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Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar reflect on Fenway Park: ‘There’s nothing you can compare it to’

04.20.12 at 5:36 pm ET
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Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez served as toastmasters for the 100th birthday celebration of Fenway Park. (AP)

Pedro Martinez once again brought a jolt of electricity to Fenway Park with his presence, as his entry onto the field through the tunnel in center field drew one of the most emotional reactions of the day from the crowd, with the three-time Cy Young winner returning the affection by pointing to several parts of the park to express his affection for the place of his most lasting baseball memories.

Few players have ever had the affair with Fenway Park that Martinez did. Indeed, as Martinez noted, he is one of the few Red Sox stars who left town as a free agent yet continued to be a beloved figure in the city and region.

“I don’t want to curse this — and I don’t think I can anymore, because I’m not going to be playing anymore, and my love for Boston is always going to be in my heart,” Martinez prefaced. “I might be the only player that has gone away from Boston and still had the same support from the fans. Gone and being here, has the same support I got. I’m very privileged to the be that player that was never booed and never left a sour grape in Boston.”

That being the case, the pitcher’s affinity for Boston and for Fenway Park remains undampened, as fresh now as it was during the seven seasons he spent with the Sox from 1998-2004. The Sox recognized that in selecting Martinez (along with Kevin Millar, another member of the iconic 2004 team that claimed the first Red Sox World Series in 86 years) to deliver the pre-game toast to Fenway Park. After the toast, Martinez described the magic that he feels inside of the ballpark that celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday.

“My feeling is unique toward Fenway, unique toward the city, unique in every aspect. Fenway has a way that you can’t find it anywhere else,” said Martinez. “You might find [it in] Chicago, with a little bit of tradition. But when it comes to Fenway, there’s nothing you can compare it to. I have been in many other fields and I have been all around the leagues, played in the National League, too. Even the old Yankee Stadium, there’s nothing that can be compared to Fenway. It must be the closeness that the stadium gives you. If you messed it up, you’re going to hear it. They’re going to let you know. And you can hear it. The same way when you do something good for Boston, you’re going to hear it and they’re going to embrace you. You’re going to feel, sometimes, people breathing close to you. That’s how close they are to you at Fenway. Fenway’s the only stadium that can give you that. Fenway becomes a unique place, and it should remain that way.”

The park served as the staging grounds for a unique moment on Friday, with the introduction of 212 former Red Sox players and coaches on the field. As clusters of players streamed to their familiar positions on the field where (for the most part) they had stepped so many times across so many decades and generations, it proved a distinctly emotional experience for the fans in attendance as well as the players.

There were a few peaks to the afternoon. One came right after Millar walked onto the field.

“I was like, ‘Man, I got a nice ovation. How you doin’?’ Then I heard this, ‘Whooooooo.’ It was like a Lear Jet going in my ears,” Millar said of the entrance behind him of former Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “It was pretty cool and pretty special. I was glad he was here.”

And then, there were the last players to head to their position. Former teammates Bobby Doerr, now 94, and Johnny Pesky, 92, were escorted in wheelchairs to either side of second base (Pesky on his shortstop side, Doerr shading to the second baseman’s side of the bag) by Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, with David Ortiz joining the quartet. The sight of Pesky, in particular, was touching for the many Red Sox who came to know him as a clubhouse presence over the decades.

“When Johnny Pesky and Doerr came out, that got me. Amazing,” said Millar. “When Doerr and Pesky came out, that’s when it got me. That was tear-jerking. Johnny Pesky’s stories, Pedro knows, full uniform everyday, the stories of Ted Williams, the days you would be 1-for-15, the papers are blasting you and you feel terrible, Pesky had a way of coming up to you, putting his arm around you. ‘Son, Ted Williams, you would have been his favorite. You would have been his favorite.’ He’d give you a nice story. To see him, to shake his hand again, he’s awesome.”

Pesky and Doerr are two of the three surviving members of the 1946 team that lost to the Cardinals in the World Series. (The other, 90-year-old Boo Ferriss, was unable to attend.) They are the links to Williams’ lone World Series appearance, chroniclers of another era of Red Sox baseball.

As Martinez reflected on that fact, he understood more completely the magic of having played at Fenway Park. In the history-rich venue where he and Millar are able to recall vividly the feeling of being the team to claim the World Series in 2004, he may come back to the same setting generations from now to serve as a link to a history the era in which he played.

The players have come and gone; Fenway, Friday reminded all who were present, endures.

“When you see so many players that have passed through the game at Fenway, through the same attention, the same that we went through, it makes you realize how special it was to have been in Boston,” said Martinez. “When I saw Johnny Pesky and that group of people, it made me realize something. Not only were we blessed to have the opportunity to bring the first championship to Boston, but how special and how fast time just flies. When I saw myself looking at the future here in Boston, it seems like it was yesterday I was in Boston. Seeing the other players here trying to do it for Boston again, it’s unbelievable. When you see the amount of players we have here, how special it makes you feel to have been part of anything in Boston. When you see the group of players that was out there and you’re able to say, ‘I was a part of that. And I continue to be.’ It really makes you feel special.”

Read More: Bobby Doerr, boo ferriss, Fenway Park, Johnny Pesky
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