Ceremony full of emotion
Many nice touches as Wakefield lauded
The Red Sox pulled out all the stops to honor former pitcher Tim Wakefield before Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Mariners.
Former teammates - including Doug Mirabelli, Mike Timlin, and Mike Stanley - along with relatives and friends of the recently retired knuckleballer turned out for “Thanks, Wake’’ Day at Fenway Park.
The pregame ceremony, emceed by NESN’s Don Orsillo, featured a heartfelt speech by the Red Sox’ David Ortiz, and a touching moment when members of the ex-pitcher’s charity, Wakefield’s Warriors, emerged from center field and surrounded an emotional Wakefield.
“I was so nervous man,’’ said Ortiz after the game about his speech. “But everything went good and it was an honor for me to give a good speech for somebody as big as Wakefield.’’
Once Wakefield had shaken the hand of almost every Warrior, he took the microphone and gave thanks to the Red Sox and their fans for the support during his nearly two decades in Boston.
“I have to thank the Red Sox organization for giving me the best 17 years of my life,’’ he said. “I have to thank my teammates, the former ones that I played with. You guys have always had my back and I’ll have yours forever. Thank you for your support.’’
“Every time I took this mound I gave everything I had and every time I walked off you always gave me a standing ovation,’’ Wakefield continued. “I will cherish the memories that we shared together from ’04 to ’07 and all the 17 years in between. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys.’’
Orsillo then announced to the crowd that Doug Mirabelli, who was scheduled to catch the game’s first pitch, wouldn’t be making it because his flight was delayed. However, it didn’t take long for the Sox faithful to catch on to the joke, as Mirabelli emerged from center field in a Boston police car, to the fans’ delight.
Mirabelli famously arrived in a State Police car in May of 2006 after the Red Sox had re-acquired him to be Wakefield’s personal catcher because Josh Bard had trouble with Wakefield’s knucklers. Mirabelli was delayed in transit the day the Sox traded for him, but he was needed because Wakefield was scheduled to start that day.
Mirabelli’s arrival Tuesday was the idea of Sarah McKenna, vice president/fan services and entertainment, and it caught Wakefield totally by surprise. “I thought it was priceless,’’ he said.
Wakefield then threw what may have been his last pitch at Fenway Park, and his son and daughter shouted, “Play Ball!’’
Talking to reporters after the game, the 45-year-old made it clear that he wouldn’t necessarily rule out a return to the mound later this season. “I can’t say yes or no. I can’t deny or confirm that,’’ said Wakefield.
Asked if he was glad he didn’t end up going to another team to finish his career, he said, “This is the team that I was going to end my career with, whether it be this past February or this coming October. I’ve worn this uniform a long time and it’s the only one I’d wear from here on out.’’
There was no shortage of praise for No. 49 from current members of the Sox.
“[Wakefield] was a staple in this clubhouse for a long time,’’ said Jon Lester. “He was my locker mate for a long time. I think a lot of the times when you’re not here, guys forget you a lot quicker, but obviously he was a very important part of this team and this organization for a very long time. Anybody that helps bring two world championships here is doing something pretty good.’’
Wakefield is third all-time on the Red Sox in wins with 186. He’s second in strikeouts (2,046), and started a team-record 430 games.
Michael Vega of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.