Jacoby Ellsbury made is much-anticipated return to Fenway Park last night. All eyes were on Boston. How would the home crowd receive the player accused by many of being a traitor (or “trader”, as described by many on social media)?
They booed Jacoby Ellsbury, seemingly out of duty, for his first Fenway Park at-bat wearing that hated road gray uniform. That was understood by all parties to be part of the deal, even after helping the home team win a pair of World Series championships.
Yet to some surprise on Ellsbury’s part, the harsh reaction that dented Johnny Damon’s pride back in 2006 never materialized. Instead, Ellsbury was doffing his cap on the top step of the visiting dugout, hearing warm applause during a brief highlight video of his memorable moments with the Red Sox.
Ellsbury’s in-game performance yesterday provided the road fans a full opportunity to remember the talented guy who once roamed their center field. Ellsbury was 2-for-5 with a double, a triple, two runs batted in and one nifty sliding catch in the outfield.
The Yankees topped the Red Sox – again – by a final of 9-3. New York is 4-1 against Boston already on this young season. To the surprise of some, they sit in first place in the AL East with a 12-8 record. But for at least one day, concern over the division standings was lost on the spectacle of Ellsbury’s return. As Hoch writes:
Instead of the visceral reaction many predicted, Ellsbury was being begged for warmup baseballs by the spectators beyond the center-field wall – one of whom laid a hand on his first hit, a fan-interference triple that started Jon Lester’s night on a sour note.
“They were cheering me,” Ellsbury said. “I was like, ‘I feel like this is a home game.’ But you’re going to get a little bit of it. You expect it, but as a whole, 35,000 people show up each and every night, and I thought they were tremendous.”
Ellsbury’s semi-warm reception was much like the one enjoyed by Kevin Youkilis in 2012. It makes one wonder if the once-vitriolic rivalry that existed between the Red Sox and Yankees might have cooled a bit now that both teams have won World Series championships in very recently – and Boston three.
Anymore, there seems to be a mutual respect between the two organizations. Perhaps the Red Sox no longer feel like little brother. The Yankees no longer eclipse them in terms of payroll, and the Red Sox arguable have enjoyed more success over the last decade than their AL East counterparts.
If you ask Boston fans, they’d probably tell you they’re the Yankee’s equals. Now, finally, they can point to accomplishments on the field that would bolster that feeling. Perhaps that has erased much of the frustration, much of the angst and bitterness caused from an 83-year World Series drought; and 83-year period where they also had to watch idly as New York piled up 26 title trophies.
Though the vitriol may return if Ellsbury helps New York acquire another one this season.