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MORRISSEY: Jake Peavy’s enthusiasm, passion for baseball couldn’t be more real

Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy

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Updated: March 25, 2013 6:16AM

enthusiasm is a force of nature. It can make even the moodiest person
buoyant. Everything is great. Everybody is great. Every team is going to be great.

A month goes by, and ‘‘great’’ becomes ‘‘grayish’’ on the way to ‘‘man, is this
a grind.’’

White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy, on the other hand, stays level — that level being extreme enthusiasm. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, which isn’t a surprise, considering his tunnel is always brightly lit.

‘‘I love what I do,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m blessed to be able to do what I do. We walk by guys in the clubhouse. Somebody asks you how you’re doing or what’s going on, and so many guys will say, ‘I’m living the dream.’

‘‘It’s just a phrase, but, honestly, look at the life I’ve been able to live. It’s been such a blessed life. It’s a life that you dream of as a little boy. I understand now, in looking back, how difficult it is for that dream to become a reality for a little boy.’’

This is not overkill; this is Peavy. When he struggled with injuries and still was a quote machine about team and optimism, it struck some of us as just a tad much. Why didn’t he accomplish something in a Sox uniform first before declaring his intention to storm the Bastille?

But if it had been fake, his teammates would have figured it out quickly, the way players always do. You can tell a phony by the way his enthusiasm dims when the camera lights shut off. The rah-rah guy suddenly loses his voice. The affliction is called Nick Swisher-itis.

‘‘I’ve known Jake since 1999, and he’s always been the same way,’’ Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn said. ‘‘How you can tell immediately is when he has nothing in it. The day after a start, he’s sitting there in the dugout, first inning, yelling, ‘Let’s get some runs, let’s get going.’ . . . He’s like this every day.’’

Wearing your heart on your sleeve can leave blood stains. Peavy sometimes has trouble controlling himself on the mound, especially when he’s not pitching particularly well. But what’s the solution? Calm down and lose the fire? That fire helped him win the National League Cy Young Award in 2007 with the Padres.

‘‘That’s something I can’t turn off at any point in life,’’ he said. ‘‘I wish I could say it’s something that gets turned on just on the field. There have certainly been times where people want to change me and try to change me, and I have tried. I’m an emotional person. I’m a passionate person about what I do. I play with one goal, and that’s to win.

‘‘I wish at times I’d be more stoic, I guess. When you watch me play, you have a pretty good idea how the game’s going. I’m emotional. It’s something, at the end of the day, I used to feel bad about, but now I’m not going to apologize for the passion I have.’’

When Peavy came to the Sox in 2009, he immediately went on the disabled list with a strained ankle. In July 2010, he ruptured the latissimus dorsi in his back. In 2011, it was a strained groin.

‘‘It was hard having enthusiasm,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re under a big contract and want to be somebody for a team and for a city, but you’re not physically able. That’ll test your enthusiasm or your passion for what you do.

‘‘I’m not quite able to do what I was able to do before then, but I think a lot of the passion and enthusiasm helped get me back to being able to be a contributing factor on the club.’’

Peavy had his best season with the Sox in 2012, going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA. During the offseason, he signed a two-year, $29 million contract extension. He sees helping teammates as part of the deal.

‘‘I want these guys to say: ‘You know what? Peavy cared. He cared about me off the field. He cared about me on the field. He did everything he could to make sure I did things right, and he pushed me to be the best I could be,’ ’’ he said.

This guy can make anybody feel good. Even a grumpy columnist.

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