Millar, Martinez revel in Fenway celebration

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Millar, Martinez revel in Fenway celebration

BOSTON I feel like Im still in that parade, Pedro Martinez said. Every time I come back, its like a parade.

That parade, of course, is the duck boat ride around Boston Martinez and his teammates made possible by winning the 2004 World Series, snapping an 86-year drought.

Martinez was among the 212 Red Sox alumni who took part in a heart-warming pregame ceremony honoring Fenway Parks 100thanniversary. The players filed out individually, taking their positions on the field.

I call it home sweet home, Martinez said of the ancient park.

In his 18-season career Martinez had a record of 219-100, a .687 winning percentage, with a 2.93 ERA. In seven seasons with the Sox, he was 117-37 (.760, 2.52). At Fenway, he was 58-19 (.753, 2.74) in 95 career starts. But his memories are about more than just numbers.

Fenway has a way, he said.Its not like anywhere else. Theres nothing to compare it to. When you do something bad, youre going to hear itWhen you do something good, youre going to hear it.

For Martinez and his 04 teammate Kevin Millar, it was a treat to see so many former players, especially those who represented a different era. Bobby Doerr, the oldest living Hall of Famer who was born in 1918 -- the last year the Sox won a World Series before Martinez, Millar and his teammates -- and Johnny Pesky, born the following year, were there, too.

When Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr came out, that got me, Millar said. That was tear-jerking.

Pesky, a daily fixture at Fenway during Millars tenure, had a knack of making a younger player feel like he fit right in.

Johnny Pesky had a way Son, Ted Williams, you would have been his favorite, Millar said. Pesky, hes awesome.

It made me realize something, Martinez said. Not only were we blessed to bring that first championship to Boston, I realized how fast the time flieshow special it makes you feel to be part of something in Boston.

The 2004 team was special for both Martinez and Millar. It had something that couldnt be manufactured, they said.

Everybody contributed, Millar said. You cant buy thatYou cant replace what we had. We had good people.

Martinez and Millar, along with the rest of their 04 teammates, will always hold a special place in the hearts of Red Sox fans. They dispatched the ghosts of previous heartbreaks, bringing a championship to Boston after decades of futility.

It changed the atmosphere in Fenway Park.

I believe so, Martinez said. I believe it changed the load off all of us here in Boston. I think now Boston has so many reasons to brag.

Millar and Martinez led the Fenway crowd in a toast (nerve wracking, Millar said) to the park before the start of the game. They were toasting a place that hosted special memories.

For Millar, it was clinching the 2003 wild card and running with several teammates still in uniforms and spikes -- out of Fenway and taking over the bar at the nearby Baseball Tavern.

Martinez hasnt pitched in the major leagues since 2009 with the Phillies. Asked if he could make a return now, he replied:

No, not right now. Ill need at least 20 days.

Yes, he was kidding.

For Martinez, it was what he did as a pitcher, and what happened when he returned as an opponent that made Fenway special.

I might be the only player gone away from Boston and never been booed, Martinez said. I was very privileged to have been that player.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."