FORT MYERS, Fla. — Burke Badenhop’s nickname should play well in Boston.
Badenhop, who was acquired by the Red Sox in late November, goes by the nickname “The Hopper,” which the reliever told NESN.com was given to him by former Marlins manager — and current Atlanta Braves skipper — Fredi Gonzalez during the pitcher’s first major league camp.
“In college, it was interesting because I would usually go by the beginning of my last name, so people would call me ‘Bades,’ which was kind of weird,” Badenhop said. “It’s only natural to be ‘Hopper.’ Even in the minor leagues, though, ‘Hopper’ wasn’t really that prominent. … Fredi really coined it and starting calling me ‘The Hopper.’ (He) put the ‘The’ in front of it. I like to consider that my on-field persona.”
Badenhop’s nickname fits him perfectly — for reasons beyond the obvious. The 31-year-old hopped on over to his fourth organization in four years this offseason, and trades near or during the beginning of December have become commonplace for the Ohio native, whose sister actually lives in Boston.
“It keeps things fresh, I guess, if nothing else,” Badenhop said of bouncing around Major League Baseball. “You’ve got a lot of people to meet and a lot of things to learn. It’s nice getting a new perspective from new coaches. This is my fourth organization, so to be able to see how so many different teams do stuff, I think that fits me as a player.”
Badenhop, who has spent five of his six big league seasons pitching in the National League, said there’s adjustments that need to be made when crossing over to the American League — something he learned while pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. It’s a challenge the right-hander is welcoming, though, especially given the Red Sox’s history of success.
“This is my fourth team and every team’s goal at the beginning of spring training is to win the World Series and everything, but some teams just say that and [for] some teams it’s a realistic goal. It’s pretty awesome to be in here,” Badenhop said. “I think [Red Sox chairman Tom] Werner said the other day in our meeting our goal is to play October baseball, and that’s the reality and that’s what we’re striving for here. It’s pretty awesome. It’s cool just sitting here and knowing that we’ve got a legit shot.”
Only time will tell if Badenhop, on the cusp on being considered a journeyman, will buck his recent nomadic trend and stick in the Red Sox’s bullpen. The pitcher’s current nickname appears to have staying power, though, and it might not be long before it’s much more recognizable among Boston’s unique and passionate fan base.
“It’s ‘The Hopper’ and then, sure enough, to head to Boston and they already have the Dish Network commercial and all that stuff,” Badenhop said. “It just flows with the Massachusetts accent. It’s pretty interesting, but I’ve been called a lot worse, so to be ‘The Hopper’ will be all right.”