Jake Peavy learned as a kid that the most important thing about sports is having fun, but also that winning is directly tied into having fun.
“I watch my father now — he coaches my little boys in football and baseball — and how competitive he is,” Peavy said. “You can never lose sight of how the kids are doing this stuff to have fun. But my dad always said, ‘Winning’s fun.’”
Peavy, who grew up in Alabama, is a low-key and easygoing man when not pitching. A huge Bruce Springsteen fan, the Boston Red Sox right-handed starter often writes music and plays his guitar in his free time. But when he steps on the mound he turns into a different person.
He’s as intense as anyone in baseball, often yelling at himself after allowing just one hit.
Peavy and the Red Sox played their final regular season game yesterday in Baltimore, losing 7-6 to the O’s. The Sox, with 97 wins and the best record in the American League, now are gearing up for the American League Division Series, which begins Friday at Fenway Park.
Peavy said he has thought a lot about it and has concluded that his upbringing, including his father’s comments about the enjoyment of winning, made him the intense competitor he is today.
“I think about us playing in the backyard and how competitive we were with my brother and my cousins,” Peavy said. “Just how we played so hard. As hard as we play on this field, we played (as hard) it seems in the backyard.
“It’s fun to win,” Peavy added. “Both my grandfathers and father and how competitive they were — it’s just kind of a family thing.”
Peavy admitted his intensity hasn’t always been something he has been proud of.
“But I never try to yell obscenities,” Peavy said. “I understand there are kids watching. I have three little boys who watch me pitch every time I pitch. So the last thing I want them to see is me yelling words that aren’t appropriate to yell on TV. So I don’t do that. But my competitive nature has gotten me — those cameras are hard to get away from sometimes.”
Peavy — who won the 2007 National League Cy Young with the San Diego Padres — struggled in his only two postseason starts to date, allowing 13 earned runs in 9.2 innings combined. But he doesn’t think that is any indication of what will happen for him this postseason. His first postseason starts was in 2005 and the other came in ’06, both with San Diego.
Peavy likely will Boston’s No. 4 starter in the postseason, meaning if the best-of-five ALDS goes to a fourth game, he’ll be the man on the mound for Boston.
“I’m relishing the opportunity to go back,” Peavy said. “First time in a long time. I had some broken ribs and then in ’05 and ’06 had some shoulder issues that I had to try to get through. But this is the best I’ve felt in a long time at the end of a season. I love the team. I love the make-up, but it comes down to showing up, executing and playing better than the other team. And everybody that gets to the playoffs is a very good team.”
Off the field, Peavy describes himself as laid back.
“I’m passionate about the things I love to do,” he said. “And I don’t mind working hard. I have a ranch down in Alabama that I love to work and play on. I’m very laid back, I would say.”
Off-the-field Peavy is most passionate about being a dad. He has three boys, ages 12, 9 and 5, and they love to watch their dad compete.
“We at times get to feel sorry for ourselves as parents for all the things we miss out on,” Peavy said. “There are a lot of firsts, baseball games and football games, I don’t get to be there. That being said, for them to come experience what they experience when they come — they get to go on the field with daddy at Fenway Park and go out on the road and just have the life that we do have — we understand that we’re very blessed.”
Peavy is so grateful to his dad for taking such an active role with his boys by coaching them in football and baseball.
“That’s so big for me,” Peavy said. “To have to be away like I am, I truly believe in a male influence in kid’s lives whether boys or girls. I certainly think the boys obviously need that. To have my father there around them and to live close by, it means all the difference in the world. It makes it a little bit easier for me to go to bed at night.”
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB