The legend behind Mike Napoli‘s facial hair matches the length of his team-leading beard.
Napoli has had the ability to grow whiskers for some time, former teammates and friends told Gordon Edes of ESPN.com.
“Mike looked older than I did [in his junior year],” said Tyler Munro, who coached Napoli in high school. “Mike was shaving in high school. I looked like a little kid. Honestly, he was a full-grown man with facial hair.”
It wasn’t just the hair that set him apart.
“He had a full beard in ninth grade, and he had forearms like Popeye,” high school teammate Mark Eysmann said. “You knew he would be able to get it done.”
Red Sox scout Todd Claus, who says he noted Napoli’s “chinstrap beard” in a scouting report for the Angels, agreed.
“He was a man among boys,” he said.
Donna Torres, Napoli’s mother, has been dealing with her son’s facial hair for some time — but not like he would let her have any fun with it.
“I’m thinking how his little sideburns had to be shaved when he was 10,” she said. “Look at him now. He’s got the best beard on the team. I tease him all the time. After a game one night, I said, ‘Let me see if I can braid it.’ He said, ‘No, Mom,’ but I took it and braided it to one side. He was saying, ‘Ouch, it hurts.’ I said, ‘Let’s take the hair straightening to it.’ He said no.”
Claus says Napoli is the fulfillment and more of what anyone who saw him when he was younger thought he could be.
“I believe he’s born to have his chest blowing out of a Red Sox uniform,” Claus said. “That’s him. He personifies our uniform, he really does. I just think he’s an animal. I think the people of Boston appreciate him. Obviously, he’s produced, he’s brought a certain element of energy. He’s even-keeled. He strikes out a lot, but he goes about his business. And every time he comes to the plate, he’s dangerous.”
Danger that’s been a long time coming.