During their days together at St. Rose High in Belmar, N.J., Jayson Hernandez would give his friend Anthony Ranaudo a ride home after baseball practice.
The other day, Hernandez took another drive to St. Rose to see what was left.
“The high school is pretty much destroyed,” Hernandez said this week.
St. Rose is two blocks from the Jersey shore, which was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy.
Hernandez is a minor league catcher in the Red Sox system. He spent most of last season in Portland, reuniting with Ranaudo, one of Boston’s top pitching prospects.
While Ranaudo is pitching in Puerto Rico this offseason, Hernandez is home in New Jersey.
Hernandez, 24, lives in Jackson, nine miles from Belmar. He lost power for five days, got it back, then lost it again Thursday because of a snow storm.
“I’m staying with my brother at Rutgers,” Hernandez said.
And Hernandez is busy, raising funds for his battered state.
“It’s just devastating,” he said. “I made it down to Belmar. The beaches are gone. The boardwalk is gone. Houses are gone. There was sand five blocks (from the shore), and at one time there was four feet of water in the school.
“It’s a big hardship.”
Hernandez and his girlfriend came up with the “Grand Slam for Sandy” campaign. Hernandez has been getting the word out via twitter (@Jays0n_Hernan and @GrandSlam4Sandy). Ranaudo has promised donations for every retweet (@anthony_ranaudo).
The campaign is attracting help from major and minor league players, plus former players like Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek. The Sea Dogs donated money from last week’s ticket sales. An auction is being planned.
Hernandez is trying to hook up his cause with an existing nonprofit organization.
Until then, donations can be funneled two ways: checks sent to Hernandez (“Grand Slam for Sandy” in the memo), at P.O. Box 589, Jackson, N.J. 08527, or by PayPal to email@example.com.
“We’re getting a lot of good response,” Hernandez said.
In an August story in this space, we wrote about Hernandez keeping a positive attitude despite not playing much.
“I can control my work ethic how I carry myself,” Hernandez said at the time. It’s “part of being a complete professional.”
He’s a pro all the way.
BACK TO BASEBALL: Ranaudo pitched Thursday in the season opener in Puerto Rico, throwing three hitless innings (one walk, three strikeouts).
Ranaudo, 23, is trying to salvage something from an injury-plagued 2012.
He began the year on the disabled list (strained groin muscle), then made only nine starts for Portland (6.69 ERA) before being shut down because of a tired arm.
FREE AGENCY is upon us, and not just in the major leagues. Among those becoming minor league free agents were eight players who were with the Sea Dogs this past season.
One is already gone; right-handed reliever Michael Olmsted was signed to a major league contract by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Olmsted had a fastball-slider combination that helped him record a 0.00 ERA in Portland after his promotion July 24. But Boston apparently had no room for Olmsted on its 40-man roster, so he jumped to the Brewers.
The other seven players are pitchers Mike MacDonald (the Maine native), Caleb Clay, Bill Buckner, Jason Urquidez and Eammon Portice (who was released by the Red Sox during the year and picked up by the Dodgers), first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez, and third baseman Marquez Smith.
Some Sea Dogs from years past are also among the group of minor league free agents, including pitcher Manny Delcarmen (last with the Yankees), catcher Dusty Brown (Rangers), and three from the Mariners — pitcher Davis Pauley, first baseman Luis Jimenez, and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang.
HOLIDAY AT HADLOCK has been scheduled for Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The free event at Hadlock Field will feature horse-drawn carriage rides, a craft room, live performances and, of course, Santa Claus, who will arrive via helicopter to second base. See www.seadogs.com for more information.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: firstname.lastname@example.org