June 26, 2013

Kevin Thomas: Cecchini & baseball, a heavenly match

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Garin Cecchini knows baseball well, a true student of the sport.

click image to enlarge

Garin Cecchini has only been with the Portland Sea Dogs since Friday, but he has impressed, going 5 for 16 in four games.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

DOGS-METS SUSPENDED

• Tuesday night's game between the Sea Dogs and Binghamton Mets was suspended because of rain with the score tied 0-0 after two innings.

• The game will resume today at 5 p.m. and be followed by another, seven-inning game.

WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

WHO: Sea Dogs (TBA and Drake Britton 6-6) vs. Binghamton Mets (TBA and Cory Mazzoni 3-2)

WHEN: 5 p.m.

WHERE: Hadlock Field

TICKETS: About 3,000 available

TOP 10 PROSPECTS

Baseball America's top 10 Boston Red Sox prospects, most of whom have played for the Sea Dogs:

1. Xander Bogaerts, shortstop promoted from Portland June 13 to Triple-A.

2. Jackie Bradley Jr., outfielder played in Portland last year and is now in Triple-A.

3. Matt Barnes, pitcher now with the Sea Dogs

4. Allen Webster, pitcher who finished last season with Portland and is in Boston.

5. Henry Owens, pitcher in Class A Salem and expected in Portland later this year.

6. Blake Swihart, catcher in Salem and possible late-season promotion to Portland.

7. Garin Cecchini, third baseman promoted to Portland last Friday.

8. Bryce Brentz, outfielder, promoted to Triple-A at the end of last year.

9. Jose Iglesias, infielder who played in Portland in 2010 now with Boston.

10. Deven Marrero, shortstop playing in Salem.

Maybe it's because he took in his first game when he was 4 days' old.

Or the lessons could have begun earlier, while he was still in the womb and his mom was coaching first base.

The Red Sox promoted Cecchini, 22, to the Portland Sea Dogs last week. He joins a long list of touted prospects who have played at Hadlock Field. Baseball America ranked him Boston's No 7 prospect before this season.

The buzz over Cecchini, a third baseman, may not match that of top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who was just promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, but Boston is high on Cecchini. A fourth-round draft pick out of high school in 2010, Cecchini received a $1.3 million signing bonus. He comes to Portland after batting .350 in Salem, with a 1.016 OPS (combined on-base and slugging averages).

"Reports on him have been terrific," Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. "Coaches in Salem rave about him.

"He has a hitter's presence. It looks like he has a real good understanding of the strike zone."

Cecchini better have an understanding of the strike zone and the game itself. His father, Glenn, is a renowned high school coach in Lake Charles, La. And Glenn's wife, Raissa, was his assistant coach for several years. Then there is younger brother Gavin, a Mets first-round draft pick in 2012 (receiving a $2.3 million signing bonus).

"It would be tough not to play baseball and be in the Cecchini family," Garin said, his smile coming easy and often.

The Cecchini's definitely are dedicated to baseball, which is why Raissa was coaching first base for Barbe High School in Lake Charles on April 20, 1991.

"I went into labor that night," Raissa said. And Garin was born.

Four days later, Barbe High was playing its next game. Garin was with his grandmother in the stands. Raissa was back in uniform, but stayed in the dugout.

"I had a C-section," she said.

Raissa Cecchini, a native of Louisiana, played baseball in her youth. When her high school mandated she play girls' softball instead of boys' baseball, she opted to compete in rodeo. She also played basketball and went on to play for the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette).

Glenn Cecchini, a Californian, was also in Lafayette, to play baseball. After he met Raissa, he would only go back to California to visit. They settled in Lake Charles. He became Barbe High's baseball coach in 1986 and talked Raissa into being his assistant.

She coached until her sons' baseball careers took off in youth leagues. She wanted to be with her boys.

Garin starred at Barbe and received a scholarship to Louisiana State before his senior year. The only factor that could keep him from LSU was being a first-round pick in the major league draft, with a sizable bonus.

But Cecchini did not play baseball his senior year, suffering a torn tendon in his right knee. He was still a draft prospect, but his value took a hit.

"I got drafted in the fourth round. I didn't think I was going to sign," Cecchini said. "But the Red Sox took a gamble on me."

Not only did Boston offer big money, the team invited Cecchini on a "recruiting visit" to Fenway Park.

"They threw out the red carpet for me," he said. "Just going to Fenway, thinking of all the players stepping in the left-handed batters' box. I thought this is where I want to play. This is where I want to be called a professional baseball player."

(Continued on page 2)

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