Happy to be back, Martinez has ducks in a row
It is difficult not to like someone who likes parades, though that preference is not the reason Pedro Martinez gained favor in Boston.
But Martinez’s fondness for the celebratory duck boat parade following the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series win speaks to his fun-loving, gregarious nature.
The 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway Park brought tears to some. But not to Martinez, who was rejoicing in the past Friday.
“I feel like I’m still in the parade,’’ Martinez said. “Every day I come to Boston I feel like I’m in a parade. The biggest memory I have is coming down and handing the trophy to the citizens of Boston. When I come back it’s always like a parade to me - always intense. The good son always comes back.’’
Martinez did not miss a beat, mixing metaphors in English, accommodating interviews in Spanish, and coming up with unexpected responses such as asserting that Lou Merloni received the loudest ovation among returning players because his name rhymes with “boo.’’
“The greatest thing was the team together walking around Boston, jumping on those ducks [boats],’’ Martinez said. “And I don’t think the sun was out yet. We were all going around to get on those ducks - always special to me.
“The moment when I came back to Boston for the first time the ovation I got was just unreal. And I don’t want to curse this and I can’t because I’m not playing anymore. My love for Boston is always in my heart. I might be the only player that has gone away from Boston and still had the same support from the fans. I think I’m very privileged - I was never booed, I never left a sour grape anywhere in Boston.’’
Martinez’s speciality was bringing the heat. But he also fed off the “calor’’ of the crowd, which he compared to his native Dominican Republic.
“My feeling is unique toward Fenway,’’ Martinez said. “It’s unique in every aspect, it has a way you can’t find anywhere else. Chicago might have a little tradition but when it comes to Fenway there’s nothing you can compare it to. I’ve been around the league, nothing can be compared to Fenway.
“It must be the closeness the stadium gives you. If you messed it up, they’re going to let you know and you can hear it. Same way when you do something good for Boston, you’re going to hear it, going to feel it. Sometimes you feel them breathing.’’
Martinez talked of his family influencing his decision to retire, but also noted he could return to pitch if given 20 days to prepare.
“It really took me to see my son throw the ball wrong,’’ Martinez said, “because if there is something I know it’s how to throw the ball. It did hit me hard, it bothered me really because my son didn’t know how to throw the ball because I wasn’t home.’’
Martinez came close to becoming sentimental: “When I saw Johnny Pesky and that group of people it made me realize not only were we blessed to win the first championship in Boston in 86 years but how special it was and how fast time flies. When I saw myself looking at the future here in Boston it seems like it was yesterday.
“And now, seeing the other players trying to do it again for Boston, it’s unbelievable. Seeing the players, it makes you realize how special it is. I was part of that and it makes you feel special. When you see so many players who have passed through Fenway with the same attention that we’ve been there - it makes you realize how special it was to be here.
“I believe [the ’04 World Series title] changed the load all of us had. Like we say we got the monkey by our back - I think the monkey got thrown in the zoo. Now I think Boston has so many reasons to brag.
“Whatever Yankees may bring up as far as having success, you can say we knocked you out after being 0 and 3. The one Boston was able to get from the Yankees is the most painful to Yankees fans.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.