Josh Beckett’s High School Coach Expects Him to Overcome Adversity, Thrive for Red Sox Going Forward

by NESN Staff

January 13, 2012

Josh Beckett's High School Coach Expects Him to Overcome Adversity, Thrive for Red Sox Going ForwardHOUSTON — For Josh Beckett, the first inkling of adversity occurred during his junior year of high school.

One year after dazzling scouts as a sophomore, the Spring (Texas) High School pitcher returned to the mound with even heftier expectations. Scouts wanted dominance from Beckett. In his coach Kenny Humphreys' eyes, that was Beckett's official introduction to pressure.

"[Scouts] were no longer looking for what he did good," Humphreys said. "They were looking for what he did wrong. So he had to focus and get down to pitch by pitch. He really had to learn that early because he was always on the big stage."

Beckett will have to depend on those childhood lessons once again. After the tumultuous end to the 2011 season — when reports emerged that Beckett ate chicken and drank beer in the Red Sox clubhouse — the spotlight will shine heavily on the right-hander this season.

But Humphreys believes the 31-year-old won't be daunted by the scrutiny. Since the beginning of Beckett's major-league career, the duo has routinely met and discussed ways to block off-the-field distractions.

"Through my dealings with Josh, anytime there were things that I ?? or somebody ?? didn't agree with what he was doing and something needed to be changed, he did it," Humphreys said. "You just address it and give him the way to correct it, and it's done. It's always been that way. I don't see [chicken and beer incident] being an issue really, it just got publicized.

"Mentally, he can focus. When he throws a pitch, basically that game is over. That's a game. That pitch was a game. That game is over and now he's into another game. We've talked about that a little bit and it's been huge for him."

That short-term memory also applies to Beckett's relationship with manager Bobby Valentine, who criticized his pace between pitches at ESPN. Although the two have reconciled, Humphreys said he always knew Beckett wouldn't allow pride to hinder the relationship.

"[Valentine] will see this, but as competitive as Josh is and as competitive as he is, they will butt heads," Humphreys said. "But that's part of Major League Baseball. It's not a knock on anyone. It's those competitive juices that come out during the heat of the moment."

It's that feistiness in Beckett that also caused Humphreys to dispute the notion that his protégé has grown lazy. While Humphreys concedes that Beckett "puts some pounds" on during a typical offseason, he insists the pitcher enters spring training in top shape.

To prove his case, Humphreys merely points to last season's numbers. Despite three losses in September, Beckett went 13-7 with a career-low 2.89 ERA, a season total that Humphreys said most pitchers would take.

Humphreys, of course, understands that Beckett isn't like most pitchers and that Boston doesn't resemble most markets. Even so, he expects Beckett to rise to the upcoming challenge.

"I guess overcoming things is just what Josh is about," Humphreys said. "It's not because he hasn't done something good. It's just [Boston fans] expect more. If you win 15, they want you to win 20. If you win 20, they want 22. If you win 22, they want the Cy Young award."

Just like those scouts from high school who demanded dominance.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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