Anthony Ranaudo has found a new home this winter in Louisiana, living with a teammate, a dog and a dream -- an unusual dream for a kid from New Jersey who grew up a Yankees fan.
A right-hander from the Jersey Shore town of Belmar, Ranaudo passed up signing with the Texas Rangers out of high school in 2007 and went on to dominate for Louisiana State University, leading the Tigers to the College World Series in 2008 and '09.
An arm injury his junior year saw his Draft stock slip slightly, and it was the Boston Red Sox that selected him 39th overall in 2010 (he found out he was drafted when an LSU teammate tipped him off while on an airplane on his way back from Omaha).
A towering 6-foot-7 righty, Ranaudo made his professional debut last April for the Red Sox's Class A affiliate at Greenville before moving up to Class A Advanced Salem for the second half, finishing 9-6 with a 3.97 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 127 innings. Both Ranaudo and Boston fans hope the 22-year-old continues progressing this summer at Double-A and beyond, but for now, the righty is only focused on getting ready for Spring Training.
MiLB.com recently caught up with Boston's top-ranked pitching prospect to see why he's relocated to Baton Rouge -- living with a fellow Sox prospect -- and what prompted him to pass up tickets to see his beloved Tigers take on Alabama for the BCS Championship earlier this month.
MiLB.com: So, have to ask you about this first -- you scored tickets for the BCS Championship game and ended up selling them and donating money to a charity. Explain this whole situation (and our condolences on LSU's loss).
Anthony Ranaudo: A couple nights before the game, my younger sister was in town. I took her to a bar and grill and they had a raffle -- she wound up winning the raffle and it was two BCS tickets. I was going to take one of my buddies, but I had to sell them so I could hang out with them all and be a good host. I gave half of the money to my sister and with my half, I tweeted about it and people suggested I give the money to a charity. So I thought it was a good idea -- I said I would give one dollar to The Jimmy Fund for every follower I got on Twitter through Friday, and I got enough followers to cover the amount by Thursday afternoon. And I was supposed to go up to Boston for the event, but I had a friend getting married that weekend. It all worked out, it was pretty cool.
MiLB.com: How was your time at LSU?
Ranaudo: It was pretty unbelievable. I actually bought a house here this offseason in Baton Rouge, so for a kid growing up in New Jersey to move to Baton Rouge speaks measures for the experience I had, the people I met, the great experiences -- I've had time of my life, and I wouldn't change it for anything.
MiLB.com: You earned the win in the clinching game of the 2009 College World Series. What was it like being a part of that?
Ranaudo: It was something that everyone asks me about, "What was your best moment at LSU?" And it was the College World Series experience. To be a part of that team and get the win is something I'll always remember. The friendships and memories, going through Omaha -- it's all something I'll remember for the rest of my life. It was an unbelievable, surreal experience.
MiLB.com: Senior year of high school, the scouts are showing up with radar guns at all your starts. Did you start feeling the pressure and attention?
Ranaudo: I kind of went to a small high school -- the scouts coming out was a cool experience. I got a lot of attention from the media -- it was a great experience for me and I loved it. From a learning experience, I wanted to get drafted as high as possible, but I wanted to go to college and I know my mom wanted me to go to a big school. That's what I wanted, a big school with fans and whatever, so it was a cool experience. I knew I wanted to go to LSU. It worked out, and three years later I went through the process again and stuff I remembered from the first time, it helped me out.
MiLB.com: You dominated in the Cape Cod League before signing with Boston. How enjoyable was that experience?
Ranaudo: It was a really cool experience. I'd been up there my freshman year, but I was a spot starter and a reliever -- didn't pitch much. But when I went up there two years ago, I started every fifth day, had some good success, and we had a lot of fun. I think our team [Brewster] ranked No. 1 among summer teams in the county, so I made some good friends and had a good experience. I had a blast, had a great host family, and it worked itself out. I worked hard and the baseball part took care of itself.
MiLB.com: Boston drafted you in the first round two years ago, and, once you signed, you instantly became the team's best pitching prospect. Is that something that adds pressure for you?
Ranaudo: Not so much the title or hype, but more the opportunity to kind of make my way through the system and work hard and hopefully make it up there and contribute to the team and be a part of the team and history and tradition. That's what motivates me.
MiLB.com: This past season was your first in the Minors, and you pitched at two levels -- do you think you struggled at all in Salem after being promoted?
Ranaudo: I definitely went through some struggles. I hit a wall in July -- my velocity fluctuated a lot and I saw the results were a lot different. I wouldn't change it though. I learned a lot about myself -- how to pitch with three pitches, using my command and using it to your advantage. I had some ups and downs -- it was my first full year and I made though injury free, so that was my biggest goal. I was successful and learned a lot and I'm ready to turn the page and get ready for this season.
MiLB.com: What's the funniest moment you remember from this past season? Any good clubhouse pranks?
Ranaudo: In Salem, we had pretty good times with our clubbie -- he was a great clubbie. He would come in and pull some pranks, but one of the funniest things at Salem was when I came up. You hear the jokes about me being a first-round pick -- they give those guys a hard time. Before I got there, they cleared out two lockers next to mine, so I had three, and they put a sofa next to my locker instead of the folding chair. I thought that was cool, I realized they're here to have a good time, and it broke the ice. That's something I'll remember the rest of my life, it was pretty cool.
MiLB.com: Did you live with any host families or teammates during your first season?
Ranaudo: Yeah, in Greenville I lived with Brandon Workman and Sean Coyle, and in Salem I lived with Bryce Brentz and Mike Gleason. It was great, you learn a lot about guys and their paths and where they came from, guys who got drafted out of high school. Workman is from Texas -- it's pretty cool the friendships you develop. You become friends with other guys on the team, and I actually bought a house with one of the guys, Drake Britton. He moved from Texas to Baton Rouge, and now we're throwing partners.
MiLB.com: I think probably something a lot of Red Sox fans are watching is where you'll start 2012. Do you think you'll start off in Double-A Portland this year?
Ranaudo: I haven't heard anything yet -- no one from the Red Sox has talked to me about it, but I hope I start off there, I hope I make the most of it. I'm coming in as prepared as I've ever been. I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm really excited. I'm coming in strong and hopefully I'll make a good name for myself and earn a spot at Double-A -- that'd be real fun.
MiLB.com: What types of things have you been doing this offseason to improve? Any new pitches on the horizon?
Ranaudo: No new pitches, but after a full season, one of the biggest things was taking it easy -- you need to pace yourself. I took it easy with the conditioning and weightlifting compared to the past at LSU this year I think, and now I can push myself more in terms of conditioning and weightlifting. I feel a lot stronger and I'm in better shape. And in terms of throwing, I just want to work on consistency in my delivery and throwing down-angle fastballs.
MiLB.com: A great idea you had on Twitter, you said, "One day I want to wake up and commit to only talking in movie quotes for the whole day." Can it be done? What are some of your favorite movies?
Ranaudo: Yeah, I really believe I could do it. I find myself saying movie quotes to my friends, and they look at my like I'm stupid. And I've seen so many movies, on the bus and whatever, you just watch stuff over and over. I think it would be a fun challenge, I dunno if I'm committed enough to do it though. As far as movies, Wedding Crashers is one of my favorites. Old School. For Love of the Game is a great baseball movie, Bull Durham obviously. Those are a few I could probably quote with any of them.
MiLB.com: I have to ask -- you compared throwing a clutch 2-1 curveball for a strike to a well-placed grenade in Call of Duty. What's your advice for those of us who are terrible at the game?
Ranaudo: As far as Call of Duty, it takes a lot of practice. And fortunately in baseball, I've learned to love video games. In professional baseball, you have a lot of down time, you have to keep yourself busy. I've actually read a lot of books in pro ball and started playing video games. I've logged a lot of time with Call of Duty and I've become pretty good at the game, I think. I know every map, and it's the same in baseball -- you grow up playing the game since you're five or six, and you know big situations and know when you need to perform in the clutch. When you come though in clutch situations and make a big play, you have to embrace it when the moments happen.
MiLB.com: I saw you also Tweeted a photo of your dog -- when did you get him? What's his name?
Ranaudo: His name is Champ (pictured right). I got him last offseason around Halloween. He lives with my parents in Jersey, and they brought him down this offseason. He's a boxer, he's awesome. He helps me kill downtime -- we go to the park, hang out, he runs around the backyard. He's provided some good entertainment for the house.
MiLB.com: You're a Jersey Shore guy, being from Belmar. Do you watch the show, and were you a Yankees or Phillies fan growing up?
Ranaudo: I definitely do watch the show, every Thursday when it comes on. It makes me laugh -- they do a good job of portraying the true summer life down there. You look for people you might know or places you've been -- it's cool watching it. I'm an avid fan.
As for growing up, I was definitely a Yankees fan, a diehard Yankees fan, so it's pretty ironic being picked by the Red Sox.
MiLB.com: What's your favorite place to eat when you go home?
Ranaudo: The little pizza places that are holes in the wall, the homemade pizza places -- those are the things I miss the most. Every corner you go down, there's a homemade Italian or pizza place. I could sit there and eat three meals all day long.