Craig Hansen: I’ve been waiting all night for someone like you

Since I have a few weeks left before I can get my cameras back in action in Ft. Myers, I’m going to use that time to review some of the individual players I’ve photographed, in a way that I can’t really do on the game-by-game pages over on the site.  I suppose it would make sense to start at the beginning, but I’m still hoping we’ll have some news on the guy who started it all, so instead I’ll start with what amounted to a new beginning!

It was September of 2005; I had traveled down to Baltimore for my first games at Camden Yards.  This was a month after the Sox had released Bellhorn.  Now, I’m a baseball fan first and foremost, but it never hurt to have a little extra fun by shooting guys who made my heart skip the occasional beat, and there was just a little something missing for me at the Sox games.  But this was a new park for me, and the September call-ups were out, so I was still enjoying myself, when suddenly…

Oh my.

Now, I’d seen photos of Craig Hansen since he’d been drafted, but none that looked like that.  I’d seen him look like a frat-boy thug, and like a Great Dane, all jaw and long legs.  But what was turning up in my lens was someone entirely different!

Followed him back to Fenway for the last few games of the year, of course.

And then came Spring Training.  Okay, I confess, I indulged in a bout of girlishness…

… by taking a ton of photos of him sans hat.  But there was plenty of pitching…

… and throwing a ball against the wall…

… okay, and some more running hatless…

… and pitching.

He started the year in the minors of course, for some needed development work–more on that later.  But by summer, he was back…

… and fortunately I was getting better with the camera!  These are a few from July 29, both in BP and on the mound.

(he gave up a home run–this is an example of what I think is a good photo of a bad moment)

I loved seeing him with the other "pups"…

… or just hanging out in the pen…

… but especially pitching!

Now, about that minor league development time as a player.  If you’ve seen my web site you know that Cla Meredith is another favorite of mine.  I would think–I would hope–that Cla’s experience would have taught the lesson very vividly that pushing a player too quickly, either physically or mentally, has effects a lot worse than losing a game or two.  I personally believe that the Sox did test out Hansen as a possible starter when Wells was hurt, and that one way or the other, they let him get away from the things that had made him successful.  One of the worst things for me about the miserable Yankees series in August was that weeks after Tito’s stated commitment to the young pitchers, he had to send Hansen back down to the PawSox for a breather.  No knock on Tito, but certainly a sense that just a year out of college this kid had been put through the wringer in ways that should have been avoidable.

In any case, he got his breather…

… even if he still looked just a bit weary on his return.

He also took to carrying extra shoes at the end of the year.

I hope that by the end of the year he had confidence back and his feet back under him.

And it was good to see him back with the other pups again.

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