There wasn’t much Mike Hazen could recall about his first meeting with John Farrell some 12-13 years ago when Hazen was hired to work for Farrell as a player development intern with the Cleveland Indians.
Farrell did make an impression with his strong presence and his ability to make everyone feel engaged in the process.
“Right away, he made me feel as though I were the GM of the Cleveland Indians,’’ Hazen said.
But it was Farrell’s strong handshake that made an even bigger impression.
“It was every bit as large as the man,’’’ said Hazen, 36, now Red Sox assistant general manager. “Ever seen his mitts? The man has huge mitts.’’
On Tuesday, Farrell found himself doing a lot of glad-handing at Fenway Park, where he was warmly embraced as the 46th manager of the Red Sox. After serving a previous term in Boston as Terry Francona’s pitching coach from 2007-10, Farrell returns to take over one of the more demanding managerial jobs in baseball after serving the last two seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays skipper.
“It’s great to have him come back to the organization,’’ said Hazen, who stood in the back of the room with rest of the baseball operations staff for Farrell’s press conference at the State Street Pavilion. “He made such an impression the first time as a pitching coach. It’s certainly in a different role now, but we’re excited to have him back.
“We think he has a chance to make a huge impact in this new role, certainly a lot of the skills he brings to the table in terms of his skill-set as a baseball guy but also his character and integrity.’’
Farrell’s familiarity with ownership, the roster, and front office personnel such as general manager Ben Cherington and Hazen made the 50-year-old manager an ideal candidate.
“Absolutely,’’ said team president Larry Lucchino. “We knew he’d hit the ground running, and it’s not just that he had a set of relationships and people knew him and he knew them.
“It’s also that he spent five years in the front office as a farm director, so he was comfortable with the role of the people in the front office and the need for that kind of collaboration between the front office and the manager’s office.’’
Hazen saw Farrell develop those collaborative skills up close when they worked together in Cleveland.
“He’s very detail-oriented and very much holds the processes that are in place to be important,’’ Hazen said. “When you can give that kind of honest feedback and give clear direction to a player, it pays a lot of dividends with the amount of respect you can command. Certainly, he is no-nonsense with regard to his approach and his expectation.
Farrell’s return to Boston seemed to create a bit of an awkward situation in that he would be beneath Hazen, whom he hired as an intern in Cleveland, on the Red Sox organizational chart.
“Not awkward at all,’’ Farrell insisted. “He’s a talented guy and we share a lot of the same views on how we go about our work. How we raise our families. How we interact with people and, ultimately, motivate them to do the best job available.
“So the fact that he would now be considered one of my bosses, I’m perfectly comfortable with that.’’
Farrell said he and Hazen learned in Cleveland there were no shortcuts to success.
“If you don’t prepare and do the due diligence or do the homework needed to make the right decision — or the best decision available at the time — through that work ethic, and through that constant challenge of one another, that’s where we were able to experience a lot of success,” said Farrell.
“Along the way, we set out to hire the best available people we could come across. That’ll be no different when we put this staff together.’’
Hazen didn’t feel as though his relationship with Farrell had any bearing on his decision to return to Boston. But it didn’t seem to hurt.
“I really don’t think it had anything to do with him coming here,’’ Hazen said. “I think he’s the right guy for this job, regardless of whether I was here or not. My prior experiences with him were invaluable. He taught me a lot about what it’s like to work in this game and how to treat players, and certainly almost everything I’ve learned in the game has come from him.
“I think there are a lot of players who probably feel the same way about some things, so he’s impressive in that regard,’’ Hazen said.
“He never really stops teaching and those are some of the biggest qualities that we need right now.’’
In Cleveland, Farrell saw that Hazen had a huge upside in the game as a potential GM.
“Oh, no doubt about it,’’ Farrell said. “I think one day he’ll run his own organization. There’s no doubt he has those abilities and people respect the way he goes about his work.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.