Emotional Brock Holt mourns death of college coach Derwood 'Pops' Penney

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John Tomase
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BOSTON -- An emotional Brock Holt paid tribute to his college coach on Friday, two days after leaving the team to mourn the loss of former Navarro College coach Derwood Penney.

"He was a special man," Holt said, fighting back tears. "I keep saying it, he was the best man that I've ever met."

Players typically only leave the team after the death of family members, but the Red Sox made an exception for Holt, allowing him to miss the final two games in Cleveland this week. Holt spent two years at Navarro, a junior college in Corsicana, Texas, before transferring to Rice in 2009. He had remained in close contact with Penney, more affectionately known as "Pops," ever since.

"First, I want to say thank you to A.C., Dave, and the Red Sox organization for just letting me go," Holt said. "That's something that's kind of a difficult thing when they're not technically family. But this man was family to me, so for them to let me go and to be there for him, for his family, it meant a lot to me. … I didn't know how much I needed to be there until I was there. It was a good day, but it was a sad day, so I'm proud I was able to be there, and happy to be back here now."

Penney died on Saturday at age 78 in Corsicana. He helped the diminutive Holt turn himself first into a Division I prospect at Rice, and then a major league prospect who was drafted in the ninth round in 2009 by the Pirates.

"I think just how much he cared about everyone," Holt said. "Meeting him from Day 1 the day I stepped on to campus at Navarro, me and him just formed a relationship from there and it's continued to grow. I haven't been to Navarro, it's been 11 years since I've been to school there and he would still text me after pretty much every game, watching every game, gave me advice, rooting for me. He told me to relax and have fun if I was struggling, so it's going to be hard not getting those texts. I'm going to miss him, but he was a good man."

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Emotional Brock Holt mourns death of college coach Derwood 'Pops' Penney originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston