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.

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

With the NFL combine about to begin -- and the NFL Draft just about two months away -- we'll take a daily look at the collegiate talent available at positions where the Patriots might be looking for help. We start today with: Tight ends.

On Tuesday, players will arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, with on-field workouts beginning Friday. 

The second group to take the field is the tight end group, which should be worth watching for a number of reasons. For starters, Todd McShay says that this is “a good year to need a tight end” given that there could be three first-rounders in O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Jake Butt.

Furthermore, Martellus Bennett’s potential departure and Rob Gronkowski’s durability questions make tight end a position the Patriots could target early come April 27. 

Here’s a quick look at each of the 19 tight ends invited to the combine: 

O.J. Howard, Alabama, 6-foot-6, 249 pounds

- NFL.com describes him as an “exceptionally gifted athlete” and says that his “play speed resembles a wide receiver’s when the ball is in the air.” They add he “appears passive” as a blocker and “need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro.”

David Njoku, Miami, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

- Not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, but is considered a top-end athlete. NFL.com says he “should annihilate the combine with monster numbers in speed and explosion.”

Jake Butt, Michigan, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds 

- Does everything well, but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. 

Jordan Leggett, Clemson, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds

- Not considered a great blocker and has admitted that he’s played lazily. Could the Pats fix his motor? 

Gerald Everett, South Alabama, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds

- Very interesting prospect. Primarily a basketball player in high school who played just one year of football (insert Antonio Gates basketball reference), Everett played at Alabama-Birmingham before the school cut its football program. Upon transferring to South Alabama, Everett showed his skills as a pass-catching tight end. 

Evan Engram, Mississippi, 6-foot-3, 236 pounds

- Itty bitty for a tight end, and he doesn’t have the greatest hands either. Described as a “move tight end only who lacks dependability as a blocker.”   

He was one of five who for second in the nation among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season. Other guys in that group were Njoku, Hayden Plinke,  Cole Hikutini and UMass’ Adam Breneman.

Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds

- Just your average quarterback-turned-tight-end. The lanky Hodges would be a good fit for the Patriots simply because it would give Julian Edelman a break from the constant mention during broadcasts that he used to be a QB. 

Cole Hikutini, Louisville, 6-foot-5, 248 pounds

- A good athlete who isn’t much of a blocker.

Adam Shaheen, Ashland, 6-foot-6, 277 pounds

- Former college basketball player transferred from Pittsburgh-Johnstown to Ashland to focus on football and eventually established himself as a dominant player at the Division II level. He’s certainly got the size and strength, but questions will persist about just how similarly he holds up going from Division II to the NFL. 

Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 265 pounds

- Big, physical tight end with a solid stiff arm. Sprinkle was suspended by Arkansas for the Belk Bowl because he stole from a Belk department store after each player had been given $450 to spend there. He was arrested for the incident, as he stole $260 worth of extra items.

Pharoh Brown, Oregon, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds

- Not considered the athlete he was prior to a 2014 injury that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated. 

Michael Roberts, Toledo, 6-foot-4, 261 pounds

- Huge hands, which he uses to catch better than block. He led all FBS tight ends with 16 touchdowns last season. 

Jonnu Smith, Florida International, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

- College career was ended prematurely when his pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him, resulting in severe burns throughout his upper body, including his head. He has good speed, but drops were an issue in college. 

Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh, 6-foot-5, 256 pounds

- Figures to be a solid blocking tight end, but he also had five receiving touchdowns as a senior. 

Eric Saubert, Drake, 6-foot-5, 251 pounds

- Every draft pick is a gamble, but Saubert might be more so than others. An AFC regional scout says that Saubert is “body beautiful but he can’t catch. I don’t think it’s correctable, either.”

Cethan Carter, Nebraska, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds

- Elbow injuries figure to be a topic at the combine, and he had various injuries throughout his college career. 

Darrell Daniels, Washington, 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

- A scout told NFL.com that Daniels is "going to test through the roof and he's going to get overdrafted on the traits.” The Patriots don’t typically fall into such traps. 

George Kittle, Iowa, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds

- Only had one drop as a senior, but then again being believed to have had no drops in college doesn’t make a guy an NFL stud. 

Hayden Plinke, UTEP, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds

- Transferred twice in his college career, starting at Boise State, then Portland State and finally UTEP. Is considered a good blocker who grabbed eight touchdowns as a senior. 
 

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while so glad to see Dave Strader getting the play-by-play call in this afternoon’s national NBC broadcast of Stars and Bruins from Dallas.
 
-- Jeremy Roenick weighs in with some trade possibilities involving Avalanche and Blues players in what could be a blockbuster at the deadline.
 
-- Antoine Vermette acknowledges his wrongdoing in making a statement about his 10-game suspension for slashing an official, but feels like the punishment was too severe.
 
-- Don Cherry wishes a happy 40th anniversary to Slap Shot while wearing a Charleston Chiefs jersey as he hosts Coaches Corner.
 
-- Speaking of Slap Shot, what an Old Time Hockey fight between the AHL's Iowa Wild and Chicago Wolves. It spilled into the hallway afterward . . . that’s when things get real.

-- I've been asked multiple times about the white Boston hat David Pastrnak is always wearing in the Bruins dressing room, so here it is.

 -- Here’s all the Dallas Stars info you need ahead of this afternoon’s 11:30 a.m. local start in Dallas for the Stars and Bruins.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning indicating that the mumps outbreak for his team won’t impact the trade deadline.
 
-- For something completely different: the headline seems a little click baity to me, but I’ll read about anything involving Homer Simpson and the Baseball Hall of Fame.