As a catcher for American International College in 1991, Dana Levangie hit .462 with 13 home runs, and his 75 RBI in 44 games led the Nation’s Division II players. He made All-America after leading his team to a 32-12 record and a berth in the NCAA Division II world series. In June of 1991, the Boston Red Sox drafted and signed him, sending him to play for their class a New York-Penn League affiliate in Elmira, New York.
You’ll now find LeVangie, 48, in his 28th season with the Red Sox organization—and his first as the team’s major league pitching coach. His new role is a huge promotion after his years of varied and faithful service as bullpen catcher, advance scout, catching coordinator, minor league scout, bullpen coach, and interim bench coach.
Shouldn’t a pitching coach be a former big league pitcher? Generally, that’s how it works, but new Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a different plan.
“Alex told me right away that he wanted Dana as the pitching coach,” Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told the Boston Herald. “He has known him for years and kept the relationship, so that was an easy one, with Dana already under contract.”
Cora played for the Red Sox from 2005 through 2008 as a backup infielder. Over that time, he came to know LeVangie as a valued member of the Boston organization.
During spring training, Cora talked to the Red Sox press corps about his decision.
“When everyone started talking about me being the manager, Dana was a guy I always considered would be part of my staff,” Cora said. “He is well prepared and versatile enough that he can work with catchers and be a pitching coach. I’m very comfortable with Dana in this role. He knows the guys. He’s been through this whole process the last few years (as bullpen coach). He’s someone I’m going to really rely on and trust.”
It is unusual to have a non-pitcher in such an important role, but certainly not unprecedented. For instance, Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa won pennants and world championships with the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals while having a former catcher, Dave Duncan, as his pitching coach.
As for the Red Sox, LeVangie is only the fifth catcher to have the job and the first since Mike Roarke in 1994. Darrell Johnson, another ex-catcher, served as Sox pitching coach in 1968 and 1969, then came back to the team in 1975 as manager of a pennant winner.
Now, as LeVangie works to prepare Red Sox pitchers for success, he can pause and look back fondly on his AIC days.
“I was transferring in from Cape Cod Community College as a junior, and it was probably the first time I stepped into a true college environment and felt comfortable with it,” he said. “AIC wasn’t too big of a school, and knowing that we were going to have a competitive baseball team was something I appreciated.
“AIC is where I really committed myself to the game. We had a pretty successful team. We had players who bought into it and were willing to do the extra little things to help us win. Going to the Division II World Series was the most special part of my two years at the college.”
Over LeVangie’s seasons, AIC baseball teams coached by Tom Burgess went 58-Their 32 victories in 1991 still stand as the school record.
In the Red Sox farm system, LeVangie played for six seasons but never hit well. After spending the 1996 season in Double-A, he needed surgery on his left hand. With his playing career in doubt at that time, the Red Sox offered him the job of bullpen catcher with the major league team. He took it and served in that role for eight seasons, including the 2004 World Series-winning year.
In 2005, he switched to scouting for the Red Sox. In 2007, his advance reports on the Colorado Rockies helped the Red Sox sweep them in the World Series.
In 2013, LeVangie became bullpen coach and earned his third World Series ring. He served as interim bench coach late in the 2015 season, then returned to his roles as bullpen coach and catching instructor until his big promotion to pitching coach.
In a chat with AIC baseball coach Nick Callini during spring training, LeVangie described a typical day in the life of a pitching coach: “My day starts around 7:30 a.m., studying opposing hitters and game planning on how we are going to approach them. Leave for the ballpark around 10:30 a.m., work out for 40 minutes, then get back to the video room and study the opposition for a couple of hours. Then, switch to our pitching staff for the next couple of hours before heading out to work with our pitchers, leading up to batting practice, then the game. I take no day for granted, because I don’t know everything about this game, nor do I know everything about each individual pitcher.”
When he’s not at a ballpark somewhere across the land, LeVangie makes his home in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, with his wife Traci. They have a son, Liam, 17, and a daughter, Avery, 14.
“The most challenging part of my job is finding time for my family. If there were 26 hours a day, then there might be enough time to fit it all in,” he said.
It all revolves around his love for baseball, which can be traced to his growing-up years in the Eastern Massachusetts town of Whitman.
“I can’t exactly remember when I got my first taste of baseball, but I do know it was at a really young age. I had two older brothers and a dad who loved the game,” he said.
What about growing up in Massachusetts, being drafted by the Red Sox, and spending 27-plus years with his favorite baseball team?
“A dream come true,” he said.
In 2006, he was enshrined in AIC’s Athletic Hall of Fame—another “dream come true” for LeVangie as he travels a very unusual baseball path, from slugging college catcher to big league pitching coach.
Red Sox fans will be watching LeVangie’s work closely. They’d love to see Chris Sale win 20. Maybe David Price, too.
-By Gary Brown ’55
Featured Photo by Erin Kirkland/The Boston Red Sox