The standing ovation for Kevin Millar lasted through the first pitch he saw from Curt Schilling last night. The smattering of boos weren't heard until he sent a Schilling pitch into left field for a single. Unlike friend and fellow former co-face of the Red Sox, Johnny Damon, for whom the boos outweighed the cheers in his debut at Fenway Park as a Yankee, Millar's welcome back was unanimous.
And that is the difference between a return in a Yankee uniform and a return in a Baltimore uniform.
Not that the reception was lost on the former first baseman, the one who has repeatedly said how sorry he was to leave his home of the past three years for exile in Maryland.
''I could lie to you and say the right thing, 'Oh, no,' but you do miss this," Millar said before the Sox rallied to beat the Orioles, 6-3. ''We did something very special here, with a very special organization. This was a family for three years. You live with these guys, you eat with these guys, and just to turn the page in one offseason and act cool and not talk and not care, that would be the correct thing to do. But that's not me. Yeah, you miss these guys, you miss Boston."
Standing in the outfield for most of Red Sox' batting practice, it seemed almost as if Millar were hoping that his former teammates would disregard the black and orange and integrate him seamlessly into his old spot. He hugged Alex Gonzalez, whom he played with for the Marlins, on the way to center field and had powwows with, among others, Mike Timlin.
Millar had already seen David Ortiz, having been picked up at his hotel earlier in the day in Big Papi's white Hummer.
But, with all the reunions this week at Fenway, and the roller coaster of emotions likely having peaked with returns of Damon and Doug Mirabelli Monday, there remained only the standing ovation and complete acceptance of Millar, a piece of the soul of the 2004 World Series champions. Because the Red Sox showed no desire to retain Millar's services, and with his repeated acknowledgment that he misses Boston and the Red Sox, there seemed to be no other way he could be welcomed back.
''He didn't do anything wrong, I guess," Ortiz said before the game. ''My man Johnny, he didn't either, but [Millar's] not playing for the Yankees. That's what people care about here, right? And he did a lot of good things for this ball club before. I'm pretty sure people haven't forgotten."
And Millar, who singled and scored in his second at-bat and struck out looking in his third, has hardly forgotten Boston.
''When you play in a city like this one, you're going to miss it when you go somewhere else," Ortiz said. ''There's something you miss about this city when you go anywhere. He misses some things about here. It's a totally different city, here and Baltimore."
Faced with a throng of reporters before the game, Millar's self-deprecating side came out, as he questioned why the group -- which numbered more than 20 -- would want to hear from an opposing player hitting .205 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Then, with his usual smile, he held court. And reveled in it.
Owning up to his offensive troubles, particularly in the early season, and the part they played in his departure, Millar also took a nostalgic tone, recalling the flight in from Texas, the landing at Logan, and his coming reintroduction to the fans at Fenway.
''I'm excited," Millar said. ''I haven't been back here. We played in spring training. They played us in April [in Baltimore]. But it was exciting to land here. I was listening to my iPod when we got off the plane at about 5 o'clock in the morning and I was just looking at the streets. And I remember the streets when we landed from St. Louis [after the World Series]. You look out the window, everybody's kind of tired, but I was checking it out. There's a lot of memories."