Pedro in vintage form as Sox retire No. 45
BOSTON -- To the right of the other seven Red Sox players who have had their numbers retired on the right-field facade at Fenway Park, there is finally the number of a pitcher -- arguably the best in the history of a baseball-crazed city.
Pedro Martinez, fresh off being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, was back at Fenway Park on Tuesday for a ceremony that brought back the unique energy that always existed on days he pitched.
"If I'm not mistaken, I didn't feel that since the last time I pitched here. But today, I felt the same," said Martinez. "The same little movement. The kids walking and the cars parked a little further down and the kids are rushing to the stadium and the people are happy and they are excited and they want to be out there.
"That's the atmosphere I lived every time I pitched here. And today was a day that I felt it. Other occasions, yes, they were special, they all are. But today, for the Pedro day, was the same electricity that was built around every game that I pitched. And I loved that."
Boston and Martinez have always been a well-matched pair -- a city and a player with boundless passion and energy.
"That's what makes Boston unique," said Martinez. "Now, when I was standing by the podium over there [during the ceremony], I could hear someone yell, 'I love you Pedro.' And that's the only stadium where you could probably be able to hear that and feel that kind of passion and love that they deposit on you. It's a unique feeling being here in Boston and dealing with these kind of fun days."
Though Martinez also pitched for the Dodgers, Expos, Mets and Phillies, Boston is where he built his legacy, and where he found his second home.
"It just seems like destiny had me linked in a very different way to everything [with] the Red Sox, the seasons, the championships, '04, 86 years," said Martinez. "And then I'm part of the all-century team for the Red Sox [in 2012] and I see so many great players have passed by that couldn't pull it off. I was part of the one that pulled it off. Not only that, I'm the first pitcher that goes onto that exclusive wall of numbers retired. It's a unique opportunity to feel this."
In an intimate on-field ceremony, Martinez was surrounded by those who have influenced him in various ways. Ralph Avila, the scout who signed Martinez all those years ago with the Dodgers was present. So was Felipe Alou, his manager with the Expos. A plethora of former teammates were back at Fenway, including Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, Orlando Cabrera, Tim Wakefield and Trot Nixon. So, too, were other important figures in Red Sox history, from Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice to Carlton Fisk to Luis Tiant. Nomar Garciaparra left a video message that was displayed on the scoreboard.
"When I saw Avila, I saw the start for me -- the open door that I wanted to have to never look back to the shack [in the Dominican]," Martinez said. "When I saw Felipe, I saw the opportunity. I saw the caring, loving figure that deposited his entire faith in one player. When I saw Jason and David, it made me relive every moment that I lived in Boston."
There were gifts, such as a laptop installed with video reels of Martinez's best moments as a player. And a Fenway Park grandstand seat (number 45) that Martinez can put in his living room if he chooses. The Red Sox presented Martinez with a $45,000 check to his charitable foundation.
What was it that drove Martinez to the United States -- and ultimately to Boston and Cooperstown?
"After coming out of the shack that we used to live in in the Dominican, and I saw the first opportunity, I refused to go back," Martinez said. "If I was to stay a child like I was before I knew responsibilities, before I knew what struggles were, I would probably remain a child, had I been given that opportunity because it was beautiful even though we were poor and struggling.
"But after I realized what it was, I did not want to come back, I did not want to have a chance to fail. It was like I had no space for failures. I decided I was just going to go forward never looking back."
Aside from the video montages that can demonstrate his greatness, this is how Martinez would like to be remembered by Boston.
"All they can do, once they see the number is think about having fun because I am fun," Martinez said. "I hope that they have the same feeling when they see that number. 'Pedro! That's Pedro. Oh, Pedro is always in a parade, Pedro's always happy, Pedro's always grateful, you never know what Pedro is going to be.' Just go up there and have fun. Remember me for a fun guy, a sign of hope, a sign of someone that was always happy and grateful for the things that he had the opportunity to live for."