Red Sox Confidential
THE RED SOX OF 2003 and 2004 were filled with colorful characters — including the guy whose trade from the team is often credited with helping the club at last win a championship.
I’ll never forget the time, at some point after the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, that NASA arranged for two female astronauts to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Sox home game and deliver a brief tribute to their fallen colleagues. I happened to be an acquaintance of one of the visiting astronauts — Cady Coleman — so I volunteered to shepherd the two women through Fenway and onto the diamond. I ushered Coleman and Stephanie Wilson down to the field, but a rain delay forced us to wait for more than an hour in the Sox dugout. Players wandered around us, trying to relax as the umpires and owners huddled to decide whether to play the game. I didn’t normally mingle with the players, so it was a bit of a thrill to be sitting wedged among Nomar Garciaparra, Tim Wakefield, and other stars. Nomar curiously watched my interaction with the two women, who were dressed in their bright-blue flight suits, and finally nudged me and asked who they were. I explained that they were astronauts. “Hey,” Nomar replied, “I saw this show on Fox that said we never really went to the moon. The whole thing was faked. Can I talk to her about that?”
“Sure,” I said, eager to witness this conversation.
Coleman diplomatically handled the inquiry from Nomar. “I’ve heard about that,” she said, “but it would have to be an enormous conspiracy.”
“Did you see the show?” he quickly rejoined. “It was really convincing…. I don’t know.”
She hadn’t seen the show and looked plaintively at me as other players began to join the conversation. “Hey,” I said, trying to change the subject. “Cady is going to spend six months on the International Space Station. Talk about training for the big show.”
Intrigued, Nomar asked about the size of the space station. “It’s really big,” Coleman said.
“Is it as big as Fenway Park?” Nomar asked.
“No, not that big,” Coleman replied. Then she started looking around for ways to illustrate the dimensions of the orbiting vehicle.“How far is it from home plate to first base?” she finally asked. About six players yelled in unison: “Ninety feet.”
“It’s about that size,” she told them.
“That’s not big,” Nomar said. “That’s small.”
AFTER THE END OF THE 2007 World Series, I began thinking about leaving Rasky Baerlein and starting a new chapter in my PR career. That would mean giving up my work with the Red Sox — a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience — but after six great seasons I couldn’t really imagine it getting any better.
What I was especially going to miss, I knew, was the ability to share my access and privilege with other people. Like the time I escorted a pair of German tourists into a closed Fenway and took them onto the field (when they flatteringly mistook me for a player, I signed “Doug Mirabelli” in their autograph book), or when I got Jason Varitek to sign my niece’s hat, or when I brought my older son into the team’s clubhouse after the 2007 ALCS victory and he was able to pose for pictures with an agreeable Jonathan Papelbon.