Jacoby Ellsbury ready for return to Fenway Park: ‘I’m excited for the second part of my career’
|04.22.14 at 6:33 pm ET|
Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million pact with the Yankees over the offseason, while the Red Sox chose to go in a different direction. Ellsbury, in a pregame session with the media, said that his time with the Red Sox ultimately influenced his decision to sign with the Yankees, in an indirect way.
“When you get a taste of winning and you experience that…I was fortunate to experience that in ‘07, you always want to get back there, and when the Yankees let me know that they were interested, I was excited because of the opportunity to win again and to play on a team that is committed to fielding a team each and every year that has potential to win.” Ellsbury said. “New York was right there…first-class. I think of the championships, I think of the history, I think of the passion that they have for the game…a lot of the same things the Red Sox have, but they gave me the opportunity to play seven more years in the big leagues. I’m very blessed that they gave me the opportunity to play the game I love, and I’m excited for that.”
Yet just because he has changed sides in the rivalry, Ellsbury is not severing his connection to his experience in Boston. The 30-year-old spoke repeatedly of his appreciation for the seven years he spent in the big leagues in Boston and his nine years in the Red Sox organization after he was taken in the first round of the 2005 draft.
“I always enjoyed playing here, the fans, the passion, the winning atmosphere, the expectation of winning…those were all things that drew me to New York as well,” said Ellsbury. “But I’m definitely blessed to have played [in Boston] for nine great years.”
Playing against your former team has some advantages, according to Ellsbury, who was able to experience what it was like to be on the other side of the rivalry earlier this month when the Red Sox traveled to the Bronx. The Yankees’ leadoff hitter went 5-for-14 with a double and RBI in the four game set against the Sox.
“When we played Boston in New York, it was fun. It was exciting,” Ellsbury said. “I felt like I kind of knew what their game plan was going to be, what they were thinking a little bit, maybe some guys’ approach, and it was a game within a game where I feel like I really understood that team.”
But as much of an edge as having spent “a third of his life in the organization” gives Ellsbury, there are certain disadvantages to coming to Fenway as an opponent as well — namely, the less-than-luxurious visitors’ clubhouse.
“It was a little bit different. You know, I never knew where the visitors walked in, and I’ve been to the visitor’s clubhouse once about eight years ago for the Rookie Development program,” Ellsbury recalled. “They were renovating the home locker room. It looks pretty close to the same…I think they said they replaced the carpet this year.”
But the former Sox center fielder misses more than just the spacious area of the home team clubhouse. Ellsbury says it’s the people that he misses the most, both the fans and the friendships he made over the course of his time in Boston.
“I was looking forward to coming to the ballpark and seeing people I’ve said hello to for nine years and seeing them, asking how they’re doing,” Ellsbury said. “It was great to see those guys. I think that’s the thing you miss the most, the people associated with the team and Boston.”
Of course, among those that he misses are his teammates, some of whom he had played with his entire career prior to this season.
“I can’t say enough about the championships…those championships in ‘07 and ‘13, those are special,” said Ellsbury. “Great teams, teammates, the lifelong friendships I’ve made with guys in this organization, guys that moved on to other organizations, guys who are still here, guys I came up with…my first roommate in pro ball was [Clay] Buchholz, so staying close to him, [Dustin Pedroia], a bunch of guys…David [Ortiz]…there’s a lot of great memories here.”
Still, the question looms: what kind of reception will Ellsbury receive from the Fenway Faithful? Ellsbury claims that he hasn’t given much thought to whether he’ll receive cheers or jeers from the crowd, since “it’s out of [his] hands.” But regardless of Tuesday night’s reaction, he appreciates how the fans treated him throughout his time in Boston.
“[During] my time here, they always felt like a home field advantage,” Ellsbury said. “You always felt like they were pulling for you. Last year, how they pulled for the team for us to come together…we wanted to do it for the city. I haven’t really thought about the reception too much…I can’t do anything about it. In baseball, there’s only certain things you can control, and over my career I’ve done a good job of just controlling what I can.”
Ellsbury harbors no ill will towards the Red Sox despite not receiving a comparable offer over the winter, and spoke highly of his tenure in Boston.
“I appreciated my time and everything the organization has done for me,” Ellsbury said of his former club. “They believed in me when I was at Oregon State, a young man there and seeing the potential. So yeah, I appreciate everything this organization has given me but I’m excited for the second part of my career, which is being a New York Yankee, and I’m looking forward to tonight’s matchup.”
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