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Column: Georgia resident Lester evolves into Red Sox star
by Loran Smith
Columnist
June 12, 2014 12:13 PM | 2214 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Loran Smith
Loran Smith
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The Red Sox and their prized left-hander, Jon Lester, are in contract negotiations, causing considerable nervousness among the countless Sox fans from Connecticut to Maine and beyond the Canadian border. You would think that the brass at 4 Yawkey Way would make sure that the best athlete, who resides in Sharpsburg, remains a seasonal resident in Bean Town.

The Red Sox are a high-profile team, which, under new ownership, has made it clear that they expect to compete with the hated New York Yankees, which means they have the cash to spend and are willing to spend to win. Yet, Lester seems to be under the radar when it comes to high-profile players. Hard to imagine this Georgia resident — the best performing Sox World Series lefty since Babe Ruth — would leave Boston. Red Sox owners are not into Broadway productions and need no funding for a redo of “No, No Nanette,” which is how it came to be that the Babe became a Yankee.

The Sox have had left-handers with credentials to write home about — starting with Ruth and followed by Lefty Grove. Then we fast forward to Mel Parnell who was followed by Bill Lee and Bruce Hurst. A few more years in Fenway and a couple of more World Series opportunities, chances are Jon Lester will become the best lefty ever to wear a Red Sox uniform. He began the season with 1,237 career strikeouts, which is the most in history for a Boston left-hander.

In all likelihood, he will surpass Cy Young in strikeouts sooner than later. Young had 1,341. That’s just another of the many interesting features to Lester’s career. His name is linked with baseball immortals like Ruth and Young.

A native of Washington state, Lester had a friend from Buena Vista who invited him hunting in South Georgia, which influenced him to settle in Coweta County, which gives him desired proximity to the Atlanta airport and short drives to bountiful fishing and hunting grounds.

If there is anything as fulfilling as striking out a hitter with his cutter in a tight situation with men on base, it would be knocking down a pair of quail on a covey rise or hooking an eight-pound bass on a crisp November morning. Lester works tirelessly to win ballgames for the Red Sox, but when he is home in the offseason, he enjoys the outdoor opportunities in Georgia, his adopted state.

Sitting in the Red Sox dugout following batting practice here recently, Lester reflected on his career in which there have been countless highlights, but without a trace of immodesty or ego. His has been a heady experience, but just as you can never relax on the mound with men on base, he knows life is like the Green Monster, the left field wall which looms 310 feet away. It giveth and it taketh away.

A pop fly might float over the wall for a cheap homer, but a line drive that would be a double anywhere but Fenway bounces of the Green Monster to an outfielder who is able to hold the hitter to a single. To him that is how life is. You can never take anything for granted.

This is a man who is a cancer survivor. He knows what is important in life. Take time to count your blessings, underscore due diligence when it comes to winning games and go home to a quail supper in the off season.

It’s nice to have your name beside Babe Ruth as the only Sox pitchers to win a World Series game. It is nice to have possession of two World Series rings and to be a difference maker in the series as he was against the St. Louis Cardinals last fall. It is nice to have played in an All-Star game and to have pitched a no-hitter — and to realize that life, like baseball, doesn’t offer any guarantees.

Loran Smith is an administrative specialist for the University of Georgia sports communication department. You can reach him at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.
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