Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
TORONTO — The day the Red Sox visited the White House — April 1, 2014 — to celebrate their world championship from the previous year, Jarrod Saltalmacchia wasn’t available, getting ready for his second game as a Miami Marlin.
“I wasn’t going to miss a game for it, that’s for sure,” Saltalamacchia told WEEI.com prior to his Blue Jays’ game against the Red Sox Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
As it turns out, the former Red Sox’ catcher’s unwillingness to prioritize the trip wasn’t just due to his professional commitments. Much like many of the New England Patriots when it came to choosing not to visit with President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon, Saltalamacchia was in no rush to participate in the Red Sox’ meet-and-greet with then-President, Barack Obama.
Even talking about it three years later, Saltalamacchia wrestles with what might have happened if the opportunity was presented.
When first discussing the Patriots’ boycott, Saltalamacchia said, “Everyone has got their own opinion. I’ll be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have went because Obama was in. I didn’t agree with a lot of his political beliefs and the way he ran the country. I honestly probably wouldn’t have went.”
But, as he talked through the scenario, the 31 year old admitted the decision to attend would be a tough one. Even now, within the short conversation, it’s clear he remains conflicted.
“Talking to it beforehand, talking about it now, I feel the same way. I still respect my country. I probably would have went just because of that reason alone. I respect my country and it’s an honor to go to our country’s capital,” Saltalamacchia said.
“It would have been tough just because of my thoughts on Obama and his belief system. I feel like he did a lot of things completely opposite of what this country believes in. Taking prayer [in schools] away. Taking the the pledge of allegiance in the morning. I just think he didn’t do a lot for our veterans. That’s my beliefs. I’m sure those those Patriots players aren’t doing what their beliefs are. I understand it and that’s what is so great about our country, the freedom to make that choice.”
Saltalamacchia had already visited the White House in 2008 with his previous club, the Rangers, when Texas’ former owner, and then-President, George Bush, invited the team to the residence, which included a visit to the Oval Office.
But, as the catcher pointed out, that was a different time, and a different President. And for Saltalmacchia, it all made for a choice he really didn’t want to make.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to [go to the White House in 2014], but just because of how close I was with those guys, still am with those guys, I would have went because my boys, my guys were going,” he said. “So I would have gone with them. Despite beliefs and all of that stuff, because of my respect for my country I probably would have went. Regardless of what you think of what you think of the President, he’s the President, so you have to honor that even if you feel he didn’t honor America. It’s tough. I think there’s a lot of military buddies I have in the Seals who don’t believe in a lot of what Obama did, but they still have to do their job and their duty in protecting our country.”
There has obviously been precedence in players and executives choosing not to attend the traditional championship celebration at the the White House, with Theo Epstein’s absence in 2015 and the 2012 decision by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas serving as two notable examples.
And the reasons for the absences, whether made public or not, remain consistent, with the Patriots offering the latest example. It’s a dynamic Saltalamacchia fully understands, and obviously feels strong about.
Taking a stand is clearly something the catcher was, and is, prepared to do.
“Nothing surprises me anymore the way things are going,” he said. “We all have a choice.
“What happened last year, [with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick] kneeling down, to me that upset me more than anything because it’s like, you know what, our brothers and sisters are across seas fighting for our freedom to be able to do something like that and you can’t even respect them enough to stand for our National Anthem. People who die before us and fought for us. Just like in the baseball world, there’s people who fought before us to have the union we have and have the rights we have in this game. Same thing with our country. I think a lot of people lose sight of that. It’s not fair. Yeah, you don’t like what’s going on but you can’t venture one way because of what’s going on now. You have to remember how this country …. It’s not their fault their country is the way it is right now. It’s our own fault. You want to talk about kids, the milleneals, there’s a reason why they are the way they are. Because of the parents. Same thing down the line. We got to do our job as parents to teach our kids the right way.”