A doctor’s visit Tuesday and an orthodontist appointment Wednesday delayed Drew Epperson’s trip to Hadlock Field.

“He was angry because he was missing out,” said his mom, Anne Epperson.

Drew, 18, knows too well the realities of multiple medical appointments. He also knows the joy of a baseball field.

He missed batting practice Wednesday but arrived in time to be in uniform, and walk out of the Sea Dogs’ clubhouse with his father, Chad, to watch the starting pitcher warm up.

Chad Epperson, 45, is the Boston Red Sox roving catching instructor. He visits each of Boston’s minor league teams, including Portland, several times a year. Often, Drew is next to him. Been that way for about 14 years.

“Those two, two peas in a pod,” Anne Epperson said. “They’ve always been together.”


“In (Drew’s) world, this is the best thing ever,” his father said. “He loves this time of year when he can go to the ballpark and be with the guys and do his thing.

“This is kind of his sanctuary. Gets him away from the real world.”

The real world has been full of challenges, starting when Drew was born on the first day of spring training in 1999. His dad was a minor league catcher in the Red Sox system, but baseball wasn’t on Chad Epperson’s mind that day.

“(Drew) was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate,” he said. “The severity of it – on a scale of one to 10, was like an eight. … He had no top lip. Had only one nostril, barely.

“There were some internal things that had to be taken of. His heart is on the right side of his body, not his left. His ribs were tangled together. A lot of digestive issues.”

Eating was a problem and Drew’s physical development slowed. He’s catching up but as he prepares to enter the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Drew stands 5-foot-9, weighing 108 pounds.


“He’s had 22 surgeries in his life,” Chad said. “He’s behind the 8-ball physically.”

The physical difference is evident when Drew sees Red Sox minor leaguers at the lower levels.

“They’re my age or younger,” he said.

“This has definitely made me stronger. There have been some tough times. It never affected me as far as school or baseball, or socially. It was more like, ‘You’ve got to go through it.’

“You think you’re done (with surgeries) and you’re not. You don’t realize when you’re young.”

Many of Drew’s surgeries were cosmetic, but they made Chad a wreck.


“Not good,” Chad said. “You see this kid, this innocent, helpless kid, and he just has to go through this. Every surgery I would say ‘Anne, I don’t care what he looks like down the road.’ But Anne was the strong one, saying, ‘Chad he’s got to do this.’ It was tough. My wife is incredibly strong.

“I could not have gotten through it without her, and big faith in God.”

Anne often scheduled the lighter surgeries when Chad was on the road. But soon Chad would be around more often. His playing days ended in 2000, having peaked in Double-A. He eventually turned to coaching.

In 2003, as hitting coach for Class A Sarasota, Epperson was tutoring Kevin Youkilis while beginning to bring Drew along.

When Chad became manager of low Class A Augusta (Georgia) in 2004, Drew became more of a fixture. The players took to him.

“Chad taught him from early on how to act,” Anne said. “He’s always been accepted by the players, which has been amazing.”


Anne recalled a moment this past spring training. “We’re standing around and Jackie Bradley Jr. runs by and yells ‘Hey, Drew.’

“Drew gets along really well with the players. It helps him forget about everything else going on.”

Drew has friends in school. He said he wasn’t picked on. “I would get looks and stares, but not so much lately because it’s been fixed more.”

After the stares, or another round of doctor appointments, Drew could look forward to returning to the ballpark, helping his dad.

“I do whatever they need – whether it’s getting coffee or a bucket of baseballs, or help out with the drills,” Drew said. “Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to take batting practice.”

Drew blends in when he’s at Hadlock, whether sitting in Manager Carlos Febles’ office – “great kid,” Febles said – or talking to a player.


“Drew? He’s awesome,” said Portland catcher Jordan Procyshen. “Really good dude. He’s been around the game long enough. He understands where he needs to be. He’s one of the guys.”

That familiarity with players began back in 2004 when his dad was managing a young prospect named Dustin Pedroia.

“He’s been good to Drew,” Chad said.

“Every time (Drew has a surgery), Pedey would send him something – bats, jerseys, batting gloves. Drew’s idol is Pedroia. He wears 15 on all his team jerseys.”

Drew played youth baseball and a little ball at Andover High in Massachusetts. He will be joining the UMass-Lowell baseball program as a student assistant.

“I’ve already met with the coach,” he said. “I’ll do whatever they want.”


Drew will major in business, with his eye on getting into the front-office side of baseball.

He’s already grown up in the game.

“He has such a passion for it,” Chad said. “He loves being out here.”

But it’s not only because of the baseball.

Chad Epperson knows his son well, but Drew’s idol is not a player.

“These moments I’ll never forget, spending time with my dad,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


“He’s always asking me, ‘What could I do better (as a dad)?’ Honestly, I have nothing to tell him. He’s always around. He’s my best friend. I love him to death.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:


Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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