WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Selfies and Stars and Stripes suit created a lot of buzz at the White House today as the Red Sox were honored by President Barack Obama for capturing the World Series championship last season.
The team, family members, and a host of Red Sox front office types traveled by bus from Baltimore to Washington early Tuesday morning to spend time with the president at the White House and participate in the ceremony that took place on the south lawn.
While "Sweet Caroline" played over the loudspeakers, the team strolled onstage before the president arrived to deliver an emotional speech that referenced the strong ties between the Red Sox and the city of Boston in the wake of a tough year in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
"I think for the nation as a whole there was something about this particular squad that was special and will go down in history," the president said. "Not just not just because they went from worst to first, but because they symbolized the grit and the resilience of America’s -- one of America’s iconic cities during one of its most difficult moments.
"Nearly one year ago, hundreds of thousands gathered on a beautiful spring day to run and cheer the historic Boston Marathon. But a senseless act of terror turned celebration into chaos, and joy into anguish. Four young people lost their lives. Hundreds were injured. The city was rocked. But under the guiding hand of somebody who I consider one of the finest public servants that America has known, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston, who is here today, and his lovely wife."
The president then referenced Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost part of her left leg in the Boston Marathon bombings last April and MBTA police officer Richard Donahue, who was shot while pursuing the attackers later that week.
"Boston stood resolute and unbowed and unbroken," Obama said. "And as the smoke cleared, we gained inspiration from the injured who gamely tackled their recovery -- those who are running and walking again, including the young woman who has returned to professional dancing with a prosthetic leg. And we took heart from the first responders who put their lives at risk and bravely ran toward danger -- people like Officer Richard Donahue of the MBTA Transit Police, who was shot and nearly killed that night. After months of rehab, Richard is walking again and keeping up with his 18-month-old son, and we’re so proud to have Richard here today."
President Obama also paid tribute to two Boston firefighters who lost their lives battling the deadly Beacon fire last week.
"Today, our hearts are in Boston again," the president said. "We’ve got the families of firefighters Michael Kennedy and Lieutenant Edward Walsh, who gave their lives protecting others from a massive blaze last week. And their sacrifice, like the sacrifice of those made last year, remind us of the selfless courage of everyday heroes who put their lives on the line to help others. The first responders, the brave citizens, the resolute victims of these tragedies -- they’re all Boston Strong. And ultimately, that’s what this team played for last season, and every man behind me did his part to keep the team rolling."
The ceremony turned lighter when the president referenced several Red Sox players for their efforts in helping to clinch the championship in 2013.
"There was Xander Boegarts, the upstart rookie who took over at third base and didn’t let up," he said. "The tested veterans like my fellow Hawaiian Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli, who came in during the offseason and shook off the rust and the injuries to secure win after win. Lackey and Lester -- the heart of a rotation that upped their game and started begging their manager, John Farrell, to stay in for six and seven and eight innings. And of course, the legend -- the only man to play for all three championship teams, the biggest bat in the dugout: Big Papi. Love this guy. Even a White Sox fan can appreciate these guys.
"But for all the big names, this was never a single super-star’s team. If you look at the numbers, no pitcher won more than 15 games; no batter hit more than 30 home runs. And yet, they led the majors in runs scored, won the most games in the American League, had the second-best ERA in their hard-hitting division. So this team never lost more than three games in a row all season, they just had a lot of heart."
As the ceremony came to a close, David Ortiz presented the president with a No. 44 Red Sox jersey with the words "Boston" on the front, then requested a selfie with the president that is now trending worldwide.
After the official ceremony, Red Sox manager John Farrell, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, and Koji Uehara met briefly with the media before heading to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington to spend time with veterans who were injured in battle.
"Feels good man," Ortiz said after the White House ceremony. "You don't get that opportunity every day to sit a little bit with the president and take a selfie with him."
Jonny Gomes, who donned his now famous stars and stripes suit for the occasion, said the president approved his wardrobe choice.
"He approved," Gomes said. "He made sure to tell me he liked it and he thanked me for his and the team signing it and he definitely approved. He made sure, he looked me right in the eyes 'nice jacket.' Just a true great opportunity to share this with all the teammates as well as all the people behind the scenes. We shared a lot of failure, a lot of success but to really cap it off here at the White House is pretty special."
Gomes then went on to speak about his penchant for patriotism in general.
"I'm a pretty patriotic person, you know," he said. "Whether it's my outfit or what I stand for so I didn't want to be too much of a distraction. I hope it's not but just true blessed for my freedom and everything that the flag stands for."