I am going to make a strong effort to remember that MLB players are just people. I saw something the other day that made me decide this.
The Papi Slam and victory in ALCS game 2 were rarified highs. After the game I slept smiling ear-to-ear in a hotel 6 blocks from Fenway. I snoozed in a bed of dreams that made all my championship wishes seem possible.
The next morning I decided to walk past the new Yaz statue on Van Ness Street outside Fenway. It was beautiful and sunny. Yaz looked great. So did his bronzed colleagues Ted, Johnny, Bobby and Dom.
There were busses lined up near the corner of Van Ness & Fenway, some labeled Player Bus 1, Player Bus 2, Staff Bus 1, etc..
It was approaching 10 a.m.. Looked like the team would soon be showing up to bus it to Logan, then fly to Motown for Game 3.
I stood with a flock of camera men and TV reporters behind a barrier near the first bus. Before long, Fenway security placed another barrier behind us ensconcing me and the news folk in a media bullpen between the busses and the players entrance.
The fun soon started. 20 fans lined up in less proximate positions. Everyone strained to identify the players in street clothes. Easier said than done when trying to ID a part time player with one of many bushy beards.
Don Orsillo, NESN & MLB talent passed the gauntlet and received warm greetings. Don drives a 2005 Volvo S60 just like my wife.
Joe Castiglione walked through, sadly unrecognized by everyone but me, and that only at the last moment.
John Lackey, on foot, strode quickly into the ballpark , mute and surly. He ignored my call of Go get ‘em, Johnny boy”.
Buchholz soon entered and like Lackey maintained a frozen façade that my Go Get ‘Em quips couldn’t break.
Shane Victorino came through and he too played the Ice King.
I decided to take a different approach with these young millionaires.
Jacoby Ellsbury, toting a drag bag and tailed by a red coated brunette, came briskly through the partition with eyes fixed straight ahead. “Hey, Ells, GREAT GAME last night!”, I shouted. Ellsbury looked squarely at me. He face relaxed and broke into a beautiful smile. “Thank you.”, he nodded, exuding joy and pride. Don’t think for a minute that being gifted, young and rich makes you immune to the intoxication of making baseball history.
Pedroia soon scooted through. “Great Game, Pedey!”, I yelled. The Boston player with the biggest heart turned to me with a great big smile and said, “Thanks, man.” He was really feeling it.
No question about it. When your team almost gets no-hit on Saturday, gets no-hit for 6 IP’s and down by 4 runs in the 8th on Sunday, and then pulls it out with 5 runs in the 8th and 9th to avoid going into a 2 games to 0 hole, you feel like your crew is writing one dramatic story.
The exposition goes back to Sept., 2011. The Sox went 7-17 and were eliminated from the playoffs on the last day, frittering away a 9 game wild card lead. Francona exited in shame. Theo hauled ass to Chicago. Valentine brought his special sarcasm to the mix. A super storm of injuries hit the team and they went 69 – 93 in 2012.
Picked to finish 4th, these Sox have already written a terrific story with a 97 – 65 WL record. Even their most loyal fans predicted 75 wins.
This group of gritty Sox ground out a fairy tale turn around.
Dangling from the ledge of near-elimination on Sunday, they pulled out another crazy comeback.
It’s dramatic. It will be talked about for decades. The players know this.
More players arrived. More softened and responded when praised for the great turn-around the prior evening.
Even the News people noticed and started to yell Great Game.
The scene took a turn for the worse when Jonny Gomes drove up in his uber truck, a big black behemoth with a dozen manufacturer decals. Jonny’s wife popped out of the passenger side as Jonny rounded the front to her side.
“Why are you taking pictures of my wife?”, Jonny shouted at a TV reporter who had been tweeting photos of the arriving players.
Jonny Gomes, looking not at all chubby as he can look in his baggy uniform, stood ram rod straight, a stack of muscle and fuming testosterone, glaring at the reporter.
“I…..I was absolutely NOT shooting your wife.”, the newsman stammered.
“YES, YOU WERE!”, the outfielder said as he took 3 menacing steps toward the man.
“No, no. I wasn’t.”, he offered, humbly and softly.
“100%!”, Gomes yelled, indicating his level of confidence that the reporter was a lying dirtbag.
“No, no…..here, look at the camera, look at my shots. Your wife is not in them.”
For one stone silent moment Gomes stared at the scribe, seeming to weigh whether or not to pummel him. Then Jonny Gomes picked up a baby carrier from his back seat, a wee one tucked inside, and walked silently away.
I later chatted with the reporter, congratulating him on getting Gomes to talk. The tension gone, he offered to show me his photos to prove his innocence. Still later, when I asked for copies of his shots, he mentioned he was also taking photos with his personal I Phone.
Gomes may have been right. Or maybe not. But I’d like to think it was a simple misunderstanding.
One thing is for certain. These players are human. They soar with historic victory, and they bristle when they think that someone they love might be used.
They’re just folks. I’ll remember that.
As always, I’ll be rooting for the Sox. And I’ll be thinking about the people on that team.