Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/19/13
Will Middlebrooks is going into his first full year with the Red Sox, taking over as the everyday third baseman and putting together the pieces that he hopes will make him a staple in the Boston lineup for years to come. When it comes to who he’s styling his game after, he points to a player who will be situated very close to him in the lineup: David Ortiz. But it’s not necessarily for the reasons that come to mind. Sure, Middlebrooks would love to bash some home runs, and he’d certainly like the popularity that comes with being one of Boston’s biggest producers for many years. But when Middlebrooks thinks of success beyond a few at-bats or the length of the season, Ortiz provides the perfect template for more than performance. In Middlebrooks’ eyes, this is the guy who has figured out how to make the most of being with the Red Sox. “I’ve been watching him since I was a kid,” Middlebrooks told Joe McDonald of ESPN. “He’s one of the main players I like to watch — not because he hits homers. It’s his personality. His personality — he’s so outgoing, and he’s very personal with the fans, and that’s the same personality I have. He’s the perfect guy to learn from.” Middlebrooks could do nothing but good last year, being called up earlier than expected and lifting the Red Sox as one of the few players performing at a high level for much of the season. While a wrist injury knocked him out for the last part of the season, he accumulated 15 home runs and 54 RBIs on a .288 batting average over just 75 games — numbers that translate extremely well when projected over a full season. Going into his second year, expectations are going to be higher — not just for the sophomore third baseman, but also for the player that many Red Sox fans are pinning their hopes on as the team looks to return to glory. It’s a challenge Middlebrooks sounds ready to accept. “I would give anything to play here my whole career,” Middlebrooks told McDonald. “Everyone wants to play in a market like this. Everyone wants to play on a team like this. Well, not everyone, because it does take a certain player. There have been plenty of players to come through here who hated it. It’s hard to play here. If you don’t like pressure, you don’t want to play here. But I like it, and it motivates me to do well, because I don’t want to disappoint anybody.” While the Red Sox have heard a lot of talk in recent years about finding good “clubhouse chemistry” — quality, team players who will push for the common good — finding raw talent that thrives under pressure is another question. Picking up a utility infielder or an extra arm who can fit in with the rest of the team is one thing. Finding an elite player who makes the most of Boston’s unique challenges requires something more. “I realize to play in Boston you’ve got to be a special kind of player, and that’s not me blowing smoke,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s hard to play in Boston. There’s a pressure to win in Boston. I’d rather play here. “I don’t mind the fans being [ticked] when we lose — I like that, because that means they’re behind us. They want us to do well, and that’s what I like. I like the pressure to win.” For lessons in that, Middlebrooks doesn’t need to look much farther than Ortiz, who made his name in the biggest moments in Boston. And, while Middlebrooks will be trying to emulate Ortiz, he already has a fan in the veteran slugger. “He’s a good dude, a very humble kid,” Ortiz said. “This year is going to be the year I’m going to try to help him the most, because in your second year when pitchers start to figure things out about you, you need to have that support, and he’s my boy.” Ortiz said he loves the many questions Middlebrooks asks, and that he has encouraged Middlebrooks to stay hungry as his Major League Baseball career develops. One lesson Middlebrooks seems to have already learned well is that he’s reporting to a lot more people than just himself, his teammates or his coaches now. It took him just a season to get used to the idea of Red Sox Nation. “I’m not playing for just my family anymore,” he said. “I’ve got a real big family in Boston now, so I want to do well, and I don’t want to disappoint the fans.” Those are statements that project just as well as the numbers.
Is Madison Bumgarner a bully?
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA fines Dwyane Wade $25K for throat-slash gesture in win against Celtics

Report: Seahawks, Vikings, Colts to be ‘players’ at trade deadline

Former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer battling Alzheimer’s disease

Jamaal Charles (knee) to miss Sunday’s game against Colts

Report: C.J. Anderson will be in recovery for ‘months’


Indians' Roberto Perez reveals battle with Bell's palsy

76ers apologize for pulling singer from national anthem

Cubs fans line up outside bar at 5:30 am before Game 3

Sheldon Adelson threatens to walk away from Raiders stadium deal

NCAA set to distribute some revenue based on academic performance

Tom Brady nixes a future in coaching, blames lack of patience

30 athletes (and friends) who've done Halloween costumes right

CFB Crash Course Week 9: The underachievers already out of playoff contention

College Football Playoff set-up could keep best teams out of title contention

Box Score 10/28: London, Wrigley and the Cell

Four NBA teams that could surprise this season

NHL in three players: Carey Price is the MVP of sports

Rex Ryan: Pats’ violation of unwritten rule led to skirmish

LeBron doesn’t want Thompson bringing Khloe around Cavs?

NFL ratings decline is also hurting the restaurant business

WATCH: Breaking down the current state of the 76ers

Five things we have learned thus far in the World Series

Can Hell in a Cell still bring the heat?

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

CFB Crash Course Week 9: The underachievers already out of playoff contention

College Football Playoff set-up could keep best teams out of title contention

WATCH: Breaking down the current state of the 76ers

Five things we have learned thus far in the World Series

Can Hell in a Cell still bring the heat?

We’re doing the Bountygate thing again

Significant firsts for women's wrestling in WWE at 'Hell in a Cell'

One Gotta Go: Pac-12 players and coaches vs. the worst pickup ballers

A look back at 10 of the best-looking World Series

25 questions heading into the 2016-17 NBA season

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker