Keeping the Faith
They were heady times, the Nomar years. He was a gangly kid with a big nose and an interesting name: Garciaparra, which in a nod to the Mexican tradition is a combination of his father's two family names, Garcia and Parra; Nomar, which is his father Ramon's name spelled backward; and Anthony, the first name nobody ever uses. In the minor leagues, he earned the monikor "shortstop of the future," and he lived up to it when he got to the majors. He was the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year, two-time batting champ, and five-time All Star. Oh, and he was a great shortstop in the era of The Three Shortstops, one of whom (some guy in New York) got all the national attention even though his defensive range was paltry compared to Nomar's.
But then came some injuries, a bad attitude, and a deadline trade that led to the Red Sox' first World Series championship since World War I. Great for Boston, but not so much for Garciaparra, who wasn't quite the same. After nine seasons in a Boston uniform, he spent a season in a half as a Chicago Cub, three as a Dodger, and one as an Athletic. He could still hit, but his defense wasn't what it had been, and injuries limited his playing time.
I for one wasn't surprised to hear that he was retiring, but it was the rest of the news that took me aback. WEEI radio's Lou Merloni, himself a former Sox infielder, first broke the news that Nomar was going to sign a one-day contract with the Red Sox and then hang up the cleats. MLB.com's Ian Browne reports that the return is literally a dream come true:
Nomar Garciaparra, a two-time batting champion and six-time All-Star, revealed last summer that he had a recurring dream of one day playing for the Red Sox again. That never came to fruition, so Garciaparra did the next best thing on Wednesday morning, announcing his retirement at a news conference held by his original team.
Hey, you can't ignore a recurring dream.
After his final day as a professional baseball player, Nomar will embark on a new career as a baseball analyst for ESPN. But he will always be able to say he began and ended his playing career with the Boston Red Sox, the place where he says the fans made him feel at home. Apparently, the Red Sox feel the same way.
"We welcome you home," [Red Sox President Larry] Lucchino said at the press conference. "It gives us enormous pride to recognize the respect you have to the organization, the connection you feel to the organization, the connection you feel to our fans and Fenway Park, and I'm here to fell you the feelings are mutual. When the history of the Boston Red Sox is written again, there will be a very large and important chapter devoted to Nomar Garciaparra."
People are going nuts over Opening Day with the bars closed. Found this video and couldn't stop laughing:
That is a riot!