FORT MYERS, Fla. — It takes a lot to impress a group of accomplished professional athletes and hold their attention when you speak to them as a group.
That wasn’t a problem for Cedric King on Tuesday when he walked into JetBlue Park on his prosthetic legs to address the Red Sox.
A retired US Army Master Sergeant, King was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. He lost both legs, part of his right arm and hand, and suffered internal injuries.
Only 21 months later, King completed the Boston Marathon using running blades and has since finished the New York Marathon, a 70.3-mile ironman event, and the Disney Marathon Series.
He’ll be back in Boston in April to run the Marathon again.
“A very impressive guy to say the least,” Sox righthander Rick Porcello said.
But King’s message to the Red Sox was less about his own perseverance and more on the value of working as a team, a lesson he learned while in the armed forces.
“Everybody is gunning for these guys, which is the same way I felt in combat,” King said. “One thing that I know helped me out was knowing it’s not about putting bullets in the bad guys, it’s about fighting for each other.
“You have to fight for each other in competition, not for yourself. You have to want your teammate to feel what winning is like more than you do.”
King spoke to the Sox before their game in Atlanta Sept. 4. His presentation was so meaningful that he was invited to speak to the entire training camp roster and staff members.
Baseball is certainly not akin to combat, but there are principles that can be applied.
“It’s the ability to get back up again, that’s what people fear,” King said. “They won’t fear your hitting or your defense or your pitching. People don’t fear that. People fear your ability to come back and give 100 percent. That’s what strikes fear, you bringing it every single day.”
King, now the CEO of the PenFed Foundation Speakers Bureau, has spoken to a number of NFL teams and Fortune 500 companies.
“There’s a lot I took out of it about the value of teamwork,” righthander Nathan Eovaldi said.
“Baseball’s an individual sport in a lot of ways, but we can’t win unless we’re together.”
King stayed to watch the Sox run through their daily workout and bantered with players.
“I grew up in North Carolina and I wasn’t a baseball fan. But these guys are my team now,” King said. “They’re good people.”
Righthander Ryan Brasier flew back to Boston on to have an infected right baby toe examined by a team doctor.
“Just to make sure there’s nothing serious about it,” manager Alex Cora said. “Hopefully he’ll be back soon and get back to work.”
The Red Sox are otherwise healthy outside of infielder Marco Hernandez and righthanders Austin Maddox and Carson Smith rehabilitating shoulder injuries.
Hernandez, who has not played since May 2017, is a few weeks away from swinging at pitches.
Maddox is expected to miss the entire season and Smith at least a few more months.
Eduardo Rodriguez drew a large crowd of fellow pitchers when he threw live batting practice.
“He looks great, man,” Cora said. “He’s working on a slider now. He understands who he is. The work he put in the offseason is paying off, repeating his delivery . . . Stuff-wise, he’s unbelievable.”
Coaches and teammates appear to have made it a project to build Rodriguez’s confidence and convince him of his importance to the team.
He has yet to start more than 24 games in four big-league seasons.
On his game
Porcello is entering his fifth season with the Red Sox and thrown approximately 200 bullpen sessions. But pitching coach Dana LeVangie told Cora that Tuesday’s was Porcello’s best since he’s been with the Red Sox . . . MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre made an early-morning visit to camp to discuss rules changes and replay tweaks. Sign stealing, which became an issue in the 2018 postseason, was addressed. Teams who suspect opponents are using electronic devices to steal signs are to inform the commissioner’s office and not investigate themselves, as the Astros claimed to be doing last season when they stationed a team employee near the Red Sox dugout during the ALCS.