idea. Evans obliged by autographing several baseballs that will be auctioned off for charity. Bunn helps to organize the 1,100+ member Triangle Red Sox Nation in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area, and set a record last year by raising more money for the Jimmy Fund than any other organized Red Sox Fan Club outside of the Northeast.