Story line was sealed with a mist
Coming soon to a theater near you: “The Nick Green Story.’’
Surely Matt Damon can slide this one into his schedule.
Forget “Fever Pitch.’’ That was fictional. This guaranteed blockbuster would be a full-blown biopic, the rags-to-riches story of a career spare part who lands in Boston and becomes a folk hero. It’s got everything, including the unhappy year languishing as a discarded Yankee. A chance to bash the Yankees about the One Who Got Away? Irresistible. Stealin’ money.
Blockbuster, I’m tellin’ ya.
The story was already good, but it was elevated to great in the late afternoon Back Bay gloom yesterday when Nick Green hit the first pitch thrown by Atlanta reliever Jeff Bennett high and deep over The Wall, across Lansdowne Street, over the Mass Pike and onto Commonwealth Avenue.
OK, that’s fictional. What Green did was hit about as short a home run as anyone can hit in major league baseball. It was a fly ball down the right-field line that landed just inside the Pesky Pole. It was 305 feet, 306 max.
But it gave the Red Sox a 6-5 win over the Braves, and nothing else matters.
“It was good to do something for the team,’’ he said. “No one wanted to play in the rain.’’
He swears he went to the plate not fully cognizant of the entire situation, that he knew it was a home run, but he didn’t know until he hit second base and saw all those guys in white uniforms gathered around home plate that he had hit a walkoff homer in front of the man who coined the phrase many years ago. (In case you’re new to this, that man would be The Eck, who was working the game for NESN.) He said this, and we believe him because he is the great Nick Green and he would never, ever lie to us.
It was actually the second walkoff homer of his career, and by now the truly sagacious among you have already guessed that the first was against - who else? - the Red Sox. That came on July 2, 2004, as a member of, naturally, the Atlanta Braves. And you didn’t think this could get any better, did you?
Blockbuster, I’m tellin’ ya. Think Marty Scorsese’s too busy to direct? If not, I’d be willing to settle for Ron Howard.
Does anyone remember the earth moving around here back on Jan. 27? It must have jiggled a little, because that’s the day Theo Epstein signed free agent Nick Green to a minor league contract. Alex Cora was gone, and the Red Sox were in the market for a utilityman. Note that: utilityman, not shortstop.
“I can’t tell you that on the first day of spring training I envisioned him playing shortstop for us,’’ said Terry Francona. “That’s not the case.’’
Nor would it be the case early in the season, when Green was leading the majors in shortstop errors, including one throw in Seattle that the skipper recalled “went halfway up the bleachers.’’ He had demonstrated some pop at the plate, yes, but the idea of him being regarded as the everyday shortstop on the team with the best record in the American League would have been right up there with the thought of David Ortiz going into the middle of May without a home run.
Blockbuster, I’m tellin’ ya.
So now we’ve reached Father’s Day and Nick Green is becoming just shy of indispensable. If you’re a Red Sox fan, you want the guy up in the late innings and you want every ground ball hit in his direction, just so you can see him unleash that registered weapon attached to his right shoulder. It is beyond incomprehensible that a guy like this could have been exiled to Scranton, not to mention Wilkes-Barre, for an entire season.
He wasn’t very happy about it, either.
The question was, “What was your attitude last year?’’ His answer was, “Terrible.’’
“I went to camp [with the Yankees] thinking I was going to make the team,’’ Green explained. “I let it affect me. That’s not the right way to approach any situation. But it helped me in the long run.’’
He caught a break in spring training when Dustin Pedroia left to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. If nothing else, Francona took note of that arm. Green made the team, and then he had that rocky start in the field. But he eventually righted the ship, and always there was his bat, which was lining base hits from the start.
“He continued to work, and he didn’t become unsettled, and now he’s starting to make plays, and you can see it going the other way where he feels very good about himself,’’ Francona said.
“I just wanted to show people I could play and prove to myself that last season was a fluke,’’ Green said.
It’s not as if he had never done anything worthwhile in the bigs. He had his moments as a rookie with Atlanta. He did some good things in Tampa/St. Pete, when the Rays were still Devils. Spending a whole year in Triple A at age 29 was a major blow to the ego. But it’s a great dramatic boost for “The Nick Green Story.’’
He just keeps getting better and better. In his last 10 games he’s hit .355 (11 for 31), with two doubles and two home runs. He has been in the middle of several rallies. And he’s made some big plays at short as his defensive confidence keeps building.
He had done his little part yesterday, getting hit by a pitch (hey, that’s a skill) and being the middle man on a 3-6-3 double play. And as he stepped into the box to lead off the ninth with the score tied, 5-5, Francona said he was already wondering if George Kottaras could get a bunt down. In other words, he was pretty much assuming the great Nick Green would find a way to get on base.
That was his only goal, of course. Just get on base.
“The last thing I really wanted to do was hit the ball in the air right there because the wind was so bad,’’ he said. “Fortunately it was blowing to the right. Blew it right where it needed to go.’’
See, but that’s typical of the great Nick Green. He’s just trying to do his job as a table-setter and he hits a walkoff homer.
Blockbuster, I’m tellin’ ya.