Before becoming an All-Star closer with the Pittsburgh Pirates
and Boston Red Sox, Joe Hanrahan was a pitcher and a catcher on the
Gainesville, Florida Babe Ruth league Pirates team. Hanrahan
lived in Gainesville from second to eighth grade before moving back
to his native Iowa.
because when we were playing there it was the last time the Babe
Ruth Pirates team was good," Hanrahan said. "One of the dads
had the Jolly Roger flag and would bring it to games. We
played on a softball field at Westside Park. They set up
little orange fences across the outfield."
The Pittsburgh Pirates last won a National League division title
in 1992. The Babe Ruth Pirates won the Gainesville City
Championship in 1992, when Hanrahan was 11.
Hanrahan moved from Jacksonville to Gainesville after his
father, Bob, took a job at a food service company. The
Hanrahan family settled in northwest Gainesville near Buchholz High
School. When Joel arrived midway through his second-grade
year, the youth baseball teams in Gainesville had already filled
"No team wanted to take me," Hanrahan said. "So my mom
said, 'We weren't going to have any of that.' My mom coached
and she found 10 kids and added another team."
One coach recognized Hanrahan's potential as a pitcher.
Stephen Mercadante, a Gainesville attorney, coached Hanrahan.
"Joel had natural instincts for the game," Mercadante
said. "He started pitching for us when he was 13 and you could
see he knew how to pitch. He could locate and change
speeds. Poise is so important on the mound and he had
that. It's something you can't really teach."
Mercadante, who has coached youth baseball in Gainesville for more
than 20 years, said it's the first time to his knowledge that a MLB
All-Star has come out of the local youth leagues.
Hanrahan's parents moved him back to Iowa when he was in eighth
grade so they could be closer to family.
After sprouting to 6'5" in his junior year in high school,
Hanrahan emerged as a pro prospect, throwing a fastball that
touched the high 90s. But after being drafted in the second
round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, his career endured its share of
adversity. It took seven minor league seasons and a switch in
organizations before Hanrahan made his Major League debut with the
Washington Nationals. Hanrahan was traded to Pittsburgh in
"I did go through some touch times in Washington where I was
searching for answers," Hanrahan said. "I think what changed
is, to be honest, going back in my mind to 11 or 12 years old and
playing for the Babe Ruth Pirates and having fun. Remembering
that it's still a game, still a kid's game and not just a
business. Playing for the love of the game and not just
playing because it is a job."
Traded to the Boston Red Sox in December 2012, Hanrahan was
placed on the disabled list due to a damaged flexor tendon in his
right elbow. He underwent season ending Tommy John surgery n
Even though Hanrahan's season is over, the pitcher is still
contributing and making a difference outside the lines. He
recently spent time at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute visiting
with Jimmy Fund patients. Hanrahan chatted, played and
laughed with the kids as his ultimate mission was simply to
brighten their day, and he noted how nice it was to seem them
Pictured below at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are Phoebe
Davis, 5, and her brother Caleb, 7, of Rockland, with Joel