BOSTON Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, who have 32 Red Sox seasons between them, were back on the field for the home opener Friday afternoon. This time, though, it was an honorary capacity, throwing out the ceremonial first pitches before the game against the Rays. Jim Rice and Dwight Evans caught for Wakefield and Varitek.
Wakefield and Varitek entered from left field, behind the huge American flag that draped the Wall.
It was very emotional for both of us standing behind the flag and reminiscing of our time together and trying to get the walk over with as fast as possible to get off the field, Wakefield said. Its a special day, it really is. Spending this much time with this guy and being able to share it with him today, throwing out the first pitch for the home opener was pretty special.
The pair, who announced their retirements during spring training, have not yet had a chance to fully reflect on their lengthy careers. But, in the short time theyve had, theyve managed to look back.
I have, said Wakefield. The greatest feedback I think I can get on my decision is from my kids. Im seeing such a drastic change with me being around more with them. That was the most important thing to me, is never regretting not being there for them. Now that Im home full-time with them, its a special time, the right time.
I cant follow that, Varitek said. I dont know if its going to all sink in, yet. I think getting through different stages, like that was the first time I was around the field was in spring training for the announcement and stuff. It bit a little bit and I got excited in a different way. On Opening Day, that was the first time Ive sat down and watched every pitch. Its an adjustment along those lines, but the opportunities werent here and there wasnt much more I could do because I think making that decision to stay here was the right thing to do, to retire here. My family, my kids, thats a definite bonus, too.
Among the moments that will stand out for both, of course, are the 2004 and 2007 World Series.
People ask me all the time what the best World Series win? Wakefield said. I have to say 04. For many reasons, but the history leading up to 2004 and the way it happened, coming back from three games to nothing against New York in the ALCS and getting into the World Series against St. Louis was a World Series in itself, for us, as players. Then, to go win it again in 2007 with a different group of guys was very special, too. We had a new core with Pedroia, Ellsbury and Pap, a whole different generation of players came in and we were able to win a World Series championship with those guys, too. Both of them are very special, but I think 2004 is the most special for me.
2007 was as exhausting as 04, Varitek said. Getting the first one was huge, but it was huge for a Nation, it was huge for an organization, but I was probably more exhausted at the end of07 even more than 04. There was a lot more work involved. It was a different mix of pitches. We had a veteran staff in 04. We had totally different dynamics in 07. It was easy. We had to come from behind and do those things, but in 07 I was flat exhausted.
Varitek is expected to take a job with the organization. What that is, though, remains to be defined.
Were still talking, he said. Ive had some things that have kept me busy at home, family stuff. So work in progress, theres a lot of newness, a lot of things going on but continuing to talk and trying to figure out if there can be help. But in between I keep my lines of communication open with bullpencatching coach Gary Tuck and my catchers and my pitchers and stuff.
Being given the honor of throwing out the first pitch helps them see their place in Red Sox history.
Its special, Wakefield said. More so now because Tek and I were the type of players I think, and Im speaking on your behalf, you never look back, youre always looking forward and trying to prepare for your next start or his next game or whatever. So never really had a chance to reflect on your career. And now that we both retired and being asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch here on Opening Day and be part of the 100-year history next week and all that stuff, it kind of hits you like, 'Wow, did all that stuff reallyhappen?' And standing behind the flag and listening to the guys introduce us was pretty emotional but yet very fulfilling of a career that Ive been very blessed to have and to wear this uniform for as long as I did.
I dont think as a player that its hard to really reflect, Varitek said. I think its still new. I spent the time training and trying to get myself ready, and to turn back and all of a sudden just stop and look at your whole career, I dont think Ive had time to do that. I think its were so fortunate for what weve been able to do, you spend a lot of the time, its surreal. Like today, youre honored to be able to be here and its a blur. Alls I remember is the back of a flag, a white tent and the next thing you now were on the mound. But thats how things, because hes totally right, you push to the next step, the next level. What happened today really does not matter tomorrow. So to reflect, I think thatll take time but be appreciative of asking us to do this is huge.