Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lenny DiNardo: Memorable Boston Red Sox Pitcher Recalls His Career

Making it to the major leagues is tough enough on its own. Breaking through to baseball’s highest level and becoming part of a historically memorable team is even rarer. Left-handed pitcher Lenny DiNardo had a 94-game big league career, but he stretched it out over the course of six seasons. He also played a pivotal role on the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who broke an 86-year drought and won a dramatic World Series Championship that fans had been dreaming about for decades.

The Red Sox had their eye on DiNardo early, as they selected him in the 10th round of the 1998 draft out of high school. However, he elected to attend Stetson University, and raised his stock during his three years with them, ultimately getting snapped up in the third round of the 2001 draft by the New York Mets.

The southpaw pitched well in the minors, but couldn’t crack New York’s roster. In 2003 the Red Sox renewed their interest in him by taking him the Rule 5 Draft. He made 22 appearances with Boston in 2004, all in relief, posting a 4.23 ERA in 27.1 innings. He was used exclusively in mop-up situations, as the 98-64 Red Sox were 6-16 in games in which he pitched, and in the six victories he appeared in, each win was by at least a margin of six runs. Nevertheless, he was extremely valuable, saving the pitching staff with his ability to eat innings and pitch effectively. He was also a fan favorite with his upbeat personality.

Although DiNardo did not make the postseason roster, he made enough of an impression to stick around with the Sox for two more seasons before moving on to the Oakland Athletics in 2007 where he was a career-best 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 games (20 starts).

DiNardo pitched for the A’s in 2008 and the Kansas City Royals in 2009—his last season in the majors. He pitched in the minors and independent ball through 2013 before retiring as a player. All told he was 10-18 with a 5.36 ERA in 94 games (34 starts).

Now, nearly a half decade after his playing career ended, DiNardo is still involved in the game while being quite busy in other arenas like music, real estate, and family. Keep reading to see what one of Boston’s nicest players had to say about his career and life after baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was Roger Clemens. He was such a bulldog on the mound. He had the perfect mix of power and location. My dad and I collected his baseball cards together and I still have them in all in a binder.

Can you describe your draft experience with the New York Mets in 2003- How did you find out you had been selected?: I was drafted by the Mets in 2001 after a pretty successful time at Stetson University. My numbers the past couple seasons were decent and I had already been drafted before in 1998 out of high school by the Red Sox. It was basically a sit and wait situation. I got the call in the third round. Not too long after I was in Brooklyn playing for the Cyclones (A ball).

What do you remember most about your professional debut? (Getting Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams in order against the Yankees)?: I’ll never forget my first big league outing in 2004. Playing for the Red Sox and pitching in Yankee Stadium obviously warranted some heckling from the fans in the bullpen. I did my best to ignore them but with nerves hitting on all cylinders, I heard every word. 
I pitched the ninth inning in a Sox blow out. We were up by at least 7 or 8 I think. I just kept telling myself to throw strikes. I ended up getting Sheffield to ground to third; Matsui struck out; and Bernie Williams also grounded to third.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: I played with and against a lot of talented players. Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, David Ortiz to name a few. I pitched against Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez. I think the main thing these players had in common was how consistent they were over a long period.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Being part of the 2004 World Series team would have to be my favorite, favorite part of my career.

How special were the 2004 Red Sox, and how often do you get remembered for your role with that team?: If I’m in Boston I get recognize pretty often. Sox fans never forget a former player, especially from that team. That was a special group. A perfect mixture of talent and personalities. We played hard and always had fun. We had mostly veteran players, but Kevin Youkilis and I were both rookies at that time

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I think I squeezed out every drop of talent that I had to get and stay in the big leagues with three different clubs. Not sure I would do anything different other than learn a knuckleball. I could possibly still be pitching if I had one of those. Haha.

What role does music play in your life?: I’ve always been a huge music fan. Some of my earliest memories are listening to tunes with my dad. The Beatles, Rolling Stones,  The Who among many others were a constant soundtrack for me while growing up. I learned to play guitar as a way to waste time in the minor leagues and it’s become therapy. I use it to relax and also as a challenge.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: These days I live in Rhode Island. I’m raising a family while working for NESN doing their Sox  pre and post game shows. I also work in real estate. My labor of love is giving pitching lessons around New England. Trying to pass on what I’ve learned is very special to me.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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