LACONIA — Coming off a career year in which broke the Red Sox record for doubles by a catcher and even managed to steal home, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in the cat bird seat as he ponders a new contract and possible free agency in the 2013 post season.
And representing him in those negotiations will be Jim Munsey, a former Laconia High School quarterback and owner of Munsey Sports Management of Durham and West Palm Beach, Florida.
Munsey, who graduated from Laconia High School in 1976, has been representing baseball players in negotiations for over 15 years and has been Saltalamacchia's agent for 11 years.
He says that Saltalamacchia, who will be playing in the first post-season game of his career when he steps in behind the plate at Fenway Park this afternoon, is easily rated as the top free agent catcher, along with Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves, and should command a hefty increase over the $4.5 million that he made this year.
Not only did the Sox catcher hit 40 doubles, breaking the previous record of 39 held by Carlton Fisk and Jason Varitek, but he batted .273, his highest average ever, hit 14 homers and raised his on-base percentage to .338 and his slugging percentage to .466, better than even last year when he hit 25 homers.
He also got high marks from the Red Sox pitching staff for his ability to call a game and stay one pitch ahead of hitters, and also for throwing out baser stealers at the best rate in his career.
Munsey said that it's been a real treat watching Saltalamacchia develop into one of baseball's top catchers and that, just as in the case of other players he represents, he's come to be close friends with him and his family.
''We get to do some backyard barbecues together and I know all three of his kids,'' said Munsey, who says that his method of negotiating is a lot different than that of agents like Scott Boras, who represents, among other high-profile free agents Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
''I like to think of it like being sort of anonymous, like an umpire. If nobody knows your name, that means you're probably doing a good job,'' says Munsey, who likes to maintain a low profile when it comes to negotiations.
He says that once the World Series ends, or if the Red Sox season ends before that, the Red Sox will
have five days in which to talk money with Saltalamacchia, who can talk with other teams but not about money during that period. He will then have the option of taking the Red Sox offer or entering the free market.
''He'd love to stay with Boston, especially if he ends up with a World Series ring. It's been an exciting year with a lot of guys who are really close and have great chemistry as a team. And it's a franchise with a great history,'' says Munsey.
But there are lots of other teams interested in the Red Sox catcher, including the Chicago Cubs, where former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has said that he is interested. And there are always the New York Yankees, who will looking to fill lots of holes on their aging roster and for who baseball writers say are interested in a catcher, including the White Sox, Toronto and the Florida Marlins.
Munsey, who played on the same Laconia High School football team as Phil Estes, an All-State lineman who is now head football coach at Brown University, attended Stetson University in Florida, where he met his bride-to-be, as well as the University of New Hampshire, where he suited up for one football game. After graduating from UNH he went to law school at the University of Vermont.
He splits his time now between West Palm Beach, Florida, and Durham, and is a mediator in West Palm Beach in addition to his sports business.
He and his wife have for children, a daughter, Meagan, 34, sons Tanner, 31, a carpenter in Exeter, and Tanner, 28, who is in pharmaceutical sales, and a 13-year-old daughter, Anna Kate.
Both of his sons were baseball players with Tanner, a catcher, drafted by the Minnesota Twins and played in their minor league system for a year. Travis was captain of the University of Massachusetts baseball team and graduated from Umass in 2007.
Munsey's dad ''Jeep'', was a 1949 graduate of Laconia High School and a star running back for the Sachems. He went on to UNH where he was co-captain of the 1953 team which posted a 6-2 record and was the Yankee Conference champion with a 3-1 mark. Munsey later served on the Laconia School Board and was rated the top UNH community leader-athlete by the late Bill Stearns, known as The Squire, in his New Hampshire sports column in the late 1960s.
Other clients of Munsey include Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder who grew up in Durham; shortstop Mike Fransoso, former Portsmouth High standout who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates this year after having been named Big East Player of the Year at the University of Maine, and Devon Travis of Wellington, Florida, a second baseman who hit .350 for two Class A Detroit Tiger farm clubs.