'Family' culture what binds Iglesias, Red Sox
As shortstop prepares to face pressure, club offers camaraderie
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias had never done a television interview in English, and he was nervous.
"What if you ask me about turning a double play?" said the 20-year-old Cuban shortstop, "and I answer, 'I really like Miami?' I'll look stupid."
A minute later, current Boston shortstop Marco Scutaro was at Iglesias' side, walking out the door toward the trailer where the interview was going to take place.
"He doesn't need me to be an interpreter; he speaks good English," said Scutaro. "But he's never done this before. He's very smart and proud, and if I'm sitting there, able to help him if he gets nervous, he'll be fine."
In nearly 20 minutes, Iglesias needed help one time, and Scutaro gave it to him.
"From the time I got here in Spring Training, people like Marco and Dustin Pedroia have been there every day to help me," Iglesias said afterward. "They help me understand the way the Red Sox do cutoffs and rundowns, give me advice on how I deal with everything. It's as if I signed with a family."
One time last spring, Pedroia was showing Iglesias how Boston shortstops take cutoffs on balls in right-center field.
"Listen to me," Pedroia told him. "You're with the Red Sox now, and here, I'm Fidel Castro."
This spring, Iglesias is noticeably stronger after an offseason spent working out in Miami, sometimes with Alex Rodriguez. Iglesias' father, a former colonel in the Cuban army, has joined him in Miami. The shortstop's first son, Jose, was born two weeks ago.
And all spring, Iglesias has worked to mentor Juan Carlos Linares, who defected to the United States last summer.
"Everyone here helped me," Iglesias said. "Now, I want to help Juan Carlos."
Incidentally, Linares, 26, attended the same academy as Angels first baseman Kendry Morales and current Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel, who happens to be Iglesias' cousin.
Some of us remember the days when Red Sox players said their team motto was "25 guys, 25 cabs." Or when they called themselves "idiots."
"There is an interesting culture here," said left-hander Jon Lester. "You'd like to think that it is this way with most teams, but I think this is different."
Everywhere veteran catcher Jason Varitek goes -- from the cage, to catching in the bullpen, to sitting in the catcher's training chair offered by catching coach Gary Tuck -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia is at his side. Just as Scutaro knows that a year from now, Iglesias could take his job, so Varitek said: "This isn't about me; it's about us winning."
Saltalamacchia knows that when Victor Martinez was traded to the Red Sox in 2009 and took Varitek's job, Martinez marveled at the time Varitek spent with him understanding pitchers and game plans.
"Jason is my friend, mentor, guide, coach," said Saltalamacchia. "I sense a tremendous sense of what it means to be a teammate here. I think most of the players believe it stems from Jason Varitek."
Darnell McDonald calls Mike Cameron "Uncle Cam;" when Cameron began having physical problems last year, McDonald took his job. When Ryan Kalish came up on Aug. 1, "Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Cameron all came to me and offered whatever advice I needed," the outfielder said.
Lester has walked in Josh Beckett's shoeprints for a couple of years, and this spring, the lefty took the time to talk to every young pitcher with the message, "People in Boston know the game. They really care, but they don't accept excuses. If you want to succeed in Boston, you'd better be accountable."
"We have some guys who are young, but are reliable, dependable, accountable and very solid," said manager Terry Francona. "This is the players' culture. I watch Lester and Daniel Bard mature into foundation players, and it's really exciting."
Bard, who went through a wildness plague in 2007, is now right at the side of his former roommate, left-hander Andrew Miller, who -- as the games begin -- has been the story of Red Sox camp.
"This is a culture we'd like to believe we sought to build," said general manager Theo Epstein. "But the reality is that our scouting and development people, as well as support staff people like [psychologist] Bob Tewksbury, have huge roles in building this. Allard Baird did an amazing job letting us know that Carl Crawford is exactly the kind of person we want here."
Of course, Boston being Boston and national talk radio being national talk radio, when Epstein talked about the exhaustive research on Crawford and said on the Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on WEEI that Allard Baird's report "was almost as if we'd hired a private investigator," a couple of outlets didn't get the "as if" and took off. Epstein sought out Crawford to reassure him there was no private information -- just as there was none in Galen Carr's exhaustive report on Jayson Werth. Crawford laughed and said, "I thought it was all a joke."
That was frothing about the time Iglesias was in the NESN trailer, finishing his interview.
"Be proud of yourself," Scutaro told the rookie. "You did great. You're going to be big in Boston, and today, you took a big step."
A year from now, there will be two trains running with semi-fictional stories that take on lives of their own. Iglesias may be taking Scutaro's job.
"Everyone here," said Scutaro, "wants this kid to be a star. Everyone here has needed help. Don't forget it."
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.