Darren Fenster grew up in Edison, New Jersey, and was a loyal New York Yankees fan. Even when he played minor league baseball for the Kansas City Royals, Fenster could find his way to Yankee Stadium.

“I was at the Aaron Boone game,” Fenster said, recalling the deciding game of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when Boone hit a walk-off homer against Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox.

A painful memory for most of New England.

But then Fenster found himself in the enemy’s camp. His first opportunity to coach in pro baseball came from the Red Sox, hired as hitting coach for the Class A Greenville Drive in 2012.

“Coming over to this organization was very surreal,” he said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember walking into the minor league clubhouse. Two lockers down from me was Rich Gedman. I had his baseball card. My first baseball memory (as an 8-year-old) was the ’86 World Series.

“There is such a history here. Carl Yastrzemski’s locker was on the other side of mine. You’re in awe, and then you realize you’re a part of this.

“It was very easy to flip the switch (to the Red Sox). The people here made me feel valued.”

Valued, and promoted.

Fenster, 39, was officially introduced Tuesday as the Portland Sea Dogs’ new manager. He held interviews with the local media. On Wednesday, Fenster will take part in the sold-out Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner, featuring Pedro Martinez.

He will be the 13th manager for the franchise, which is celebrating its 25th season this year.

“This has been a huge stop for the development of some very, very good players,” Fenster said.

Fenster used to be a pretty good player himself; so much so that he did not think about becoming a coach.

But a balky knee, the Kansas City Royals and a college mentor changed his career path.

Fenster began coaching in 2006, two months after he was released as a player.

A 5-foot-9 infielder, Fenster played his college ball at Rutgers, three miles away from his hometown. The Royals picked him in the 12th round of the 2000 draft.

Fenster moved up the system. He batted a combined .304 in advanced Class A and Double-A ball in 2004.

But a major injury to his right knee in the 2005 spring training ended his season before it began. He did meet a new friend in infielder Carlos Febles.

“Carlos had also blown out his knee, and we were rehabbing together, side by side, on training tables,” Fenster said.

They had something else in common – both had played their last regular season baseball game.

“When I got hurt, there wasn’t a day that went by that I ever thought I wouldn’t ever play again,” Fenster said. “I was, ‘it’s OK, just a little bump in the road.’

“Then in 2006, I was medically cleared for spring training, but I obviously was not the player I had been. They released me a week before the season. That kind of blindsided me. I had no Plan B.”

Still confused, Fenster received a call from his coach at Rutgers, Fred Hill. Would Fenster be interested in coaching?

“He said, ‘I think you might be good at it,'” Fenster recalled.

“That 2006 team had some talented players (third baseman Todd Frazier was a sophomore). They made me feel like I could make an impact. I took to coaching very quickly.”

After six seasons, Fenster wanted back in the pros. He had contacts with the Red Sox, including Febles. He became Febles’ hitting coach in Greenville in 2012. He would eventually manage Greenville for four seasons.

Now, Fenster is replacing Febles in Portland (as Febles takes the third-base coaching job in Boston).

“Darren is incredibly passionate and detailed in his work,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett said. “I’m confident he’ll do a great job managing the Sea Dogs.”

At least one former player thinks so. When the Red Sox announced last week that Fenster was moving to Portland, former Sea Dogs infielder Mauricio Dubon (now with the Brewers) sent out a tweet:

“One of the best teachers in the game,” Dubon wrote.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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