, Salem, MA

February 26, 2007

Schilling finally down to business

The Bradford Files

Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Curt Schilling thought he was used to baseball offseasons ... and then this past winter came along.

"Yeah," he said before yesterday's workout at the Red Sox minor league complex, "I know better now."

Schilling can now admit to being thrown a bit of curveball when it came to approaching his 20th offseason in the major leagues. The new dynamic was presented courtesy the 40-year-old's new venture, Green Monster Games, a business he was intent on attacking with the same vigor as any of his 3,110 career innings.

The problem came when he realized there were only so many hours in the day.

"Sure, there were things I would have done differently the next time from a time management standpoint," Schilling said of his offseason schedule. "But I learned. I showed up (at spring training) at a weight I wasn't happy with, but I'm down six pounds and I'm about a pound under where I was at last season."

According to Schilling, his days at GMG were all-encompassing. They would begin at 8:15 in the morning and last until he got home around 6 every night. And while overseeing the company forced him out of his desired routine in regards to overall fitness, the hurler did always find time to keep the most important attribute - his pitching arm - in shape heading into spring training.

The throwing regimen was executed during Schilling's lunch break from GMG, leaving work at 11:15 a.m., meeting up with Red Sox strength and conditioning coach Dave Page at around 11:30 to 11:45, and then getting back to the office at 1 p.m.

"You know what it was, the last eight to 10 days before I got down here a lot of stuff happened, not just (at GMG) but personally, that needed to be taken care of," he admitted. "But my throwing program, I stayed religious to it. My arm feels great.

"I knew I had to keep going and I never missed a day. I threw more than anybody in this camp coming in here, except for maybe Daisuke (Matsuzaka). I threw three batting practices in the 10 days before I came down here, 20 minutes at a time, along with bullpens. I'm fine."

Along with his gradual weight loss, another sign that Schilling is easing through the transition of playing the role of executive to ace pitcher came yesterday at 11 a.m. After stretching on the side of the complex's field No. 2 and watching Josh Beckett throw batting practice, it was the veteran's turn. And while the image of Beckett's exploding fastball couldn't be found in Schilling's deliveries, the same effectiveness could.

For one of the first times in camp, the focus was taken off of Schilling's torso and put firmly on what transpired when the ball reached the catcher's mitt.

"I had a tougher time hitting off of Schilling than Beckett," said Sox outfielder David Murphy. "He has so many pitches. (The change-up) was nasty."

Over the last 11/2 weeks, Schilling has undergone the change in mind-set. The first few days of separating himself from the office in Maynard was clearly a challenge, and wasn't made any easier when fans yelled "Green Monster Games!" upon seeing him walk toward the playing fields.

Just when Schilling was beginning to embrace the life of a businessman, he was being asked to morph back into the anything-but-ordinary baseball way of doing things.

"The hard part was the lifestyle change," he said. "(The hours) were a big adjustment. I'm a morning person now, which I would have never dreamed of. I get home from work and we talk three or four times a day. We're still somewhat in a semi-start-up mode, there are a lot of moving parts, and we're still building the team. But there won't be people in the company that I don't know and am not comfortable with."

The person Schilling is most often calling these days is 42-year-old Brett Close. He is the newly named president of Green Monster Games and has been identified by the pitcher as the person who will be minding the store in the founder's baseball-induced absence.

Close, who was first contacted by Schilling last September, was a heavyweight in the gaming industry even before hooking on with GMG, bringing experience from a world so outside of the baseball diamond it would be hard to imagine the two corners of the world would ever meet.

"I am a baseball fan, although I'm not an avid, hard-core baseball dude," Close said. "I got a couple of these phone calls (from Schilling) but it wasn't on the forefront of the reality of my consciousness that it was anybody in particular. But then I put it together and said, 'Oh, that Curt Schilling.' But he doesn't want me around because I think Curt Schilling is the greatest guy in the world and I am a total baseball suck-up. I have a gigantic regard for his ability, but the first thing on my mind is that this pro baseball player is contacting me and this is the whole basis of this company.

"Curt doesn't do anything less than 110 percent. That's why he has gotten where he is, and that has been the case with this situation. He's gone at it full-force. He initially realized he had to put some work into it to get it revved up. He's incredibly passionate about it. His initial impetus was to get that going, but he also recognized that he hasn't been building video games his whole career. So he did something I think all successful leaders have done historically - you find help in the places you need help, bring in strong people and then you get out of the way and you empower them."

Now, with the success of his first batting practice session behind him, and a two-inning stint against Minnesota looming Wednesday night, Schilling is slowly discovering the peace of mind which wasn't necessarily around upon when he first arrived in Florida.

"It was going to be (stressful), but it wasn't because of (Close) and some of the other people there," Schilling said. "There is only so much someone like me can do in a company like that. It had gotten to the point where it needed a legitimate, successful industry guy, and that's exactly what this guy is. This guy has a resume of achievement. He gave the ability to not be there."