MLB

NHL Winter Classic: David Pastrnak of the Bruins might be baseball’s most unlikely star

NHL Winter Classic: David Pastrnak of the Bruins might be baseball’s most unlikely star

BOSTON – Frederic Trent stopped playing baseball in 10th grade. It was the year that the native of St. Louis had to leave his team and home when he moved to Plymouth, Michigan to play in the National Team Development Program.

Had hockey not been the 24-year-old’s passion, Frederic was in a good position to extend his baseball career. He played with former Major League catcher Mike Matheny. Frederic himself was a good receiver. When it was his turn at the plate, the right-hander Frederic had enough strength to put balls over the fence. Several of his teammates went on to play Division 1 college baseball.

Frederic, then, would probably be front and center among the Bruins to stay at Fenway Park in the summer. The green monster, which is supposedly 310 feet away from home, isn’t much farther than the Cooperstown fences Frederic used to clear during summer tournaments.

As for who would be the biggest fish out of water with a bat or glove in hand, an informal poll among the Bruins landed on one player in particular.

“I’m going to throw Pasta under the bus,” he said Connor Clifton.

“I think Pasta is a better hockey player for sure,” Matt Grzelcyk he said ok. “I don’t know how much baseball they play in the Czech Republic. It’s funny to watch him swing.”

To David Pastorby his own admission, he is not competent in sports involving throwing or catching a ball of any kind. So it’s a good bet the Bruins’ biggest on-ice superstar wouldn’t be too comfortable if he had to trade his Bauer stick for a Louisville Slugger.

“He’s strictly a hockey player, I think,” Clifton said. “They don’t know baseball there anyway, do they? Czechia doesn’t have baseball.”

When informed of his colleagues’ conclusions, Pastrnak gave a partial concession. He had enough pride, however, to defend himself in another way.

“I’ll give it to them because I’ve never swung the bat before,” Pastrnak said. “I went out today and I tried. I went one-by-one. So I ended up on top. I made contact. I think I’d get to first base, no problem. I think I’d be good at stealing as well.” .

In Pastrnak’s defense, some of his teammates offered no-nonsense opinions about players who would be more out of place on the diamond.

“Swampy”, Brandon Carlo said of Brad Marchand. “Terrible. Terrible.”

Carlo, it seems, shouldn’t have been talking.

“Brando would probably say,” Jake DeBrusk said “I don’t trust him with a baseball bat. He would be a good base runner, though, I think. Everyone has their own skills.”

Like Carlo, DeBrusk probably had no business criticizing anyone’s baseball talent.

“Who can I choose?” Nick Foligno he thought. “I’m going to say Jake DeBrusk should stick with hockey. He’s a one-sport athlete.”

Education appears to be a critical factor in determining how a young athlete engages in certain sports. As Clifton pointed out, baseball is not a popular sport for children in the Czech Republic. Soccer, hockey and tennis are more common choices. The Bruins have a healthy European contingent: Pastrnak, David Krejci, Hampus Lindholm, Thomas Nosek, Linus Ullmark, Pavel Zacha i Jakub Zboril.

“Probably any European,” coach Jim Montgomery said when asked which of his players should pursue hockey. “Because they can’t throw, right? They don’t do anything with their arms up.”

“I will go with the foreigners,” said Carlo also. “I think Pasta probably wouldn’t be very good at baseball. He might be capable. His hand-eye coordination is incredible. Jakub Zboril. Pavel Zacha. Krech, probably.”

For the most part, Europeans are quite comfortable kicking the soccer ball before the game, perhaps more so than Americans and Canadians. Alaskan Jeremy Swayman he knows it well

“I would get smoked,” Swayman said of competing against his teammates on the football field. “I do it every time before the game.”

The European bias, however, is not always maintained. Ullmark, for example, can handle himself at the plate.

“I would think that some of the Europeans” Charlie Coyle he said who he could fight at Fenway. “But also, Linus Ullmark, we played softball once and he was surprisingly very good. So I say. But I don’t think all these Europeans can be that special, right? I’d say one of these guys. I didn’t to point to no one.”

“Linus is really, really good,” Grzelcyk agreed. “That surprised me. He was swinging the ball. Last year we had a teamwork drill and we all played baseball together. He was probably the best hitter on the team. I didn’t see that coming. That went be surprising, for sure.”

All kidding aside, coaches see value in young hockey players participating in other sports, including baseball.

“The more you’re able to understand not only physically, there’s hand-eye coordination, there’s physical talent available, but if you play second base in baseball, the ball is going to be hit and there’s going to be one when there’s a runner to second, what are you supposed to do? That translates to when you’re sitting on the bench,” Montgomery said. “You are watching something happen on the ice and this is the moment where you can reflect. The sport of baseball teaches you to think while you sit or while you wait for something to happen. As a hockey player, you need to grow mentally from being able to observe and learn from others. If you’re sitting on the bench, Pastrnak tried a shot and it beat the side of the goalie’s low post, but it didn’t go in, if you use the same movement or the same shot attempt, that’s a hole you can maybe expose.”

Pastrnak is embracing the baseball experience. He’ll play with custom Bauer sticks painted Fenway green and decorated with scoreboard graphics and a David Ortiz logo. His green and white Bauer skates are printed with baseball stitching.

But Pastrnak isn’t changing his day job.

(David Pastrnak Photo: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)





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