The final two weeks of any calendar year finds many of us spending some time dreaming. When you are younger, the majority of that dreaming comes prior to Dec. 25 and we often dare to dream regardless if we have been naughty or nice. The older you get, chances are, those visions switch to the last couple of days of the year, when we sit down and strategize how to make the upcoming year better than ever. During pandemic times, it shouldn’t take much to at least find some way to make 2021 better than 2020.
Dreaming is free of charge, and prior to Dec. 25, you are just wishing and a hoping that someone else will make your dreams come true. However, New Year’s resolutions which may include visions of lifelong dreams, require more energy on the dreamer’s behalf. It is hard work making any worthwhile dream come true,
Once upon a time there was a young man who lived in Walpole, New Hampshire and he dreamed quite a bit. Like many of us, he had a desire to be a major league baseball player. Like most of us, who grew up around here not named Carlton Fisk, he didn’t become a major league baseball player. When you fall short of a valuable dream, it is entirely possible you can reshape that dream to visualize that although you may not end up playing in the bigs, there is still a hope of finding a way to be a part of the game.
Galen Carr was the young man, who grew up in Walpole and attended school there most of his youth through eighth grade. Today, he is the vice president of player personnel for the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. When championship rings are given out next season, Carr will have a total of four World Series rings. His odyssey has been chasing the pinnacle of success of major league baseball for twenty-two years now and he should be around for quite a while longer. How did he manage to be a part of such a ride?
“I was a huge Red Sox fan growing up,” the veteran baseball professional told us. When asked what classified him as being a huge Red Sox fan, he replied, “I remember listening to the games every night , as far as I remember, and on the weekends, I would camp out for the games on tv on Channel 38. I enjoyed listening to Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery on tv games and I would fall at sleep at night listening to Joe Castiglione and Ken Coleman on the radio, which I kept on my dresser. I could probably sing you the jingle for Amalie Motor Oil they played,” Carr told us looking back on his youth.
Carr had many sports related memories from his childhood, some including his family. His mom was employed by Florentine Films, the company formed by historian-filmaker Ken Burns in Walpole. One of the many influences for Carr related to the sport of baseball came when he was able to have some peaks at the evolution of the making of Burns’ popular series Baseball when he would stop in at moms’ work. A sidenote was that Carr was really delighted with his mother’s move up the Florentine ladder. She became a producer and was front and center in that role with the making of the Burns’ released “Thomas Jefferson.”
Growing up, Carr was not all about baseball because as he looks back at his childhood in Walpole, he points out, “now that I have been a part of city living for so long, I really miss Walpole. The town will always hold a special place in my heart. I love that small town feel you get there. I love going there and walking around the green. I have fond memories going to the rec center and shooting baskets with my father. I remember having coaches Noel Cassidy and John Parrott and really enjoyed playing for them.”
Galen went to high school at Northfield Mount Hermon and then went on to Colby College continuing to play baseball at both levels. While at Colby, he finished up his infield days and was moved to the mound. He told us, “I was an no hit shortstop, who had a strong arm. They figured I would help most as a pitcher.”
“I still watched and listened to the Sox when I had time. My first Sox game at Fenway was when I was about 7. Typically, my parents brought me to one game a year, but since my mom and dad were divorced, I was able to squeeze in a game with each of them sometimes., even through college,” Carr confessed. During one of those early years, Galen had a very special experience while attending a game. He relates, “I caught a foul ball in the air, standing on my seat. I was decked out in full Sox gear with one of those nacho bowls helmets on my head and couldn’t believe the ball found my glove. In the same at bat, this rookie for the Blue Jays (Kelly Gruber) homered for his first big league hit. An inning later someone tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself as Kelly Gruber’s father and asked me to sign the front of his game program. Pretty heady stuff for a 10-year-old. One of my many unforgettable moments at Fenway growing up,” Carr told us.
Baseball remained a part of Carr’s future dreams, but he had to display all kinds of patience to eventually have these dreams fulfilled. He had his first experience at the professional level of the sport during a summer season, while still attending Colby. His mother had relocated to Burlington, Vermont where the Vermont Expos were part of the New York Penn short season A League.
“I walked in and met with Kyle Bostwick (general manager of the Vermont Expos) hoping to pick up something for that summer and he made it happen. He made it clear though from the start, they couldn’t pay me, but he gave me my first opportunity to gain experience at that time,” Carr reflected. During his time with the Expos, Carr was able to make contact with Montreal Expo executive Neal Huntington (who would later spend times as an executive with Cleveland and serve 12 seasons as the general manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Upon graduation from Colby, no further baseball experiences appeared on the horizon and Carr did some intern teaching and coaching along the way back at Northfield Mount Hermon.
“I was able to coach Freshman soccer and JV baseball and I enjoyed that year, but I moved on the next year to a job in finance at Smith-Barney in Boston,” Carr related. “While working there, I did the best I could to maintain my connections I had made over the years in baseball and I was once in the mix to receive an internship with Cleveland, but, in the end the first place I had a real opportunity was with the Red Sox in the fall of 1999.”
By this time Carr had developed some strong contacts in the game including Ben Cherington, Josh Brynes and Paul DePodesta. Huntington was with Cleveland when Carr was looking for work there and all three of Carr’s contacts spent times with the Indians. Cherington, Brynes and Carr would all work together in Boston. Cherington is presently the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Brynes is the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations with the Dodgers and DePodesta is currently the Chief Strategy Officer for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.
While Carr kept networking, finally one day his opportunity presented itself. “Ben (Cherington) ended up in a position to hire an intern. I was in the right place at the right time. He included me in the candidate pool for a video advance scouting internship. I went over to Fenway and interviewed there, broke down some video, etc. I am so thankful he chose to trust me with that opportunity.”
One notable feature about Carr’s employment with the Red Sox was, he was on board before Theo Epstein was hired as the youngest General Manager in baseball history on Nov. 25, 2002. Carr was in the house when John Henry purchased the Red Sox and he was a part of the Baseball Ops team who transformed the franchise he grew up watching throughout his youth, to a team that would capture four World Series championships in a fifteen-year period, making the organization baseballs best over the past twenty years.
He worked first under Dan Duquette, who was responsible for putting the early pieces of the title run together and then most significantly was part of the Epstein remake, which saw “an encouragement of cooperation and collaboration at all levels,” and over the next few years saw his involvement grow, until a time when he chose to leave the team he loved, for opportunities to further grow within the game with Los Angeles. This change was especially attractive for Carr at the time because it gave the New Hampshire raised man a chance to work with Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, who had succeeded previously running the Tamp Bay Rays.
Carr’s first years with the Sox were in that role as a video advance scouting coordinator in the office in Boston. During the transitional days mostly under Epstein, he was in charge of the teams advance scouting department. “Most of my days were spent breaking down game tape and the hours were long as we prepared for the next opponent,” he told us. He was front and center stage as the team prepared each opponent during their first World Series titles in almost 100 years. Little did Carr realize the extent of preparation required to be successful game by game, as he drifted off to sleep listening to his childhood heroes in his Walpole residence as a youth.
The excitement brought about by Carr’s ability to play a part in helping build his childhood’s favorite team into a force to be reckoned with, is one thing which will stick with the lad from Walpole forever. Carr reflects, “Those early days were really special. The opportunity to be so connected to the seasons we had in ‘02 and ‘03 and then 2004, those were the most amazing moments in my life.”
For those deep into the lore of Red Sox days around the transition, Epstein and company eventually moved into the cellar or bowels if you will, of Fenway Park. They converted what use to be a bowling alley, underneath the ticket office and brought the General Managers office together with the Baseball Ops Department in a tight knit operating space. Epstein would no longer hold hours in the executive suite upstairs at Fenway, sending his message to his corps of baseball loud and clear, we are going to work closely as a team. The rest is history.
“This life has been really something for a kid growing up in Walpole, who remembers opening his packs of Topps Baseball Cards and thinking how wonderful it would be to win the prize offered on top of a chance to win a trip to the Spring Training This is really great,” Carr rendered.
When asked if he was presently a student at Walpole Middle School and was a lover of baseball, what advice would he give himself for a future in baseball, he said, “there is no true path to the profession. You need to follow your passion, listen to the experiences of others, be patient and most importantly, whatever job is put in front of you, on your way or in the future, do your job the best you can.”
Following the example of Galen Carr, it would be also wise to make contacts along the way, build that network and stay connected. Just as importantly, fall asleep listening to your favorite team on the radio every night.