David Price talks giving back, Boston baseball and babies – The Tennessean
During a symbolic ceremony, Cy-Young award-winning pitcher David Price, a Murfreesboro native, gives a push on the large baseball fountain to “get the ball rolling” on the Miracle Field that is still under construction in McKnight Park.
Larry McCormack / The Tennessean
David Price reaches down toward his loose-laced Jordans and scratches the back of his French bulldog, Astro.
Next to him, his other dogÂ â a Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix named LouisÂ â scoots between his wife’s legs in the excitement.
The newlyweds â married this offseason in Hawaii â go lots of places with their pups, and the four-legged companions have gotten a lot of attention over the years. Cameras have captured Astro in bullpens and dugouts across the country as Price â a Murfreesboro native and Vanderbilt University baseball standout â worked his way from Middle Tennessee to the Boston Red Sox, whereÂ last seasonÂ he became the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball.
ESPN even did a short video starring both dogsÂ riding to Price’s new home field,Â Fenway Park.
And now, here they are on a blustery gray morning in Price’s hometown, tugging at their leashes and lapping up the love as their Cy Young Award-winning owner shoots a few promotional spots for the upcoming opening of the Miracle Field at McKnight ParkÂ in Murfreesboro. Price committed a portion of the funds for the $3 million project, which will provide a space for children with mental and physical disabilities to play baseball, through his Project One FourÂ foundation.
After the photos, the group walks â and scampers âÂ outside, where a group of business leaders and the city’s mayor wait to “get the ball rolling” with a photo op in front of the still-under-construction field and playground, which are expected to celebrate their official openingÂ April 1. Alongside them, Price’s parentsÂ â dadÂ Bonnie and momÂ DebbieÂ â also stand, proud of their son and his commitment to the place he grew up.
“This is where all the family is,” Price says in a sit-down interview with The Tennessean at the field. “And this is where I have spent my entire life, pretty much. This is where I enjoy coming back to. This is home.”
This is the place he returns in the offseasonÂ to play golf with his dad and throw baseballs with another hometown major league pitching star, Sonny Gray, even when there’s so much going on in his life everywhere else.
Last year was a big one for Price. The left-hander signed a seven-year, $217 million contract to play for BostonÂ and started 35 games for the Red SoxÂ â the most starts of his nine-year major league career. Then, at the end of last year, he and longtime girlfriendÂ TiffanyÂ got married, bonding their family of four â two people, two pups.
And soon,Â theÂ two small dogs, who Tiffany saysÂ play and fight over toys like siblings,Â will have another tiny being to contend with.
The couple is expecting a child, a baby boy to be named Xavier,Â in May.
“Being a father is something I always cherished and wanted to do,” says Price, noting the example of his own parents, who have been married more than 40 years and who raised three sons. He jokes that he may have to grow up a little bit himself, so that Tiffany doesn’t feel like she hasÂ two kids on her hands, but he started thinking about being a dad even back in college and is glad that it comes nowÂ â when he is 31 years old and established in his career.
Price says he wants to raise his boyÂ “theÂ way my parents raised me:Â Treat people the way I want to be treated. Give respect and demand respect.”
Respect has been something that has been hard to come by, at times, for PriceÂ â particularly in Boston.
The five-time All StarÂ won 17 games last season,Â but he finished with an earned run average of 3.99 and gave up a career-worst 30 home runs. By contrast, in 2015, he appeared in just three fewer games, playing for Detroit and Toronto, with an ERA of 2.45 and only 17 homes runs surrendered.
Admittedly, fans in and outsideÂ Fenway were harsh when Price’s performance wasn’t on par with expectations.
“They definitely expect the most, thatâs for sure,” Price says. “Fans in BostonÂ expect almost as much as the players expect of themselves.
“They have a lot of good sports teams out there. They have a lot of championships, a lot of rings â and they expect it from every team, every year. Thatâs definitely different than a lot of cities, but that goes with their passion, as well.”
Price says he feels good heading into the 2017 season.
He has added something new to his offseason training: doing Pilates with his wife, who is a certified trainer.
“Itâs something I always made fun of,” Price says. “But she ran me through a couple of exercises early on this offseason, and that was the most sore I had been for a long time. So I definitely bought into it.
“I feel like everything about Pilates is good for the movement of what you are doing in baseball. It is going to make you more flexible and give you more room to do stuff. …Â You donât have to have one weight, and you can wake up the next morning and feel like you got ran over by a semi.”
Now, he couples that with trainingÂ five days a week at Vanderbilt with Gray. Baseball Coach Tim Corbin has always welcomed all former players â not just the pros â back to use the facilities, so the friends take advantage. They do agility drills and run inside the newÂ football practice facility, andÂ “throw the baseball as far as we can throw the baseball.”
“Then we work out in a little weight room, whichÂ right now is behind the cages because everything is getting renovated.”
When it comes to leaving his mark, Price has been an important part of that construction, as well. Price donated $2.5 million to complete the Commodoresâ new $12 million baseball facility project, which features a three-story, 30,000-square-foot baseball training facility just beyond left field at Hawkins Field.
The primary building should be completed this spring, but Price may have to wait to see it. He plans to head to Florida next week to prepare for spring training, and focus on his next season in Boston.
“It feels good going in for the second year,” Price says. “Everything is different at first. Whenever you are going into a different setting, a different team, a different city, it’s just â¦ . There were a lot of things that were different about Boston, and it doesnât matter if you are aware of those different things, itâs not different until you experience it.
“I’ve experienced it now, so when I come back in 2017,Â it’s no longer going to be different. It’s going to be normal, and that goes a long way to being comfortable.
“To me, comfort is a big thing,” he says. “And I am definitely way more comfortable in Boston, now.”
No matter how comfortable he becomes, Price will always be connected here.
The Miracle Field opening is just a couple of months away. Even when he’s gone, Price gets updates on the field. Earlier this week, a friend on the way to work texted Price a few photos. But, living here, it’s Price’s parents who really feel the energy. Price’s mom receives the emails from the parents of the special-needs kids, from the teachers, from the neighbors anticipating the opening.
âItâs going to be phenomenal for the community,â Debbie Price says.
This field is not only for a special-needs child, she says, but also for able-body children to interact with. And for them to interact together â on the same set of fields and the same playground, at the same time.
âThey havenât done that before,â Debbie Price says. âAnd for all children to be playing at the same time should be normal.â
Price agrees. That is why,Â on a blustery January afternoon, just weeks before pitchers and catchers will report for 2017 spring training, he visited the field.
The ground, tilled up from construction, was a muddy mess. But the new water featureÂ â a giant marble baseball that bears an inscription ofÂ Price’s signatureÂ â spins round and round when Price gives it a push.
“Itâs something very special to be a part of,” says Price, who first volunteered himself at a Miracle League field in Florida when he played for the Tampa Bay Rays. “To see the excitement that went on there every Saturday morning, whether it was standing for the national anthem or having a walk-up song, getting a hitÂ or watching them go around the bases. All the smiles, thatâs what itâs all about.”
Now, Price says, the Murfreesboro field needs that same love, with volunteersÂ to really make it go.
“We are almost finished with it now, and we have to have people rally around it,” he says. “Once that happens, more people are going to get involved and there’s going to be more Miracle Fields and kids are going to have a choice which one they play at.
“To me, they deserve that, and for us to be able to help them out with that, itâs good.”
Reach Jessica Bliss at email@example.com or 615-259-8253 and on Twitter @jlbliss.