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Nervous and thankful, Jerry Remy is back

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  August 21, 2009 05:53 PM

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Jerry Remy woke up yesterday morning and felt nervous in a way he hadn't in years. The way feelings store as memories is hard to say, and Remy could not quite place this instance. It was strange, something like the first day he broadcasted a baseball game, or maybe heading to the ballpark as a player on Opening Day. It was an uncomfortable day.


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When Remy walked into Fenway Park yesterday afternoon, he sat down in a chair in the Red Sox clubhouse outside the manager's office. He met with Terry Francona and chatted with players. Normalcy replaced the strangeness and discomfort.

"I just want to get back doing what I enjoy doing," Remy said. "That's baseball."

Last night, Remy returned to his familiar perch in NESN's broadcast booth behind home plate. For the first time since April, when the exhaustion of recovering from an infection owing to complications following his lung cancer surgery forced him from his duties, Remy served as the analyst for a Red Sox game, the role in which he has become one of the most universally beloved men in New England.

On Aug. 12, Remy made a surprise visit to Fenway. He addressed reporters before the game and detailed the depression he confronted during his recovery. He called one inning during the game, and when the image of Remy wearing a headset flashed on the scoreboard, Fenway erupted in a standing ovation.

After Remy began his sabbatical, he avoided baseball. He did not watch games on television. Every reminder of baseball added to his anguish. When he returned home after his one-inning cameo, Remy decided last night’s series opener against the Yankees would be the his first full game back.

"That helped tremendously, because for the longest period of time I didn't want any part of the ballpark," Remy said. "I just didn't want to come in here, because it kind of brought me down more than anything else. Last week, I felt better and I felt like I wanted to get in here on kind of a trial run just to see some people, get back here, and it did help a lot. It really did help a lot."

Remy intends to call every home game that NESN broadcasts. The Sox have two road trips remaining, and Remy will likely not work those games. "I don't know if that would be the right thing for me to do," Remy said. "But we'll see what happens. We're going to roll with it."

Physically, Remy feels fine. He has gained back all the weight he lost following his infection. He underwent a CAT scan recently, and the results were perfect. He'll have another around Christmas.

"Emotionally, no," Remy said. "I wish there was a pill you could take and the next day you'd be great. But it doesn't work that way."

Another hurdle remains for Remy as well. In several public comments, including when he announced his leave of absence on his blog, Remy has warned against smoking, particularly for children. Before the game last night, his nerves flaring, Remy smoked a cigarette in the broadcast booth.

"I took a hit," he said between the seventh and eighth innings. "Like I said before, I haven't been perfect."

Remy has reduced his smoking - "a lot," he said - but he has yet to break his addiction. Each day is a struggle.

"Absolutely," he said. "Every single day. Today has been an anxious day for me."

Remy did not expect to receive another standing ovation last night. "It's a workday for me." he said.

Of course, he was wrong. Remy has underestimated the support he's received.

"The ovation last week was special," Remy said. "There's no question about that. One thing through all of this that has continually surprised me and stunned me is the outpouring of affection from a lot of people. I just can't possibly thank them all personally. But I can do it on the air. When I got home after last week's standing ovation, I couldn't believe it."

Don Orsillo has worked with 26 color men this season, 25 more than Red Sox fans have become accustomed to. Late yesterday afternoon, Remy still felt nervous as he talked to reporters.

"I think that once the game starts, I'll be fine," Remy said. "If I screw up, I got Don to carry me."

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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