Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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May 30, 2013

'Bigger than Number 8'

Sox star rewards Team Andover with 'wildcard' visit

(Continued)

“We sold various knickknacks — T-shirts, we did some lollipops, bracelets, we sold socks this year, baseballs you could put your name on and hang it on the wall,” 13-year-old Nate Wiley, a student at West Middle and Team Andover member, said

“My little brother and a group of his friends did a walk at West Elementary,” 14-year-old Michael O’Connor said. “They raised over $1,500 in two days.”

On Tuesday, Team Andover had much to celebrate as it converged on West Middle School to meet Middlebrooks, who signed baseballs, gloves and shirts, and fielded questions from the students.

One student asked Middlebrooks who his favorite teammate was. He laughed.

“Oh man, I’ll hear about this one,” he said. “I’ve got a couple. We’re really a close-knit team. We all get along. (First baseman) Mike Napoli is probably my closest friend on the team, but we’re all very close.”

Another student asked why he chose to play third base. His response — he didn’t.

“I was always a pitcher and shortstop my whole life,” he said. “When I signed with the Red Sox out of high school in 2007, I decided to have a growth spurt and got too big for shortstop. So, they moved me over to third base.”

As he got ready to head back to Boston for the team’s second night against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway, Middlebrooks said, “It’s amazing to see a school and community come together to help out with such a great cause.”

The Red Sox are currently celebrating their 60th year partnered with the Jimmy Fund. Middlebrooks and Saltalamacchia are the team’s co-captains with the organization for this year, according to the third baseman.

“Salty and I are the co-captains, so we do a lot of stuff, get involved with the schools and help out in the communities,” he said. “We were up for it. We want to do what we can.”

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