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Memories cascade on Nomar’s night

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 6, 2010

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As Nomar Garciaparra walked out of the dugout before last night’s game, his hand raised to greet the fans, everyone in Fenway Park stood. They cheered as he walked toward a grouping of Red Sox representatives and his family behind home plate, where he embraced Johnny Pesky. They cheered again after team president Larry Lucchino unveiled two seats as a gift for Garciaparra.

He stepped to the microphone and thanked the fans. Then he told them that he loved them.

“I don’t know how I can really express, put into words, just how grateful I am,’’ Garciaparra said earlier in the afternoon. “I never had a chance to just tell them thank you, tell them thank you and that I love them. I don’t know if the words are going to come out as eloquently that way or not today, but that’s really what it means to me.’’

The Sox celebrated Garciaparra yesterday, two months after the former shortstop had signed a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the Red Sox. It was Nomar Garciaparra Day, fittingly celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month, with Garciaparra wearing his No. 5 jersey.

Former teammates were called out to stand on the mound with him as he threw the first pitch: Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz and Tim Wakefield and Lou Merloni and Brian Daubach and Trot Nixon (who actually got the loudest reception). Jason Varitek caught the pitch, which Garciaparra winged across his body.

“I’m eternally grateful to the organization for allowing me to have a day like this,’’ Garciaparra said. “Hopefully they can see in me what this organization has meant to me. And in return, they definitely showed me what the years that I played meant to them. And I thank them.’’

Garciaparra, whose tenure in Boston was quite messy at the end, has moved on to broadcasting, a change he called “challenging.’’ He talked about his memories of Boston, his first hit, the All-Star Game in 1999, knowing Pesky and Ted Williams and Mo Vaughn, winning with his teammates.

He also riffed on the tics that came along with his .323 average in Boston, explaining that it was just so he could get his toes to the tips of his shoes and the fingers to the tips of his gloves.

“It was just a feel,’’ he said. “I’m screwed up, I know. That’s why I swung at the first pitch, so I can hit it, get on with it, I didn’t have to do it all over again.’’

But he spent far more time discussing his love for the fans in Boston, saying, “It’s always been one of the biggest parts of my heart, this organization and this uniform. So that gets to stay with me forever.’’

Swinging away
Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron took batting practice before the game again, another sign that they are close to returning. “That corner is getting turned where they’re starting to get aggressive,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “[Ellsbury] swung the bat pretty good. Getting more aggressive in his throwing. Again, it’s getting brighter.’’ The team hasn’t mapped out a plan for either one. The question is whether they would need rehab stints in the minors. Cameron is almost certain to play a few games in the minors; it’s not as clear with Ellsbury . . . Jed Lowrie has been able to do some baseball activities and strength work over the last five or six days, as he continues to come back from mononucleosis. Last night’s game marked the 1,000th at the helm of the Sox for Francona. That’s the fourth-most in franchise history behind Joe Cronin (2,007), Mike Higgins (1,119), and Bill Carrigan (1,003). With the 3-1 win, Francona improved to 579-421 with the Sox, the second-best winning percentage (.579) behind Joe McCarthy (.606). Asked about reaching the milestone, Francona said, “Some days it feels like it’s been more. I actually didn’t know. I had never even given a thought.’’ So, does he have another 1,000 games left in him? “I don’t know. I just hope they’re not all this week.’’

Not so fast

The Sox had another runner thrown out at the plate last night, as Marco Scutaro got nailed in the seventh inning, when it was still a one-run game. He attempted to score from second on a Youkilis single to left. Hideki Matsui, playing only his fourth game in left this season, threw slightly off line, but Scutaro missed the plate with his hand, and could only wait for catcher Mike Napoli to tag him out. “I think he’s safe if he hits the plate,’’ Francona said, defending third base coach Tim Bogar’s choice of waving Scutaro home. “A guy bounces over the plate, I don’t know what to do about that.’’ . . . The Sox clinched the series win, the first time they have won a four-game set against the Angels in Boston since June 14-17, 1991 . . . The 2 hours 33 minutes marked the Sox’ shortest nine-inning game since Sept. 22 of last season against Kansas City . . . Jonathan Papelbon converted his 21st straight save, establishing a career high . . . David Ortiz tied Adam Dunn and Ron Gant for 100th on the all-time home run list with his 321st.

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