The Red Sox have undergone a lot of changes this offseason, as Theo Epstein molds his roster into a younger, healthier, stronger defensive ballclub. The Red Sox are all set to be a first-rate team built around pitching, defense and an all-around commitment to keeping runs off the scoreboard. This is a whole new ballclub in Boston.
There will be plenty of fresh faces in new places this season. And not all of them are players.
Meet DeMarlo Hale. A former first baseman and outfielder in the Red Sox organization more than two decades ago, Hale has since worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first managing at the minor league level and then joining Terry Francona's coaching staff in the bigs. After four years coaching third base, Hale was finally promoted to the role of bench coach in November.
He's now 48, and he's in the biggest role of his career. As the right-hand man to Francona in the Red Sox' dugout, he stands to influence the team more than ever before, offering his guidance and his leadership to a team that could surely use it.
In his stint as the Red Sox' third base coach, Hale played a quiet and understated role on the Red Sox. He didn't make headlines, he didn't spark controversy, he stayed off the radar. And that's undeniably a good thing — third base coaches only make news for their mistakes, and Hale wasn't making any. He made smart decisions, and he put runs on the scoreboard for a Red Sox team that scored boatloads of them.
Hale has also worked with the Red Sox as an outfield instructor, which is no easy task considering the unique dimensions of Fenway Park. He's taught Jason Bay the Green Monster, and Jacoby Ellsbury the cavernous expanse of center field. All the while, he's held down the fort in the third base coaching box.
In short, he's done everything asked of him in Boston.
"His first day here, he asked me, 'What do you want me to do?'" Francona told ESPN.com in November. "I said, 'Coach your [behind] off,' and that's what he's done."
With a work ethic like his, Hale was due for a promotion. He's done a lot to work his way up the ranks over the years, paying his dues to get to where he is today. He managed the Fort Lauderdale Red Sox, a high Class A team in the Florida State League, starting in 1993. He was a skipper in Sarasota, in Trenton, and in the Texas Rangers organization with the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks. He also found work with the Rangers as a first base coach and outfield instructor.
Just like a player, Hale has climbed the ladder through the minor leagues.
With Hale's move from third base to bench coach, we're seeing a domino effect ripple through the Red Sox' coaching staff. Tim Bogar, who coached first base in Boston last season, moves over to third to replace Hale. Ron Johnson, the former manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, moves to the major leagues, replacing Bogar at first base. Torey Lovullo, who managed the Triple-A Columbus Clippers last season in the Indians' organization, moves east to take over the PawSox.
Hale's move to the bench has brought about a lot of changes in Boston. But if history is any indication, Hale has the right track record for the job, and all these changes should be for the better.
NESN.com will answer one Red Sox question every day through Feb. 23.
Friday, Jan. 29: Can David Ortiz start the season strong?
Sunday, Jan. 31: Who will be this year's Daniel Bard and open eyes in spring training?