Pavano's Roots Made Him the Pride of the Community

Former Southington Blue Knights baseball coach John Fontana said Carl Pavano had a natural talent that made him one of the best in a long line of baseball prospects to come out of Southington.

Before toeing the rubber for Blue Knights baseball team in the 1994 CIAC Class LL state championship, Carl Pavano walked up to his high school coach John Fontana and expressed concerns regarding his off-speed stuff, particularly his curveball.

“Coach, my curveball isn’t breaking a lick. I just don’t have it today,” Pavano, then 18, told his coach.

Fontana said he knew without a second thought that it didn’t matter. The former baseball coach turned back with confidence and told the young prospect they would simply switch up the game plan.

Every pitch Pavano threw was knee high, Fontana said Thursday as he recalled the championship win. He used just two pitches but kept almost every batter from hitting the ball in the air en route to the victory.

“That was just the kind of talent that Pavano had. He was years ahead of other high school seniors – every pitch hit his target and he could throw with great arm speed,” Fontana said. “I didn’t have to even think about it. I knew when he told me the problem that a bad Pavano was better than the next best pitcher that either team could throw out there.”

Pavano, 36, found himself surrounded in controversy again Thursday as a search warrant revealed that his by his high school classmate Christian Bedard.

The executed a search warrant at home last week. The warrant, released this week through Bristol Superior Court, said Pavano's family members reported that Bedard threatened to report "false personal information" about Pavano is he did not receive "a heartfelt apology and a navy Range Rover with tan leather."

Before the pitcher realized the highs and lows that came with being a professional athlete, however, he was the pride of a community.

Pavano was born to Carmen and Ann Pavano in New Britain in 1976, but the family moved to Southington before he entered high school. He spent most of his four-year career at the varsity level and his hard work and dedication led to his being drafted in the 13th round of the 1994 MLB draft.

He is among a long line of talented ballplayers to come from Southington. Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Rob Dibble, former Baltimore Orioles infielder Tommy Banner and San Diego Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia are all Southington natives.

Pavano started his career with the Boston Red Sox and quickly established himself as a potential major league talent. By the age of 21, he had already been named a Baseball America first-team minor league all-star, AA all-star, Eastern League all-star and pitcher of the year and the Red Sox minor league player of the year.

His biggest contribution to the team, however, came when he left. In November 1997, he and pitcher Tony Armas Jr. were traded to the Montreal Expos for Pedro Martinez. The trade was a good thing for Pavano, however, and by May of 1998 he found himself starting in the majors.

Pavano would pitch five seasons with the Expos before joining the Florida Marlins in 2002. Injuries had started to mount for Pavano, but that didn’t stop him from establishing himself as an important part of the Marlins starting rotation and in 2003, he was part of the World Series champions. The following year, he was an 18-game winner and pitched to a 3.00 ERA.

“It was no surprise to see the success,” said Fontana. “He had perfect stuff. No other pitcher I had was able to hit his target every time the same way he was.”

After the 2004 season, however, the star was hit with controversy. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the New York Yankees, but was plagued by injuries. He became fascinated with dating supermodels – girls caused him trouble, Fontana said – and a car accident paired with a variety of other injuries prevented him from pitching in 2006. In 2007, he had Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

After his contract came to a close, Pavano found himself needing to repair his image and show a toughness that would allow him to stay in the game. He joined the Indians in 2009 and was traded that same season to the Minnesota Twins, his current team. It was here that he found a home and spot in the rotation.

Things were going well for Pavano, who is slated as the opening day starter for the organization when they face off against the Orioles on April 6 and could serve the season as ace of the staff, but the controversy returned this week.

Pavano declined comment through Mike Herman, director of baseball operations for the Minnesota Twins, on Thursday evening.

Fontana said he hopes that the investigation will put a quick end to the controversy and said Pavano is "a good kid" and has always been honest about who he is.

“He’s a good kid, a strong kid,” said Fontana, who remains close with the star and still speaks to Pavano regularly. “If I were him; he’s made a lot of money and he has the resources to clear his name of the accusations Bedard is suggesting regarding his personal life.”

rich hart March 30, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Doug, that might be true. But if Pavano or anybody else doesn't give back through charitable efforts or whatever, that still doesn't mean he should be extorted for over something that either happened or is false. I don't know the guy and couldn't tell you whether he's a nice guy or a bad guy or whether he is good hearted or cold hearted. Probably like most people, he's a little of all of that. But think about his parents having to listen to this, and his wife and family. It's not right, regardless of whether or not he could have done more for Southington or not.
Frank Clynes March 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Jason, Your article left out the name of Mike Raczka. Mike was a star left handed pitcher for S.H.S. in the late 70's/early 80's. He went on to pitch 4 years for the University of New Haven and led his team to trips to the college world series. After graduating from U.N.H. Mike played in the minor leagues for over 12 years with several teams including the Athletics, Orioles and Red Sox. Mike also pitched in the big leagues for the Oakland Athletics in 1992. I had the pleasure of seeing Mike suit up for the Athletics against the Red Sox. for a series at Fenway Park. If anyone has brought pride to Southington it's Mike Raczka. Frank Clynes
Jason Vallee March 30, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Raczka was a heck on a player and there are a few others left off here. I only included ones that came up directly in conversation with Fontana in this particular article. The town has had quite a few - it'll be interesting to see how Romano fairs as well. A lot of talent coming from SHS.
Lucy March 30, 2012 at 06:47 PM
As for me, the dedicated and honorable men and women from Southington, our state and the rest of the country that serve our country are the pride of this and any other community. I have never been one to worship at the altar of professional athletes or entertainers and never heard of anyone involved in this story until this week. The only reason I have followed the coverage of this story is (1) you just can not get away from it and (2) it the light it shines on the potential pitfalls of social media networks. I have read heartwarming stories and some tales that end in tragic consequences for the use and/or abuse of these forums.
doug March 30, 2012 at 08:32 PM
rich----my comments were not directed towards this allegation---I was referring to the article that called him the "Pride of the community" He isn't well liked


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