BOSTON — Sometimes, good things happen to good people. Perhaps that would explain Mike Napoli’s hot streak.
Napoli, who’s typically considered a consummate professional, often asks kids visiting the Red Sox’s dugout before games to sign his bat. It’s his way of providing young fans with a unique ballpark experience, but a little bit of good karma finally caught up to Napoli this week at Fenway Park.
A 9-year-old Red Sox fan named Ethan signed Napoli’s bat before Thursday’s game against the Texas Rangers. Napoli since has hit four home runs over his last three games — including the longest homer at Fenway Park this season in a 6-1 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Angels — while carrying Boston’s revived offense.
“Sometimes, there’s kids in the dugout and I go up and have them sign my bat,” Napoli said. “It was kind of crazy. The first home run I hit the other day actually hit where he signed it. It was pretty cool.”
Napoli used the same bat — the one signed by Ethan — for Boston’s entire three-game series against Los Angeles. He went 5-for-9 with eight RBIs while becoming the first Red Sox player to homer in three straight games since David Ortiz accomplished the feat July 21-23, 2014, against the Toronto Blue Jays. No Red Sox player had homered in three consecutive home games since Ortiz in 2012, and no Boston player had homered on three consecutive days at home since Jason Bay in 2009.
“There was a slight fundamental adjustment that he did go through about seven to eight days ago. It’s playing out,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Sunday’s win. “But we’ve got such long track records of guys that are veteran, quality hitters that I think we’re balancing some things out as well.”
Napoli, who hit .429 (9-for-21) with five homers and 10 RBIs during Boston’s six-game homestand, leads the Red Sox with eight homers since April 25. His average sat at .161 on May 8 following the first game of the Sox’s recent road trip, but the veteran slugger is back above the Mendoza Line at .203. And climbing.
“I’ve been there before. I’ve been in a slump in my career. I know I’m just one swing, one at-bat away from feeling good,” Napoli said, assessing his torrid stretch. “I kept grinding. I wasn’t going to give up. I knew I was struggling, but I kept at it and worked with (hitting coach) Chili (Davis), got some good info from (Dustin Pedroia) and everything’s been going good since then.”
Everything’s been going really good since Ethan signed Napoli’s bat. So, why did the 33-year-old first baseman begin his pregame autograph collections in 2013?
“Everyone’s always asking for my autograph,” Napoli said. “I think it’s kind of cool to go up to the kids and be like, ‘Hey, let me get your autograph.’”
Napoli’s turnaround likely is a product of execution rather than being repaid for his generous deeds. But hey, it never hurts to have some good karma in your back pocket, even if it wasn’t Napoli’s intention.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@RedSox