Johnny Damon said today he understands why Red Sox fans booed him four years ago when he signed with the archrival New York Yankees before the 2006 season. This year though, Damon is back in the Fenway Park’s visitors clubhouse with a Detroit Tigers uniform.
Could there be a different reaction from fans when Damon comes to the plate tonight for his first at-bat?
Perhaps maybe things will change. Either way, Damon said he’ll be fine whether he gets a majority of cheers or boos.
“I’ve had a bunch of people cheering for me four years ago,” he said. “There were a few more boos, too, but I appreciated the cheers. I knew the boos were going to come, but there were a lot of fans here who feel like the Red Sox wouldn’t be where they were without my type of attitude and my type of play.”
This year, Damon is hitting .281 with seven homers and 32 RBIs. When asked if being in a Tigers uniform brought less anxiety coming into Fenway than in a Yankees one, Damon smiled as he answered the question with a loud, “Yeah.”
“I love playing here and in New York, which was against a lot of people wishes, but I fell in love with New York also,” Damon said. “I’m one of those players who can go anywhere and make the best of it.”
Damon helped lead the Red Sox to their title in 2004 when he hit two home runs and drove in six runs in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees. Damon said that was one of his fondest memories as a player, and if fans cheer for him tonight, he knows it comes out of respect for what he did to bring the Red Sox out of the curse.
“Yeah, the players who can survive playing in Boston and New York, you tip your hat to them because there is a lot more than just playing baseball,” Damon said. “You become a part of not just a community your around, but everybody follow the team. You’re a part of Red Sox nation everywhere, whether it’s Southern California or Japan.”
Yet Damon knows he has to be honest with himself, which means if a lot boos do come his way, it’s a part of being on the opposing team.
“I’ve been booed so many times in my career,” he said. “I got booed yesterday. I get booed everywhere. It really does not bother me. It just shows I’ve been around and people know I can make a difference in ballgames. Like Reggie Jackson once said, ‘They don’t boo nobodies.’ I like to think of it as a positive instead of a negative.”