When the news was announced, the shock waves left a deafening silence throughout the nation. Children cried and grown men questioned what was real in the game they loved so much, shaking their heads in disbelief. We grieved as if he had passed, his name on the lips of everyone that July 31, 2004. He was our face of hope, the only bright spot in those dark, cursed days at Fenway and as much a part of the historied baseball legacy of his team as the uniform he put on every day he was here. Then, in an instant, he was gone.
A bold move for an unknown, young, general manager still cutting his teeth on a team that is adored by a nation. Theo Epstein instantly became an enigma with some serious balls for trading away the franchise for Single A outfield prospect Matt Murton and two former Gold Glovers, shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Montreal Expos and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins. There are those who believe that move was the main reason the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series title in 86 years. The same people who cried were once again cheering, and Epstien became our new hero.
Nomar Garciaparra was shipped off to Chicago in the midst of what some experts called a possible "Hall of Fame" career. Last night Nomar returned to Fenway, his first time since he was traded, playing for his third team in five years in a career that has been riddled with injury and disappointment. He told the press last night at a pregame press conference, "When I got traded, I was on the road and never got to say 'thank you'," he said. Last night, at his first at-bat at Fenway, he got his wish.
The Boston Herald's Ron Borges explained the extraordinary emotional moment last night at the plate. "Garciaparra waved his Oakland A's batting helmet and the roar grew louder. he turned from side to side, acknowledging each part of the park with a wave. The roar increased. Then, his head bowed from the emotion of what he was receiving, he turned and patted his heart and then clapped back."
Nomar got what he so rightly deserved. The love of and admiration of an undying nation, who were grateful for what he gave when he played here. Even though Nomar plays for another team, the faithful at Fenway let him know, last night, that he will always be a Red Sox and that we love him like our own. He let us know that he loves us right back. It was one of those special moments that will live on in the hearts of Red Sox fans and in the highlight reel of Mr. Garciaparra's career.
Thanks Nomar. We love you too.