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Major League Baseball playoffs sweeter with Husky graduate in play

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Adam Ottavino delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game, in St. Petersburg, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Northeastern baseball coach Mike Glavine calls it homework, but it’s unlikely the Huskies consider watching the Major League Baseball playoffs to be work.

This year the players have another reason to watch—former Husky pitching ace Adam Ottavino is playing for the Red Sox.

“We’re usually all into the games in late October, just from a general baseball perspective,” says Glavine. “But add on the fact that it’s the Red Sox and the fact that the Red Sox have a Northeastern guy on the team and it’s a pretty awesome time for us.”

The Huskies stunned observers last season, making history with a school-record 20-game winning streak and winning their first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title. Glavine says there’s still plenty to learn from the best teams in baseball as the Huskies warm up this fall.

“It sort of becomes nightly homework. We’ll watch and we’ll all text each other during the games as a team,” says Glavine, who often trades rapid-fire texts with an ever-shifting network of players, staff members and coaches throughout the innings.

“I just feel like it’s a great learning experience. We’re practicing a lot of this stuff during the day, and then to see so much of it happening—the base running and defense and all kinds of pitching,” says Glavine. “We’re just trying to constantly learn, and why not watch the best and see them do it and then try to apply it to our practices?”

There’s an added level of investment when a player like Ottavino makes it to the postseason. The right-hander was recruited by former Husky head coach Neil McPhee, who said the 6-foot 5-inch pitcher quickly became the team’s top starter back in 2004 and still holds the single-season and career strikeout record. Ottavino, 35, remains the second-highest Major League draft pick in the history of Northeastern, chosen 30th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. He’s since played for the Colorado Rockies and New York Yankees before joining the Red Sox to bolster their bullpen this year.

“To have him return to Boston with the Sox in this amazing season is very special for all of us who were part of his career at NU,” says McPhee, who retired in 2015.

There’s another reason Glavine likes to build a connection among his players during the post season games, and it has something to do with the wild, gleeful celebrations the Red Sox teammates have recently embraced. From their jubilant laundry cart dugout rides following every home run to their heartfelt clubhouse singalongs, the team spirit has become a potent source of motivation.

“It’s absolutely a real thing, and you can’t put a statistic to it. Some people might mock it and laugh about it, but when you’re really close to it and you’re a part of the staff or the team and you have that bond, you know it’s real,” says Glavine.

“I’ve coached enough teams and played in enough teams where you see it, some

guys bond and gel more than others. We’re coming off a championship season for us. We won the CAA and I can absolutely say that we were talented, but I don’t think we’d win it if we weren’t as close or had as much chemistry,” said Glavine. “It’s just so hard to quantify that.”

While the Huskies didn’t have a rallying song last season, they did embrace an oversized, floppy straw hat which players would enthusiastically slap on the head of a home run hitter, usually as the Husky was on his way back to the dugout.

“It was just about having our own fun and it kept the guys loose. You see the Red Sox do their celebrations when they hit home runs or get some big outs and that sort of stuff, and they have that music, and it all creates a bond. It’s a chemistry and an atmosphere that the guys want to be a part of, and they pull for each other,” says Glavine, who’s heading into his eighth season as head coach.

“You can see it. When people make big plays, get big outs, big pitches or big hits; you look around and you can see how many guys are happy for that person. Suddenly they’re not thinking about themselves, they’re just genuinely happy for that guy,” he says. “It’s really what you strive for as a coach, and I think we’re seeing that right now with what our team did this year.”

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