Rehabbing Kalish inspired by 'Westy'

Boston Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish has experienced both great success and disappointment in his professional career. Injuries and surgeries in the past two years have detoured him, but he realizes his goal to become a full-time big-leaguer remains a possibility and he has good friend Ryan Westmoreland to thank for that.

On Wednesday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., the two friends sat in the trainer’s room at the Red Sox spring training facility. In only a few hours, Westmoreland would announce his retirement from pro baseball, and he never mentioned anything to Kalish about it.

“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Kalish said in a phone interview with ESPNBoston.com. “That’s the thing with Westy, man, it’s one of those things where you can’t even tell when something’s gone bad for him. We were talking in the training room and he was asking me how I was doing and he didn’t even mention [retirement]. It’s truly unbelievable the kind of guy he is. That’s Westy right there.”

Westmoreland, 22, a former top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was forced to retire after two life-threatening brain surgeries ravaged his body and stole his ability to play baseball at the highest level.

When Kalish returned home from the ballpark Wednesday afternoon, he read Westmoreland’s statement online.

“It’s sad,” Kalish said. “It gets you all choked up inside.”

Prior to his first surgery on March 16, 2010, Westmoreland was a five-tool player with a direct path to the big leagues. He was one of many skilled players in the Red Sox development system, including Kalish, Josh Reddick (now with the Oakland Athletics) and Will Middlebrooks.

"He was born to be a big-leaguer,” Kalish said. “He had all that skill, and honestly, I think he was better than everybody else, but you never would have known. It’s a real tragic event, but I really think he will have an opportunity to do something really special with the rest of his life. He’s already provided me with inspiration.”

There have been plenty of days since his two shoulder surgeries and neck surgery, along with the grueling rehabilitation that followed, when Kalish felt about giving up on his dream of playing full time in the big leagues. But all he had to do was think of his friend Ryan.

“I know he wouldn’t quit if he were me,” Kalish said. “So I’m not going to. He’s provided inspiration already and he probably doesn’t know it.”

Kalish said he plans to share his gratitude soon with his good friend.

Westmoreland wants to attend college and pursue his degree. He also hopes to return to baseball in some capacity.

"He can do anything. His personality is top of the charts,” Kalish said. “He was born to be a baseball player, but there is something higher for him out there and we’re going to find out what it is. I’m excited to see what he does because he’ll put his energy into something else now and he’ll be really good at that.”