Hot Stove Conversation with Pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester

News Story: January 1, 2009

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, center, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, right, responded to questions from ESPN Radio personality Andrew Marchand during SHU's Hot Stove Conversation.  To view a slideshow of the event, click here.

It was a frigid January night, so nearly 2,000 true believers gathered around a hot stove to warm up. The object of their devotion was two superstars from the major Major Leagues: Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees and Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox. For the evening, these seemed to be the only teams that mattered, as the 23- and 25-year-old pitchers brought their clubs’ legendary rivalry to Sacred Heart University’s William H. Pitt Center for a “Hot Stove Conversation.”

That encounter had a number of distinct players: Joba and Jon, of course, were interviewed by Andrew Marchand, a familiar voice from ESPN Radio. Toward the end of their lively back-and-forth came a quartet of younger interviewers. Four local fans -- boys aged 9 to 12 from Fairfield, Trumbull and Milford -- had the privilege of standing on stage with their idols and asking a few great questions. They managed to come away with some prized autographs as well.

And then there were the fans who packed the Pitt: a loud, clearly partisan bunch who knew the score -- and weren’t afraid to share their opinions. At times, it sounded like a tent revival with true believers shouting out their Amens and Halleluiahs. The guests of honor seemed unfazed by the cheers and the jeers, admitting it was all part of the game to hear boos at the stadium and then have fans crowd in looking for an autograph. The fierce team allegiances were put on hold, if briefly, when Jon Lester touched on his diagnosis and successful treatment of cancer. Mostly, though, the subject matter never strayed far from the ball park, and the audience was loving it.

As they waited for the stars to appear, they were treated to a concert of country music on two giant screens behind the podium, and a warm-up video accompanied by chest-thumping music got everyone pumped up for the occasion.

Off the stage, the pitchers signed autographs and mingled with their fans and the press. Media outlets from the New York Times to WFAN were among the many represented by their reporters in the Pitt Center. And on his way out, Joba stopped in for a surprise practice session with the university’s dance club, SHU Force.

Part of the University’s Student Lecture series, the Hot Stove Conversation attracted numerous fans in their favorite team colors, and quite a few sported Joba Chamberlain’s number 62 on their shirts. At 23 and 25, these two boys of summer were not much older than most of those packing the floor and bleachers of the Pitt, and they gave everyone what they came for: a glimpse into a world that is both entirely familiar and wholly beyond imagining.