Photo / Carl Tremblay
The famously tightlipped shortstop opens up on everything from the angst of his off-season to his relationships with his family, his bosses, and his fans. Oh, yeah, he talks about that little contract squabble, too.
Even here on Newbury Street, where the unspoken agreement is that the martinis will be expensive, the duck will be medium-rare, and the patrons will behave themselves and refrain from gawking, the deal falls apart when it comes to Nomar Garciaparra. The behavior begins even before he enters Sonsie, the stylish eatery with the French doors, as a pack of valet guys encircle him when he steps out of his black Jaguar. It accelerates as he walks past the long mahogany bar, and husbands jab their wives and point, and a nattily dressed guy yells, "No-maaah!" It continues throughout the evening, through a four-hour interview where the interruptions from autograph seekers come as reliably as the water refills from the wait staff.
There's the woman who professes to know nothing about baseball but wants his signature because her son's name is Omar. There's the guy who hands him a cellphone and says, "Hey, Nomar. I'm talking to my son in London. Say hi to him!" There's the woman who runs a private jet service who comes by twice, looking to line him up as a high flier. There are the two Spanish-speaking women who follow him with a digital camera as he makes his way to the men's room.
And then there's Mary Jane. A nurse with straight blond hair and a thick north-of-Boston accent, she comes up to the table, says, "I don't want to bother you, but . . ." and then plops down in an empty seat next to him. She hands him a silver pen to sign his autograph. The pen leaks blue ink all over his right hand. As he calmly tries to clean off his index and middle fingers, an unapologetic Mary Jane says in a slow, monotone voice, "It's my birthday -- 36. How old are you?"
"I'm 30 years old," Nomar says.
"No, sir!" Mary Jane says, slapping his arm. "You're older than that."
"Jeez," Nomar replies with a laugh. "Not only do I get hit with your exploding pen, but I get insulted on my age!"
"You'll wanna do Botox," she says. "I did."
In fact, despite all the recent off-field drama, Nomar looks as youthful as ever. He is wearing light-blue jeans and a red Nautica T-shirt whose short sleeves he tugs at regularly to cover his sculpted biceps. And despite his reputation for being a bit tightly wound, he remains smiling and relaxed amid the torrent of encounters, exploding pens and all.
But the most telling interaction isn't the one with Mary Jane. It's a split-second affair that occurs as Nomar is walking by a table and another blond diner impulsively grabs his arm and says, "Hey!" A startled friend sitting across from her says, "You act like you know him!"
Truth is, we all do. But it takes a gut-wrenching post-season and soap-operatic off-season like last year's punctuated by the media-leery Red Sox star interrupting his Hawaii honeymoon to call a sports radio show and say how much he wanted to stay in Boston, how much he had been misunderstood to drive home just how much of a blank slate he still is to us.
"I have feelings just like you," he says during our meal at Sonsie, with two-day stubble surrounding his goatee, his dark hair swept back except for a Superman curl descending onto his forehead. "People think I'm different. I'm not. I'm just like everyone else."
All these years later, and we're still starting from scratch.
Read the full story in this Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine or by logging onto Boston.com.