Settled in Cincinnati and as low key as ever
Brooksville native Bronson Arroyo continues to enjoy success in majors.
By DAVID MURPHY
Published March 13, 2007
He couldn't stop watching them.
Not for two months.
On most nights, Bronson Arroyo would disappear into the home clubhouse of Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark and immerse himself in a life that no longer existed.
As his teammates played outside, he would sit in front of the television, trying to pry himself away from the only team he thought he would ever play for.
Every fifth night he would trot out to the mound and pitch his heart out. But the other four? He was somewhere else. Somewhere else entirely.
"They were all my guys there," Arroyo said of the nights he spent watching his old Boston Red Sox teammates on television. "It was hard as hell to be ripped out of there. I loved that place."
For a moment, his tone was one of regret. But as Hernando County's most famous living pro athlete stood on a sidewalk outside Tom Varn Park on an overcast morning early last month, it was clear he has moved on.
Don't get him wrong: The trade last March that sent him from the Red Sox to the Cincinnati Reds cut him deeply. Just two months earlier, he had ignored the advice of his agents and signed a three-year contract for well below market value to remain with the only team he felt he truly belonged.
"I would have signed a lifetime contract there any day they would have put it on the table," Arroyo said.
But don't cry for him.
He is the No. 1 pitcher on a playoff-contending team. He lives in a trendy area of Cincinnati, three minutes from the ballpark and walking distance to a number of bars and restaurants. He still owns a house in Boston, and earlier this year returned to play four shows (Arroyo, if you'll recall, is an avid guitar player who published a CD of cover songs in the wake of the Red Sox's World Series title in 2004).
And, just days after he participated in a free kids baseball clinic hosted by the Hernando Parks and Recreation department, he signed a two-year, $25-million extension that Arroyo said will set him for life.
"It'll be enough to retire on," he said with a laugh.
Yes, it appears Brooksville's native son is starting to grow up.
Two-and-half years after he tagged along on Boston's wild ride to its jinx-breaking World Series title, Arroyo is in a different city, with a different team and in a different workplace.
While shaking off the disappointment of the trade, he started the 2006 season 5-0 and made headlines by hitting two home runs. He was named to his first All-Star team. He appeared on the cover of Cincinnati Magazine.
Most importantly, he erased the shadow of Wily Mo Pena, the player for whom he was traded and a Cincy fan favorite.
"People were kind of watching and saying, 'Let's see what this guy can do, if we should boo him or not,' " Arroyo said.
He struggled midway through the season, going winless in 10 straight starts from late June to mid-August. By the time September struck, Arroyo had regained his early-season form, going 4-2 in the final month of the season to finish 14-11 with a career-low 3.29 ERA.
Arroyo led the majors in innings pitched with 240 2/3, and tied for sixth in the National League with 184 strikeouts.
"For me, it was an opportunity to show them more responsibility, be a No. 1 starter on a team instead of riding Curt Schilling's coattails in the five hole," Arroyo said. "It made me stand out a little more as far as being a solid major league pitcher."
No matter how much he stands out, it doesn't appear as if Arroyo will forget his roots.
During his trip home in February, he signed autographs for kids - many wearing Boston jerseys - patiently walked them through pitching drills and huddled under an umbrella with former coach Ernie Chatman when an early-morning rainstorm struck.
"It's nice to come back," Arroyo said, moments before hopping in his Hummer and rolling off to meet up with some friends.
"It's home, you know?"