FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Tim Wakefield announced his retirement Friday evening at Jet Blue Park after 19 seasons, including the last 17 with the Red Sox, 12 of his former teammates looked on.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez, were joined by Derek Lowe, representing the 2004 team, Lowes last season in Boston, when the Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
He led by example, Lowe said. He was a guy you could look up to, a guy you could talk to.
I think the story was he was just throwing knuckleballs in the outfield and someone said, Hey, were going to release you as an infielder. Why dont you try pitching? Its a special story because a guy thats out of the game. If this situation ever happens to me, I think its something that I would do myself. Instead of going to camp and maybe not being assured of a spot, going out on top.
I was happy to see that he did it the way he wanted to, said Jon Lester. I dont think you can ask for anything more than that.
Lesters locker has been next to Wakefields since Lester broke into the big leagues in 2006.
To be honest with you he was tough, Lester said of his first impressions of Wakefield. Hes probably one of the tougher veterans that we had when I first came up and thats not a bad thing. I think he did a good job of being a tough leader and making sure that he was vocally present. My locker is right next to him from day one. He made sure I stayed in line and did the right things both on and off the field. So Im grateful for that. Im grateful for the fact that I got to be a teammate of his and see him do a lot of great things for this organization both on and off the field. I think off the field is more imp. His charitable work is unbelievable.
Doug Mirabelli, not in attendance, was Wakefields personal catcher during his seven seasons with the Sox. He was rushed back to Boston on May 1, 2006, with a State Police escort from Logan Airport after a trade with the Padres to catch for Wakefield against the Yankees that night, arriving at Fenway Park minutes before game time.
Wakey has been a wonderful teammate and friend, and a great representative of his family and the Red Sox, Mirabelli said in a written statement. When you think about the Red Sox you cant help but think of Wakey. What a tremendous success. Hell now have a chance to look back and see what hes accomplished from his days at Florida Tech to pitching 19 years in the major leagues.
Jason Varitek is facing his own potential retirement after 15 seasons.
There is so much to say about Wake, Varitek said in a statement. He has been a part of so many things and hes meant so much to the game, the organization, the community, and personally as a friend and teammate for 14 years. He is a consummate professional with a one-of-a-kind talent that allowed this team flexibility, dependability, and endurance for 17 years. His competitiveness will be missed but his legacy and friendship will last a lifetime. Its sad to see it end but this will be an exciting new chapter for him in his life.
Wakefield will be remembered for a gut-wrenching moment in Red Sox history giving up a home run to Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS -- but what is often forgotten is that he went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in that series. Wakefield will also be long remembered for helping the Sox to their two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
I think Wakes career can be embodied by Game 3 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, said former manager Terry Francona in a statement. With the team down, he came to me in the fourth inning and asked what he could do. He pitched more than three innings that game, sacrificing his start the next day for the good of the team. A lot of what he did went under the radar. I wish him congratulations on a wonderful career and hope his second career is as good as his first.