"Powerful," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Unique. Any time you have exposure from someone who has the life experience of a Navy SEAL who has had so many life-threatening experiences, there were some points that were stressed that resonate to all. And it goes to show you, or at least the example you get from it, is that there are those who are trained to pay the ultimate sacrifice. And when you hear stories to emphasize certain points that surround those people, yeah, it resonates deep."
The Red Sox showed their gratitude to Rutherford by allowing him to wear a uniform and sit in the dugout during a 6-5 victory over the Twins. After the final out, Rutherford shook hands with Farrell, pitching coach Carl Willis, bench coach Torey Lovullo and third-base coach Brian Butterfield.
"We tried to give it a full day," Farrell said. "He gave us something earlier in the day, and we gave him nine innings in the dugout. He's an incredibly interesting person."
Though Rutherford has spoken to several sports teams in the past, this was his first Major League Baseball club. How did he correlate his message in a way baseball players could relate?
"What I've done is spent the last 24 years researching how to take our core concepts on the SEAL teams and transplant them into civilian mindset, so today's concept was one of the four," Rutherford said. "It was the team life idea in that we have to be 100 percent focused on a team-oriented lifestyle. With that focus, all the things that we're looking for to create those bonds and that camaraderie and that energy to want to serve your teammates."
Rutherford thinks Spring Training is the perfect time to make an impression.
"Everybody has come through a hard season and these guys have had a few, and it's very tough to be operational at the most elite level and be at the bottom," Rutherford said. "So when they come in here, the whole world is wide open for them. The whole season has yet to unfold. So they're ready for that really powerful imprint. The organization thought it would be a good time to really hit them hard with that strong, positive, motivational message."
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Rutherford first spoke with Red Sox staff at organizational meetings in Boston a month ago, and Farrell and others were so inspired that they suggested setting it up for the players as well.
"You know, he sent a great message that you would believe it's just for you to prepare to play baseball," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "But those messages are for life in general. We take a lot of things for granted. He sent a huge message with everything he said. I was happy to be there. You know why? When he was talking, I was thinking about a lot of things."
Sometimes it can be difficult to keep a team's attention for a prolonged meeting, but this one seemed to fly by for the players.
"Nobody was talking or laughing or anything whenever he was speaking," said right-hander Clay Buchholz. "It was a really neat experience. You don't get to be around someone like that every day. When you do, it's usually a different type of scenario. I think everybody that was in there could use it to better themselves as a person, a baseball player and just in everyday life."
By all accounts, one of Rutherford's best gifts is the ability to engage his audience.
"I do a lot of audience participation," Rutherford said. "You get great feedback, understanding how the energy's going, whether people are engaged or not. So there was a little bit of back and forth to be sure. At one time Big Papi was like 'Yeah!' and he was getting all fired up. And I was like, 'Yeah!' It was cool, he was getting excited about the message I'm giving.
"I do this one thing where I bring a person up, where I kind of do this funny thing where I have him try to read my mind and I had [Blake] Swihart come up, and there he is, I'm telling him to get in a good fighting stance and he's like, 'Oh my God, a Navy SEAL wants me to get in a fighting stance?' It creates engagement, and what we all need is that association in the team life, to understand that we're all in the fight together. And we do that better than anyone else on the SEAL team."