For those of us in the PR profession, media relations, and one of its most common tactics – “pitching” – is considered to be among our most valued skills. Yet put most of us on pitcher’s mound from 60 feet, six inches with a tightly wound ball of string covered in horsehide and we’d be hopelessly lost.
That’s why both the on-field and off-the-field accomplishments of the 30-year-old now former Red Sox ace Jon Lester are so impressive.
Put aside for a minute his three AL All-Star team nominations, two World Series rings, one no-hitter and 110 (and counting) major league wins. Let’s also avoid the rat hole of whether the Red Sox botched their recent contract negotiations with the ace lefty (they did IMHO), causing GM Ben Cherington to ship him to Oakland yesterday rather than get nothing back for him when he likely gets his well-deserved BIG money deal via free agency this winter.
Bottom line: Lester is a pretty incredible human being. The lymphoma survivor and father of two with the steely stare and “all business” attitude defines the often overused “role model” in professional sports.
He’s also a damn good communicator.
Since spring training when he went on record as saying he’d take the proverbial “home town discount” to stay with the Sox, and throughout the past five months, Lester’s approach with his many stakeholders – team management, teammates, the fans and the media – has been incredibly consistent, professional, poised, positive and “on message.” At least publicly. And I have no reason to doubt he is the same way behind closed doors or when the cameras and microphones are put away.
When talks dragged on and became a daily topic of conversation by not only the Boston-area media horde, but the national press as well, Lester was calm and composed and, as always, he took the high road. Even Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who could find fault with Mother Theresa, applauded Lester’s M.O. in a recent column.
Lester never let the endless (and often times mindless) media inquiries become a distraction to his team or to his pitching performance. In fact, just the opposite occurred. He put up great numbers for the last place Sox, winning ten games with a miniscule AL East ERA of 2.52.
He also never rolled his eyes while on camera, never snapped at the talk radio geeks, and never dodged the issue with the Dan Shaughnessy’s of the world. He remained hopeful that deal would get done, which of course it didn’t.
Lester also proved adept on social media channels, as recently as last night, took to his Twitter account to connect with fans by favoriting this tweet from Bill Simmons which theorizes/hopes/prays that Lester returns to Boston this winter via free agency. At the same time, mindful of his new stakeholders – the championship-starved Oakland A’s and their fans, Lester dropped this great 116-character hello: “Thanks y’all cant tell you how much your support means to me and my family! Excited to contribute to a very talented @Athletics team! #NVRQT”
Jon Lester might have well thrown his last pitch in a Red Sox uniform. But the lasting image of his flawless delivery – of his fastball on the mound or a key message shared during an interview or tweet – should remain forever in the hearts and minds of Sox fans everywhere.