Johnny Damon had warned Jacoby Ellsbury before the game Tuesday that he would find out just how vicious Red Sox fans could be for leaving Boston for the Yankees.
After all, when Damon signed with the Bronx Bombers prior to the 2006 season, he was roundly booed and excoriated every time he set foot inside Fenway Park. It didn’t stop when he left after winning a World Series in 2009 and played for Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
But Ellsbury is no Johnny Damon. For whatever reason, Ellsbury was booed on Tuesday but no where near as fiercely as Damon when the original “Idiot” returned in 2006 for the first time.
[Click here to hear Jacoby Ellsbury rave about his return to Fenway Park Tuesday night.]
As a matter of fact, Ellsbury thought the Red Sox fans showed great restraint and respect. True, it’s a lot easier to say that when you triple to open the game, making a diving catch in the bottom of the first and knock out the opposing pitcher Jon Lester with a two-run double in the fifth, all part of a 9-3 Yankees cakewalk Tuesday night at Friendly Fenway.
“Anytime a win is a good game,” Ellsbury said. “I’m happy I could go out there and help the team win tonight. I thought the fans were great. I thought the reception was nice. The tribute the Red Sox gave on the video board [was] unexpected, and I thought it was very classy of them to do that.
“I think there were more emotions before the game, just seeing the familiar faces, the grounds crew, everybody, everyone that opens the door, obviously teammates, trainers. Everybody that I’ve seen for seven to nine years, thanking me and congratulating me. That was the nice thing, the people here.”
Ellsbury was genuinely appreciative to the Red Sox fans who came out to cheer and boo all night long.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ellsbury said of the reaction all night. “I spent nine years in the organization and gave this organization everything I had each and every day I stepped on that field. For them to just take a moment to have some cheers [for me] it was nice.
“I thought it was great. I thought the fans were great. They’ve always treated me well here. They’ve always cheered for me and it showed again today.”
The video tribute was a highlight for fans and Ellsbury, who received his biggest cheers at the end of the Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” montage, coming before the top of the second inning.
“Just right before the game, that was the first time they let me know there’d be something,” Ellsbury said. “I didn’t know what it was. That was the first I heard of it. They said something would be going on, after the bottom of the first inning. That was really all I got from them.”
But the best part for Damon clearly was sticking it to his former team, going 2-for-5 with a double, triple, two runs scored and two RBIs, showing the Red Sox and their fans exactly what they’re missing. It started with his drive to the center field wall that almost sent a fan in a Bruins jersey tumbling over the 17-foot wall trying to grab the souvenir.
“I was hoping it would be a homer,” Ellsbury said. “I missed it by a foot or two. I knew it was close. It’s nice. You want do well. You want to go out there and put out a good performance. It was nice to get a triple right off the bat and just allow Jeter to score me right from the get-go. 1-0 from the start, that was nice.”
What also is nice for Ellsbury is the .342 start to his season at the top of the Yankee order.
“It was nice, especially it was important to get to Lester early in the game, get some runners on, get him in the stretch,” said Ellsbury. “I thought all game we did a tremendous job of consistently each inning putting some runners and getting the guys across the plate.”
The more plays he made, like robbing Grady Sizemore of a double in the first inning on a sliding grab, the louder the boos became.
“Usually, that’s a good sign,” Ellsbury said. “I know when I was with the Red Sox, you always knew [as a visitor] how well you were playing by the boos. The louder the boos, the better you were playing. But yeah, it’s expected but I thought they were great as a whole. I thought they were even tremendous at the end of the game.
“The fans were trying to get me to throw balls to them out there. They were cheering me. It felt like a home game. But yeah you’re going to get a little bit of it. That’s expected. But as a whole, 35,000 people that show up each and every night here, I thought they were tremendous.”
In classic corporate Ellsbury form, the outfielder showed great respect for the organization that gave him a chance out of Oregon State in the 2005 June Draft.
“It’s always something I’m proud of, wearing the Red Sox uniform. I think of the two championships, first year, 2007 then 2013. I was very fortunate to come up drafted by the Red Sox, in the minor league system, seven years in the big leagues. So yeah, I feel very fortunate to put on the big league uniform. To say, if I was a young kid, ‘Hey, you’re going to put on two uniforms, a Boston Red Sox uniform and a New York Yankees uniform,’ I’d say that’s pretty special.”