Sunday night, as the Boston Red Sox celebrated on the field at Dodger Stadium following their World Series clinching victory in Game 5, the cameras and microphones flocked around an unlikely member of the star-studded Red Sox: Steve Pearce.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” Pearce tells long-time ESPN Baseball analyst, Tim Kurkjian, in his post-game interview.
Pearce is right. After all, baseball is a sport that takes pride in its obsessive commitment to superstitions like always stepping over the base lines or avoiding any form of contact with a pitcher when he’s throwing a no-hitter, so as not to jinx it. It’s definitely funny. But something in this World Series was downright bizarre, even by baseball’s standards.
Pearce, a 12-year MLB journeyman, has played for seven teams in his professional career, arriving in Boston through a trade with Toronto in June. Like much of his career, Pearce wasn’t an every day starter for the Sox. He was a 35-year-old role player on a roster loaded with exciting young talent. Players like Chris Sale, Boston’s best starting pitcher–their ace–were the ones garnering all the attention going into the World Series.
Unlike Pearce, Sale hasn’t been shuffled around the league in search of playing time. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2010 and remained with the team for six years before he was traded to Boston in 2016. Through nine seasons, Sale has been among the best pitchers in baseball. He’s made seven consecutive All-Star teams and is a perennial Cy Young contender (the annual award given to the best pitcher in each league).
Essentially, if the Red Sox were the Avengers, Chris Sale would be Captain America and Steve Pearce would be this guy. They’re two very different players with two very different paths, yet–and here’s where it gets weird–they have one thing in common: they both played for Lakeland High school. Pearce graduated in 2001, and Sale in 2007.
And when Boston’s Championship hopes were hanging in the balance, who would provide the heroics for the Sox? The Lakeland boys, of course.
In Game 4, Pearce hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and followed it up in the ninth by driving in the eventual winning run on a three-run double. The following night, Pearce stepped up to the plate in the first inning against Dodger ace, Clayton Kershaw and promptly launched the first pitch he saw 405 feet into the outfield bleachers to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. The former Dreadnaught would add another homer to his eventual World Series MVP resume in the eighth, putting Boston up 5-1.
The extra runs would prove to be unnecessary after Boston turned to Pearce’s fellow LHS alum, Chris Sale, to get the final three outs in the ninth. Sale struck out all three hitters he faced, including young phenom Manny Machado, with one of his trademark devastating sliders to win the game and the Series.
So as the Sox celebrate their fourth title in 15 years, Boston is once again at the center of the baseball universe. And yet, at the core of it all you’ll find the city of Lakeland in the form of Chris Sale and World Series MVP, Steve Pearce.
Baseball is funny like that.