Ron Ball grew up in Indiana rooting for the Yankees because Don Mattingly was from Evansville. But on Wednesday, Ball stood on the field at Fenway Park proudly wearing a blue Red Sox polo shirt.
His loyalties took a sharp turn June 6 when the Red Sox drafted his son, Trey, with the seventh overall pick of the draft.
“When the call came that Boston was interested at 7, that surprised us,” Ron Ball said. “We were thinking he might go 10-15th, somewhere in there. I told Trey that was an incredible opportunity.”
Trey Ball, a 6-foot-6-inch lefthander from New Castle (Ind.) High, was in Boston on Sunday to take his physical, and Wednesday signed a contract that will pay him a bonus of $2.75 million. That’s below the assigned slot value of $3.2 million and gives the Red Sox the flexibility to sign some other picks.
Ball was in uniform for batting practice and at one point played catch with Clay Buchholz. When he visited the clubhouse, several of the Red Sox had fun joking around with him. Dustin Pedroia told Ball to hurry up and get to Boston so he could retire.
“They were giving me a hard time,” Ball said. “It was a good time.”
Manager John Farrell watched the scene and got a good laugh from it.
“He got a taste of some of the guys in our clubhouse, too. And to his credit, he handled it great,” Farrell said. “You’ve got an 18-year-old kid who walks in with a jacket and a tie, who obviously comes from a good family, you can see that. And he did his family proud given what he heard.”
Ball was not hard to spot on the field. He wore his socks high and looked painfully thin next to the big leaguers as he shagged fly balls. Ball leaves Thursday for Fort Myers, Fla., and the Gulf Coast League. He hopes to start pitching in July.
“We’re going to take it slow. I haven’t been pitching lately,” Ball said.
General manager Ben Cherington said Ball was a player who “checked all the boxes” when he was evaluated.
“Very athletic kid with a good combination of makeup, athleticism, stuff, projectability,” Cherington said. “We got to know him very well and this is a good kid with a great work ethic. Highly competitive.”
Ball is the team’s highest draft pick since Trot Nixon was taken seventh overall in 1993.
Ball also is an accomplished hitter with good power and speed, and rated high on draft boards as an outfielder. But he’ll give that up to pitch.
He’s also giving up the knuckleball he threw in high school. Ball said it was an out pitch for him until he picked up a curveball his junior year.
“I’ve had it since Little League,” he said. “It was fastball, changeup, and then I threw that in. I’ve thrown it ever since . . . It worked for me.”
Ball turned down a scholarship to the University of Texas to sign with the Red Sox.
“That was his lifelong dream, to play for Texas,” Ron Ball said. “But when the Red Sox took him, how can you turn that down? I don’t know what would have happened had he gone lower in the first round.”
Ball’s parents, other members of his family, and his girlfriend joined him in Boston on Monday. They took a duck boat tour of Boston.
“The whole thing has been a great experience. Very exciting,” Ball said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
The Red Sox also announced the signing of 10 others picks: outfielder Forrestt Allday (eighth round), righthander Kyle Martin (ninth), righthander Taylor Grover (10th), infielder Carlos Asuaje (11th), catcher Jake Romanski (14th), outfielder Bryan Hudson (15th), righthander Joe Gunkel (18th), infielder Reed Gragnani (21st), infielder Jantzen Witte (24th round), and catcher Daniel Bethea (34th).
It has been widely reported the Red Sox also have agreed to terms with righthander Teddy Stankiewicz (second round), catcher Jon Denney (third), and lefthander Corey Littrell (fifth).
Stankiewicz and Littrell both indicated on Twitter that they signed and were assigned to Lowell. Denney wrote on Twitter Wednesday, “Headed to Florida! Starting Rookie ball.”
Cherington said he had nothing to report on those players.
Support for Bailey
Farrell said he is sticking with Andrew Bailey as closer despite the righthander’s struggles. Bailey went into Wednesday’s game having allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks in his last four innings, blowing two saves.
“In this case, it’s as much pitch selection and game planning,” Farrell said. “He might not have the same second gear to his fastball up in the zone, where he might have to use his secondary pitches a little bit earlier in the sequence.
“But more importantly to execute a secondary pitch for a strike. Over the last four outings, it’s been pretty clear that any time he throws a breaking ball, guys are sitting on it until he has thrown it for a strike.”
Farrell believes Bailey’s fastball has been wavering since he went on the disabled list in early May with a biceps strain.
“Every good player is going to go through some ups and downs along the way. That’s where our job as a staff comes in to get them back on track and have them perform to their capabilities,” Farrell said.
Farrell said “there’s no lack of confidence” in other relievers on the team that he could use to close. But he feels it’s necessary to have an established closer at the back of the bullpen.
Ross to get checked
David Ross, who is on the seven-day concussion list for the second time this season, will travel on Thursday to be examined by Dr. Michael Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Ross was hit in the mask with a foul ball on Friday . . . With the Tigers starting lefthander Jose Alvarez on Thursday, the Sox are planning on using Will Middlebrooks at third base and Jose Iglesias at shortstop . . . Shane Victorino was “a little beat up” after playing both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader and was out of the lineup Wednesday night . . . Cherington indicated that 20-year-old Xander Bogaerts, now in Pawtucket, could help the Red Sox before the season is through. “There’s no such thing as a prospect in Triple A,” Cherington said. “You’re either ready to help the big league team or you’re not.” . . . The Red Sox had every other television in the concourses turned to the Bruins game, and Bruins jerseys were spotted throughout the stands.