Boston or New York? Let Ottavino tell you

He has insight into the Red Sox and Yankees like few others

March 4th, 2021
Tom Forget /

Adam Ottavino holds a special and fairly rare place in the ongoing, never-ending rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. He's one of the few players to be traded between the two teams (probably because of what happened following the trade of one George Herman Ruth), and he's the first the archenemies have swapped since 2014.

He even found a new level of fame when he dared suggest he could strike out the hot dog-eating Ruth -- something that surely will endear him to the Fenway faithful -- but wound up in a Yankees commercial where the Babe homers off him.

And Ottavino also lives in a state of flux, not just between the two ballclubs but between the two cities. He grew up in Brooklyn's tony neighborhood of Park Slope, regularly playing baseball in nearby Prospect Park. He was a Yankees fanatic like so many other New Yorkers as a kid -- even sharing an adorable photo of when he met David Cone as a youngster while rocking replica pinstripes. For the 2019 Players Weekend, Ottavino had "Brooklyn" stitched across his back.

"I definitely got spoiled the last two years being able to live at home and be with my family all the time in a comfortable environment," Ottavino told "This is the first time in a while I had to go look for a new apartment and figure all that out."

But Ottavino has deep roots in Boston, too. He attended Northeastern University and spent the three years he attended in campus housing, nestled in a kind of no-man's land in the middle of Boston's Back Bay, South End, Roxbury and the rolling lush of, yes, Fenway.

"Fenway is a special place," Ottavino said. "I remember the first time getting to go and play there in the Beanpot and I felt like it was hallowed ground. It has always been exciting to go there, no matter what team I'm with."

Now, he's looking forward to pitching there, not as a college interloper, but as a member of New England's favorite team.

Even the courtship with his wife, Brette, is strung across the two cities. They met while Adam was with the Rockies, and their first two dates took place during the offseason when he was back living in New York. Their second date positively screams "New York," as the couple took a romantic gander through the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But Brette's family is from Boston, and she attended grad school at Harvard and worked at Boston Children's Hospital. So, after continuing to talk for a few months while Adam was away for the season, they met for their third date when Colorado came to play at Fenway Park.

"We went out to dinner one night, and I got her a ticket to the game and just tried to spend time together," Ottavino said. "And then after all that time, we figured, 'Hey, I guess we do kind of like each other. So let's keep this going.'"

"We always talk about Boston as a happy place for us," he added. "Both for different reasons. In the past and the offseasons, we've gone to Boston for a weekend with our older daughter and tried to show her a little bit of a time in our life that was special for each of us. And so I feel like it's always been a part of our family."

Screengrab via @AdamOttavino on Instagram.

Given all the time Ottavino has spent in the two cities, as both a player and citizen, is he able to spot a difference in their fans?

"Growing up, certainly Yankee fans, myself included, were very cocky," Ottavino said. "We had dominated the rivalry for, you know, 86 years or whatever it was. I felt like that was kind of the nature of it -- Red Sox fans getting their hearts broken [and] Yankee fans gloating the whole time. Obviously, the script got flipped at some point. And now I think they're more similar than dissimilar. Both places have a high expectation and expect the best out of their teams."

However, there is one big difference that gives the edge to Boston: New York has two teams, so loyalties get split between the Yankees and Mets. (Ottavino's parents were originally Mets fans, but now, naturally, they root for whichever team Ottavino plays for.) Meanwhile, the Red Sox have an entire region to pull from.

"Certainly the Yankees have a huge fan base," Ottavino said, "but I feel like everybody's all in on Boston, probably from central Connecticut all the way to Maine. So it's a pretty big area that Red Sox Nation covers and I feel like that's something that makes it unique and special."

Ottavino goes head-to-head on New York vs. Boston:

Adam Ottavino compares New York and Boston

That feverish support is one of Ottavino's favorite parts of playing: The hurler actually loves getting heckled and knows that growing up in New York won't save him when he returns in a Red Sox uniform.

"I'm assuming I'll get destroyed by the hecklers," Ottavino said. "But I look forward to it. Honestly, it's one of my favorite things. I went through it in San Francisco and L.A., when I played with the Rockies. And obviously being a Yankee, I didn't get heckled too much anywhere because there's mostly Yankee fans on the road."

Having grown up in cities and lived in them most of his life, it's not surprising that Ottavino enjoys the crowds, the energy of people coming together to shout in unison -- whether it's to support him or not. It's what he's most looking forward to when fans begin to return to ballparks this summer.

"It was really lame without [the fans] last year," Ottavino added. "And I'll take the ribbing all day over them not being there."