Sports broadcasting loves to highlight feel good stories. We had an abundance of them during the recent Winter Olympics. But this story is hard for a die-hard Red Sox fan to beat. Today, Nomar Garciaparra retired in a Red Sox uniform (figuratively, not actually). The Red Sox signed him to a one-day minor league contract so Nomar could announce his retirement as a member of the team for which he played incredible baseball.
I’ve written about Nomar before, but I will repeat myself here. When I was a teenager in the early 1970s, becoming a baseball fan and a Red Sox die-hard, I loved Carleton Fisk, Fred Lynn, George Scott, Rico Petrocelli, Bill Lee, Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, and — especially — Carl Yastrzemski. I lived and breathed these players. They were my heroes. As I got older, that magic feeling toward my baseball idols dimmed. Yes, I liked Roger Clemmens and Wade Boggs, but not in that same way.
Then Nomar came along. What a thrill to watch him play! He had a jittery, tic-filled approach at the plate, tugging on his batting gloves, kicking his toes into the dirt between every pitch. But he seemed to smoke the ball every at bat. He ran hard to first every time. He made dazzling defensive plays. He was intense, but constantly smiling. That he loved them game, and respected the history of the Red Sox, was evident when Ted Williams and he embraced during the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway.
I hated the way he was hustled out of town, the hard-feelings that were generated then. I hate that so many people say that trade is what lead to the Red Sox first World Series title in over 80 years. That’s not how this great player should be remembered. So I was glad at the way Nomar was welcomed on his first return to Fenway as a member of the Oakland A’s last summer. And I am especially happy that Nomar can retire a Red Sox — and even more so that it was important to him to do so. That speaks volumes about his character.
Nomar gave me back that adolescent joy of watching a great player go about his business on the baseball diamond, and for that I will always remember him.