Down twenty to nothing…

Jazz, after comeback, 1-31-10.jpg“I
have a feeling,” I said, sitting in the bleachers with other parents of
the Jazz, our 9 and 10 year-olds’ winless (0-5) basketball team, this
past Sunday. “This is going to be the day they get their first win.
This is our day.” But no one believed me. Not even I believed me. The
other team, the Nets, looked bigger. And better. Just like every other
opponent we’d faced. And within 30 seconds of the opening tip-off, the
Jazz trailed the Nets, 4-0.

Then it was 6-0, 8-0, 10-0. “Come on guys, let’s score a basket!”
cheered the Jazz’s coach from the bench. But the Nets stole the ball
and hit an easy layup. 12-0. Then 14-0. “The Nets are shooting at 90%,”
a Jazz parent observed. 16-0. 18-0. And with one second remaining in
the first quarter, a Nets player took a shot from just inside the
three-point line. Embarrassed by the gory slaughter that was taking
place on the court, even the Nets’ coach hoped that the shot would miss
its target. The buzzer sounded, and a moment later, the ball swished
through the net.

20-0. That’s twenty to NOTHING after one quarter of play.

“A typical scoring total for an entire game at this level is 30 points per team,” said one parent. “And they have 20 in a single quarter.”

“At this rate, we’re going to lose 80 to nothing,” observed the mom sitting in front of me, with a smirk.

“Hi, honey,” I heard one dad sigh into his cell phone. “Well, they’re losing twenty-zip, so I’m not sure it’s worth the trip.”

Then my cell phone rang. It was my wife, calling to discuss the
schedule for the rest of the day and transportation logistics for our
five kids. “How’s the team doing?” she asked after we’d discussed the
plans.

“Well, they’re losing 20 to nothing after one quarter,” I answered.

“Not again,” she replied. “Do you think they’ll win a single game?”
Then, the Jazz hit a layup. Every parent in the gym cheered with
relief.

“Now it’s 20-2,” I told her. “I have to go, it’s getting really exciting.” We chuckled.

The most memorable comeback I ever saw in person was the Red Sox’ remarkable win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Game 5 of the 20088 ALCS at
Fenway Park. Down 7-0 going into the bottom of the 7th inning – and
facing elimination from the series – the Sox clawed their way to
victory.
I know “Game Five” is my most memorable comeback because it’s
the first one that popped into my head yesterday as I watched the final
three quarters of a youth basketball game that took my breath away and
left me shaking my head and grinning the rest of the day.

The second and third quarters are a blur in my memory, so I’ll quote the text messages I sent to my wife.

“Was 20-0, now 22-8. R has 2 pts.”

“26-15 at the half.”

(It was during halftime I remember saying to a few other parents,
“Can you imagine if they came back and won this game? For the rest of
our lives, whenever we’d see each other in town, we’d say to each
other, ‘We were there for the greatest comeback ever.'” We all laughed.)

“28-21, 5 min left in 3rd Q. R has 8 pts.”

“31-30. R’s team WINNING. 1 min left in 3rd Q. Amazing.

“Winning 38-36. R has 12, 2 min to go. Do you believe in miracles?”

“Wow,” my wife replied.

“Unreal,” I replied to her reply.

Knowing that I was (perhaps) witnessing one of the greatest
comebacks in 4th and 5th grade sports history, I videotaped the final
two minutes of the game on my iPhone. The Nets’ coach called three
timeouts, the Jazz coach called one — and these are the only timeouts
I’ve seen ANY coach take during the entire season so far. This was a
run-of-the-mill, regular season youth basketball game between kids
whose tank tops fell to their knees, but these two coaches (volunteer
dads) suddenly realized that this game could be one that they and their
players would remember for a very long time. And they wanted to win.
Badly.

With the Jazz up by two, 38-36, with 30 seconds to go, the Nets
fouled. And fouled. Until they were finally over the limit and the Jazz
went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one with 15 seconds
remaining. And the 4 ft 8 in, 10 year-old Jazz player (#31 below, on
the right) hit BOTH shots, banking them in off the backboard. (To put
this feat in perspective, 9 and 10 year-olds shoot about 20% from the
free throw line…and about 3% when they’re nervous. Maybe he was too
naiive about what was happening to be nervous? Or maybe, just maybe, he
had “ice in his veins” and was truly clutch.)

Game over. Jazz 40, Nets 36.

Jazz, after comeback, 1-31-10 2.jpg

The
kids went crazy on the court. My son jumped on the back of a smaller
teammate who was caught by surprise, and they crumpled to the ground in
a heap of joy. The Jazz coach suddenly produced a camera and started
taking pictures of the boys’ celebration. The teams shook hands. Two
Nets players wept as they found their parents in the bleachers and put
on their coats to go home. Meanwhile, everyone wanted to take a picture
of the Jazz players. They lined up and posed for about ten cameras.
Click. Click. Click. Click.

Jazz parents didn’t know how to react. Is it OK to marvel at the
outcome of a 9 and 10 year-olds’ basketball game? No one high-fived,
though we wanted to. There were a few slaps on the back, and we all
shook our heads and smiled. “That’s one of the greatest comebacks I
have ever seen, at ANY level,” I said to the Jazz’s coach.

“Yes, well there was the Red Sox comeback against the Yankees in 2004,” he replied.

And just like that, this Jazz-Nets basketball game was “on the list”
— along with Frank Reich’s Bills, Doug Flutie’s Eagles, Mookie
Wilson’s Mets, and David Ortiz’s Red Sox.

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: Some of the greatest sports moments of the day never make it onto ESPN’s Sports Center.
Yet on backyard rinks, on dusty fields, and in tiny gyms across
America, every day another sports drama unfolds that teaches its
participants – and its other witnesses – that “you gotta play the
game,” and “anything can happen.” I could tell my son a million times
to never give up, to keep the faith, to grind until the end…. and
now, thanks to this one game, that attitude will forever be in his
blood.

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Winning’s the goal, but it isn’t the point

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to attend a pitching clinic that Jonathan Papelbon gave for kids. My eldest son, who was about 8 at the time, was one of his 40-or-so students that day. The night before the clinic, Pap had blown a save against the Yankees, so we were all a little worried about the mood that he would bring to the clinic. And he did look exhausted and beaten down, but he was tremendous with the kids, teaching them a lot of important pitching basics and spending some one-on-one time with all of them. And after the clinic, he stuck around to sign autographs for the kids and to answer all of their questions.

Pap said a lot of great things that day — things that a parent really wants his son to hear from an all-star major leaguer — but what I remember most was what he told the kids about winning. Someone asked him about how he bounces back after a painful loss to the Yankees, and he went off on a philosophical rampage. “Hey, I feel bad because I let my teammates down. But you young kids, you need to remember that playing baseball is supposed to be all about fun. Winning and losing — it really doesn’t matter when you’re young, as long as you’re having fun.” He went on to say, “Now, when you start getting paid to play, winning becomes the main thing. But not until you get to the pros. And you all have a long way to go ’til then. So don’t get all caught up in winning and losing. Remember, baseball is all about having fun.” It was a message straight from his heart, almost like he wished he could go back to those days when fun was the main goal of pitching – not beating the Yankees, not making a living.

This past summer, my son played on a summer baseball team of very good 9/10 year-olds. I was one of the coaches. We had practices or games perhaps 4-5 nights per week, and we ended up going 20-2-1 and winning the league championship on the last day of the season. At the end of the championship game, we presented the kids with their championship trophies, and they all felt really marvelous. All of us coaches high-fived and embraced – after all, we were champion coaches, and we had helped to give our children and their teammates the unique feeling of being champions (plus, we had successfully avoided the uncomfortable feeling of coming oh-so-close and then losing).

I received congratulations from many people for winning it all – parents of our players, other coaches in the town, and some close family and friends who had followed my son’s team’s season. Being the last team standing is just such a rare achievement, and it’s a fantastically simple, no-nonsense way to evaluate the success of a team’s season.

But the success of our season shouldn’t be defined only by our win-loss record or the fact that we won the league championship. Winning was the goal, but it was never the point, and the allure of winning makes this easy to forget.

The point was, as Papelbon said, having fun. The point was improving young baseball players’ physical skills. The point was teaching them how to think – before the game and in every game situation. The point was teaching kids the value of practicing in the right way. The point was teaching them to play as a team. The point was teaching them to never give up, and to bounce back from disappointing at-bats, plays, or games. The point was improving their resilience and focus. The point was developing leaders. The point was teaching kids to have the courage to dream about winning but to avoid becoming attached to that outcome. The point was teaching them to cheer for each other and keep each other “up” at all times. The point was teaching them to stay loose and to smile. The point was giving kids an experience, through a series of practices and games, that would not only give them joy today — for joy’s sake — but also help them to grow into happier, more self-confident people, better equipped to face challenges in the future.

We coached with these objectives in mind all summer, and this is why I’m proud of our team’s season. The goal of winning simply gave us a context for teaching all of these other vastly more important lessons.

Lots of coaches achieve these objectives with their youth athletic teams, but fail to win the championship or even to have a winning season. And, I fear, plenty of youth athletics coaches “win it all” and point to that accomplishment as justification for everything they did  — even though their coaching methods may have totally missed the point of youth athletics.

So I have my championship trophy, but its value isn’t its inherent symbolism of our team’s ability to score more runs than almost every other team. The value of the trophy — to me — is in the memories it holds of the players’ happy afternoons and evenings  playing the wonderful game of baseball, and in my son’s and his teammates’ evolution as competitors, as teammates, and as human beings.

(Click here to see video of the awards ceremony.)

Illusions of Momentum

We can get carried away with illusions of “momentum” in this game.

Here’s my advice: celebrate momentum when it’s working in your favor; ignore momentum when it’s not.

Right now, the Sox clearly don’t have any positive momentum going — but only if we look at the last week.

Since
looking at this short period of time is such a downer, let’s look at
the whole season and acknowledge this: The Red Sox are tied for first
place in the Wild Card race. All we have to do is play good baseball going forward, starting today, and we’ll land in the playoffs again.

Those four games against the Yankees hurt a lot, but they’re history. We’re still in good shape. Time to cowboy up.

Manny’s A Man

Manny took performance enhancing drugs.

As I re-read that sentence I just wrote, it’s almost oxymoronic.

Manny — the natural — took a steroid?

To me, that’s like saying Larry Bird took a steroid.

Manny and Larry are equally important to Boston sports, and they’re equally unsuspicious.

It’s truly unbelievable. And yet, I believe it. There’s hardly any room for doubt.

Here’s what we must remember: professional athletes are human beings, and as such, they are mirrors of ourselves.
We can judge them for their actions, but were we in the same situation,
many of us would behave the same way. Am I defending Manny and other
cheaters? No. But I am saying, “There but by the grace of God go I.” And I’m also saying, I’m not going to stop loving Manny just because he’s so…. human.

Jerry Remy, Get Well

It’s true, Jerry Remy and I have a unique connection to each other as the two guys who placed first and second in the voting for President of Red Sox Nation back in 2007. But even though we have worked together as the President and Vice President these past two years, I still see Jerry the way all fans see him, and I got the same lump in my throat that all loyal fans got when I heard the news of his illness.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone… and without Jerry’s presence alongside Don Orsillo, the experience of watching Red Sox games on TV has been diminished. Not so much because his analysis is first-rate – which it is – but because his on-air personality is so consistent, so easy to identify with, so friendly. It’s not a stretch to say that, in his role as the voice of the Red Sox, he has become like a family member to all of us who have followed the team closely over the last 20 years. Even though he hasn’t personally met most of us, even though we don’t send him a Christmas card, he’s been one of the constants in our lives for a long time, someone we’ve come to know very, very well, and someone we’ve developed enormous fondness for — and so we not only miss him now that he’s on leave to recover from cancer surgery, we also feel his pain.

Of course, I join all of Red Sox Nation in wishing him a full recovery and a swift return to the NESN booth, where he belongs.

And as I think about why I care about Jerry Remy so much, I am compelled to share two brief stories that reveal the kind of person he is.

The Presidential Debate, Fall 2007

At the Red Sox Nation presidential debate at BU back in 2007, most of the candidates were waiting in a conference room when, an hour and a half before the debate began, Jerry strolled in. The rest of us candidates who participated in the debate were nobodies (except Sam Horn, but he wasn’t in the room with us at that time), so it was a big moment for all of us to shake Jerry’s hand, and we couldn’t quite believe it when he grabbed a bottle of water, pulled up a chair, and hung out with us.

We all assumed Jerry would have his own room, or would show up just before the debates began, or would be off talking with the press, or would be chumming around with Henry, Lucchino, Steinberg, and maybe even Tim Russert. And he could have done any of these things. But he sat down and talked with us. And I remember we all talked – the 5 or 6 of us – right up until the moment we walked out onto the stage.

I remember Jerry in his Hawaiian shirt telling all of us, with a reassuring smile, “Don’t be nervous, you’re all going to do great, just relax and be yourselves.” And in that moment, we all realized we weren’t competing against each other – we realized Jerry was the man, and we were his supporting cast in a made-for-TV spectacle. And this helped to put all of us at ease.

And I remember that we politely (but somewhat aggressively) peppered Jerry with questions that every fan would want to ask him – about his own playing career, about his opinions on certain players, about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, etc., and he gave long, complete, honest, personal answers to all of our questions without any impatience. His demeanor wasn’t the same as it was on TV – the perpetual smile took a rest while he spoke with us and we saw a more reflective, balanced side of Jerry. But the two things that impressed me most about Jerry that day were: 1) His willingness to let down his guard around this group of strangers who had been thrown into the final round of this bizarre contest with him, and 2) His respect for us. Not for one instant did he give us the impression that there was somewhere else more important for him to be than right there, with us, in the “green room.” Before we went out on that stage for the televised debate, he had already won all of our votes.

My interview of Jerry following his 20th Year Celebration

During the 2008 season, the Red Sox and NESN celebrated Jerry’s 20 years in the broadcast booth, and I got to interview him a couple of days later for The Red Sox Report. I don’t remember the questions I asked him and I don’t remember his responses – except for one. Jerry had mentioned that it was particularly meaningful to him that his grandson was present for the festivities, and I asked him what he hoped his grandson would learn from his remarkable example as a major league player and legendary TV broadcaster. I expected Jerry would say something about hard work and perseverance, but I was wrong. He said, “That he should be himself. Find out what you like to do, and do that. Be your own person.”

Best answer I ever heard. Jerry Remy, get well.

Yanks’ Improvement Intensifies Anticipation

The quotation Ken Davidoff used for me in his blog was 100% accurate. I did say those things. However, if you could read the full transcript of my comments, the quotes he used would make a lot more sense. He asked me if I think that A-Rod’s connection to steroids will heighten the anticipation of the first Red Sox-Yankees series in the spring. I said, yeah, perhaps a little bit, but what will create much more anticipation will be the new Yankees, particularly Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett, because of how much they improve the Yankees squad and intesify the rivalry. Davidoff did not misquote me, but he did pluck the Teixiera comments from a longer comment I made about A-Rod’s steroid use being a footnote in comparison to the larger issue, which is that the Yankees are better this year than they were last year, and THAT’S what will create more anticipation on Yawkey Way for the first Sox-Yanks series.

Big Salary, Big Lie….Big Deal

The A-Rod news is simply not a surprise. I don’t even consider it to be a massive news story. Show me the list of great players who DID NOT use performance enhancing drugs during the steroid era. THAT is the massive news story. Let A-Rod’s quick admission and apology be a lesson for everyone about how to handle a crisis like this — at least Alex was smart enough to learn from Rocket’s gigantic errors. 

My New Addiction

I have a new addiction.

It’s called The MLB Network.

Like drinking gallons of lemonade from a fire hydrant on a hot, dry day.

What’s the point of having over 800 channels when all I need is one?

Jim Ed Rice

Jim Rice is in the Hall.

So much has been written about Rice from the vantage point of looking back on his career. I have nothing to add to that. Instead, I prefer to write about Rice from the perspective of my 10 year-old self, back in 1978, at the peak of his greatness.

The number 14 jersey always got picked first in youth sports. Why? Pete Rose and Jim Rice.

I can’t shake the sound of Sherm Feller announcing his name: “Number 14, Jim Rice. Left field, Rice.” And as his serious, imposing figure walked to the plate, ripples of anticipation would shudder throughout Fenway and over the TV 38 airwaves.

His batting stance — along with Dewey’s and Yaz’s — was the most emulated in neighborhood wiffleball games. Elbows down, then the emphatic half-swings as he cocked his bat, the expression of a stern school principal on his face coupled with the aura of tiger about to maul a smaller foe.

The Southwest Airlines ads that have the tagline, “Wanna get away?” could just as easily have been created to describe the feeling that pitchers had when Rice stood at the plate.

We knew we had the best three outfielders in the American League – Rice, Lynn, and Evans — and Rice was the Big Daddy of that trio.

I have Jim Rice’s autograph on about five different Red Sox programs, all procured while he was a player. Why? Because he was out there all the time, signing autographs for kids. I don’t think I ever saw him smile or even speak while he signed — he did it like a machine — but he was out there, taking a break from the game to give something back to the fans.

87.4% of all children in New England had a poster of Jim Rice on their wall at some point between 1976 and 1987. We all wanted to play baseball like him.

When Bruce Springsteen played at Fenway about five years ago, I ran into Jim Rice outside Fenway Park. I asked if I could have my picture taken with him, and he happily obliged. While my friend was taking the photo, I remember saying, “Here I am, with Hall of Famer, Jim Rice,” and Rice immediately replied, “Hey, I like this guy,” smiled for the camera, shook my hand, and headed into Fenway.

Soon, the number 14 will join numbers 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 27, and 42 above the right field grandstands at Fenway Park. Where it belongs.

Oh, and the fact that Bert Blyleven was not elected to the Hall (again) is an utter travesty. And Sox fans can take pride in Henderson’s election too, since he ended his MLB career wearing the blue B cap….

Letters To The 2008 Red Sox

One week ago, I wrote to the 51 Red Sox Nation governors and asked them, “If you could write a 100-word letter to any Red Sox player, coach, or front office person (or the whole team) about the 2008 season, and you knew that that person would read your letter, to whom would you write and what would you say?” Below are the letters I have received so far. Please contribute your own brief letters in the comments section.

Dear Jon Lester,
Thank you for being the most inspirational story in all of baseball. 27-8 to start your career with two postseason wins, a World Series ring and a no-hitter under your belt already. You are quickly becoming one of the most elite pitchers in the game before our very eyes and it is players like you that make me proud to call myself a Red Sox fan. So to you Mr. Lester, I sincerely thank you for being such an inspiration to me as well as the rest of Red Sox Nation. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.
Jared Carrabis, Red Sox Nation Governor of Massachusetts (http://soxspacenews.com)

Dear Justin Masterson,
Congratulations to the Red Sox for a successful season and to you, Justin, for a totally outstanding rookie year. When you came up to the show last April it appeared that the Red Sox had another ace.  Winning your first four starts at Fenway Park was incredible.  So, it was difficult to understand why you were sent down to become a relief pitcher.  Does Terry know baseball or what? Your return to the Red Sox as a stopper was truly sensational.  The poise and confidence you exude spreads throughout the team. Special congratulations for topping off the season by winning one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.
Hank Larsen, Red Sox Nation Governor of Oklahoma

Dear 2008 Red Sox,
Thank you for making my days rock! Your hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed and your determination inspires me to do my best at my job every day. You fill a void that nothing else can.  You don’t realize it fully, but you unite a whole lot of people that would otherwise have nothing in common. You DO create a NATION of sorts and for that reason, you are AMBASSADORS of goodwill!  Since I cannot write each player individually, I will ask the skipper, Terry Francona, to deliver that message for me.  And while he’s at it, he should give himself a pat on the back, too!
Lety Haynes, Red Sox Nation Governor of Arizona
 
Dear Theo Epstein,
Thank you for working to bring a winner to Boston every year. The list of aggressive moves is long: claiming Millar off waivers before the 2003 season which kept him from Japan; putting Manny on irrevocable waivers; spending Thanksgiving with the Schillings; dealing Nomar; admitting mistakes like the Renteria signing; letting the 2006 team struggle because there was no quick fix; bidding on Matsuzaka; drafting good but expensive young players; and trading Manny. So, now the offseason is upon us and we get to watch you play. That you take calculated risks makes rooting for the Red Sox a year-round joy.
Ben Crawford, Red Sox Nation Governor of Virginia
 
Dear Kevin Youkilis,
Thank you for giving us such a tremendous season of baseball. I really appreciate the way you play the game. I love baseball. It’s fun. And we can learn so much from baseball about life. You demonstrate those lessons every day. You play with your whole heart. You are engaged with every pitch. You run out every hit ball, often turning outs to hits. You chase any ball that comes near you. You’re a good team player. Even when the team is down 7-0, you never give up. You are an inspiration to all of us, to live each moment to the fullest, to do our best, and to never, never give up. With deep appreciation,
– Eleanor LeCain, Red Sox Nation Governor of Washington, D.C.
 
Dear Mike Lowell,
I just wanted to thank you for playing the game the right way. It was clear to the most casual observer that you were far from 100% for most of the season, but you still gutted it out to the best of your ability.  It was actually painful for me to watch you during September and October but I never heard you complain. I look forward to a healthy Mike Lowell and another World Series title in 2009. Have a restful and rejuvenating winter. Sincerely,
– Jud Barber, Red Sox Nation Governor of Alabama
 
Dear Dustin Pedroia,
Nice job this year.  You showed all of the characteristics that make me proud to be a Red Sox fan. Take care of your fingers; you will need them to be in good shape for all those rings you will be winning in the next few years. GO SOX!
– Drew Jackman, Red Sox Nation Governor of Tennessee
 
Dear Jason Varitek,
You’ve been an integral part of this team and the city of Boston for a long time, and I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts over these years.  I am sure that no one is more disappointed than you to be watching the Series rather than playing in it.  While it’s true I cursed your struggles in the post season, I respect how you wore your C with pride and gave all you had for your teammates and your team.  I hope that you and the Red Sox come to an agreement that keeps you in Boston; but should you decide to part ways, please do so with positive memories and the knowledge that the fans of Boston appreciate your sacrifices and constant professionalism. Go Sox!
– Nathan Emerson, Red Sox Nation Governor of Wyoming
 
Dear Red Sox,
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for such an exciting season! The crazy, impossible catches from Youk, the exhilarating hits from Pedroia, Drew, and Bay, Tito’s great love of Double Bubble (also my fav!), I could go on and on. It was a truly stand-up performance this season by everyone. The way you pull together in the worst of times and the precision with which you all play is the best. You show us by your example what a “team” really is. That is why we love you so much. 2009 here we come!
– Niki Gallagher, Red Sox Nation Governor of Nebraska
 
Dear 2008 Red Sox,
Thank you for what you gave and taught my family this season. For teaching my sons they are as important to you as grownups are through Kids Nation. For tickets in Conigliaro’s Corner around which we planned a vacation that will be remembered forever! For playing in Minnesota, which gives us our only chance to enjoy a game in the Metrodome. For putting team ahead of player and trading Manny and reminding us that hustle matters! For teaching us you go to work even when you need surgery. Lastly, for Game 5, which taught us to never, ever give up! Thank you,
Bob Boucher, Red Sox Nation Governor of Minnesota
 
Dear Mr. David Ortiz,
I know it was a difficult postseason for you, but I have faith that you will be able to get back to the high caliber player you were in 2004 and 2007. You showed us a glimpse of that Big Papi with the 3-run HR in Game 5. However, maybe during the off-season you can work on hitting or bunting the ball towards 3rd base/left field to beat the shift. That way, next time there is a hit and run and Pedroia is trying to steal 2nd, you can prevent the strike out/throw out double play. A “little” hit in that situation could have made the difference in getting those pesky 2 runs we desperately needed in game 7. Sincerely,
– Heather Mascuch, Red Sox Nation Governor of New Jersey (http://redsoxnationgovnj.mlblogs.com/)

Dear Jason Varitek,
I realize that you’re probably still dealing emotionally with the Red Sox’s recent Series loss in Tampa Bay.  I hope in a short time (if not already) you will feel very proud about the great 2008 Boston Red Sox team and al
l that was accomplished. There were of course many obstacles put in the team’s path for another championship and I for one feel that the team overcame adversity admirably well, particularly under your leadership as Captain. Considering there is mounting talk about your future with the team (something thats certainly out of the fans’ control), I felt that this was a good time for a huge fan such as myself to let you know what your inspiring performance and leadership has meant to me over the years. Jason, you have truly been the heart and soul of this team and worn the “C” on your uniform with style and class.  To me you are the type of player that all athletes should strive to be: honest, very hard working, focused, and a true team player. No matter what happens in the future, I and most Red Sox fans will always wish you well and remember what a true member of the Red Sox you have been and will forever be. Best wishes always,
– Chris Porter, Red Sox Nation Governor of Washington
 
Dear Red Sox Organization,
On the field, the players and coaches were amazing and so professional. Off the field, you were even more inspiring. The amount of time that everyone spends with their different charities is unbelievable. So many times you see pro athletes that only care about how much they get paid and then do not give back to their local communities or their fans in general.  Being out in South Dakota, it is fun and interesting to hear players on radio streams, such as Kevin Youkilis on WAAF. Whether you win or lose, I am proud to be a Red Sox fan and to be a part of all the great things you are accomplishing and all the lives you change off the field.  Thanks for being such an inspiration and not being like every other typical athlete.
– Sara Brusseau, Red Sox Nation Governor of South Dakota
 
Rob, since I represent the members of the Nation from here in North Carolina, I put the word out that there might be an opportunity to submit a 100-word message to the Sox. Our members came up with some nice work. The best are below; I’ll let you choose.

Dear Dustin Pedroia,
There is something magic in every game you play. I really admire your determination, guts, and spirit, which all shine through. I enjoy watching the team play, but to me you are the shining star. I always say that I wish they would pay you what you are worth. I also loved your “dancing” video. I have to assume the guys gave you a hard time because you are a fun person at heart. It just made me admire you even more. You will always be the MVP in my book. Thanks for making watching baseball so great for me!
– Kim R., North Carolina

Dear Terry Francona,
You did an amazing job this season, given all that went on. We had a superstar who quit, injuries to major players, rookies in important positions, and YOU need back surgery! This is a lot for one man to put up with, but you did a great job keeping us in the race and leading the Sox to yet another playoff berth. Here’s to the best manager in MLB! Get well soon!
– Mike D, North Carolina

From me, a simple thanks to all the fellas for that incredible Game 5 comeback – it will live with me forever. Thanks for reminding me to never give up, and for making me so proud to be a Sox fan.
– Sean Bunn, Red Sox Nation Governor of North Carolina

Dear J.D. Drew,
I would like to thank you for coming through so strong so many times this year.  I was proud to see that you were recognized for your toughness and professionalism, because I think in the past (with the Cards) you were given a bad rap and inappropriately accused of not caring or not being tough.  I would also like to point out a great moment, one that not many people may have noticed. In the ninth inning of game 2 against the Angels, you hit your two run homer (which everyone noticed) but I saw something that actually made me happier and pointed out to my son who so looks up to the players.  When you sat down in the dugout, the camera caught you with the biggest smile cracking your usual calm exterior, and you looked like a kid having the best time of your life. I thought that was truly special – it’s what the game is all about. Thanks,
– James Fletcher, Red Sox Nation Governor of Arkansas

Dear Red Sox team, coaching staff, and front office personnel:
I would like to congratulate every one of you for the tremendous effort this season. With many adversities this year, ranging from the exhausting travel schedule beginning this season, injuries to key players, and personal changes in the middle of the year, this season was nothing less than a miracle. To make it into the playoffs and get to Game 7 of the ALCS is incredible. If you had told me in spring training everything that would happen to this team, I would have told you there was no way we would be in the playoffs. I’m holding my head up high, proud to be part of Red Sox Nation.
– Jim Silva, Red Sox Nation Governor of Hawaii

Dear Kevin Youkilis,
Thank you for a fantastic season. I want to tell you how much I appreciated your talent and athleticism. Your ability to take over 3rd base (and do it well) was so important to the team’s success this year. The Red Sox organization is always touting its philosophy that it’s a team of guys and not a bunch of individuals on ego trips, and your flexibility exemplifies this attitude. Enjoy the winter break and see you in Fort Myers in the spring.
– Kelly Thompson, Red Sox Nation Governor of Idaho
p.s. Loved the shout out to your “fiance and the little one” – as a female fan I like to see a glimpse of the personal side of the players.

Dear 2008 Red Sox,
As the Governor of Red Sox Nation for the state of New Hampshire I would like to not only thank the entire Red Sox Team, Terry, and the coaching staff for a phenomenal season but also to acknowledge my appreciation for the hard work you all put into playing each and every time you take the field. I have been a Red Sox Fan my entire life and I think I can speak for the members of Red Sox Nation in NH in saying we will keep believing in you and look forward to the 2009 seaon. Thanks again for a GREAT YEAR!!! GO SOX!!!
– Janice Page, Red Sox Nation Governor of New Hampshire
 
To the Red Sox:
It was great season and a great game 5 comeback. We’re looking forward to the 2009 campaign.

To Terry Francona:
I want to thank you, Tito, for being who you are….the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime and probably in the history of the club. You are a remarkably strong, thoughtful and caring man. I cannot say how much you are admired here in Red Sox Nation.
 – Eric Weisman, Red Sox Nation Governor of Kentucky
 
Dear Coco Crisp,
Congratulations on a wonderful season! You not only proved to be the best center fielder on the Red Sox roster and one of the best in the league, you also asserted your rightful to claim to being one of the five best centerfielders in Red Sox history. And you did this while fighting for the “job” and against the wishes of a substantial portion of the fan base. But you hung in with maturity and poise and proved them all wrong. Have a great off-season, and I look forward to seeing you in centerfield for the Sox in the spring of 2009. My wife Phyllis and I sat close by to your wife and daughter at spring training. You are a lucky guy to have such a beautiful family rooting for you.
– C. Ted Schmidt, Jr., Red Sox Nation Governor of Rhode Island
 
This is for Mr.Epstein:
You have done a super job over the years. Now we need a BIG BAT and a pitcher of Beckett and DiceK quality, but my main question is, are you looking for a catcher that can throw out runners out and hit more then .220 and run well? Maybe it is time to let one of our young catchers step up. Do you agree these are the three concerns? Maybe Lowrie as utility man and get a shortstop somewhere. Th
anks. 
– Phil Price, Red Sox Nation Governor of Delaware

Dear Red Sox Players, Coaches, and Front Office,
Being a loyal fan of the Boston Red Sox has been an exciting and rewarding journey, and 2008 was yet another example. Since 2000, we have not had a repeat World Series Champ, but this year we were so close to achieving that. Through many injuries, this team battled to make the playoffs, and that says a lot about their dedication. I can speak for all of the members of Red Sox Nation in Illinois when I say, thanks for another great season, and enjoy your off-season. See you in the spring. Sincerely,
– Brendan Mulcahy, Red Sox Nation Governor of Illinois

Dear Manny Ramirez,
I want to thank you for your time and service in
Boston. Your bat can never truly be replaced, and even your antics
(some) will be missed. There is no doubt that you were an integral part
of our first two world championships in 86 years. Nothing will take
that away. You earned $160 million while here, plus several
playoff/world series shares. Your award bonuses alone would be enough
for most Americans to retire on. I’d like to think that the
satisfaction of your team’s accomplishments, and the knowledge of what
these titles meant to the fans of Red Sox Nation, are equally
valuable… but that’s probably a stretch. Having said all that, given
all that you’ve done, please don’t think for a minute that what you did
to us in the end will be forgotten.
I can understand in part why
you blame the media, but the fact is that you quit on your fans and
your team. The very people who’s small but hard-earned paychecks gave
you your large ones. Your sudden NL production was no fluke and we all
know it. It’s a terrible thing you did to us. I can’t even bring myself
to think of the “what ifs” had you decided to play your heart out for
us as you did for them. I’ll never boo you Manny. (Excluding a
pinstripe appearance.) I will rise in a standing ovation upon your
return, but alongside goofy, you will now always be remembered as
selfish, greedy, shallow, unfaithful and untrustworthy. Thanks for
something and nothing,
Glen Jardine, Red Sox Nation Governor of Vermont
P.S. How dare you make me agree with Tim McCarver on something. Not cool man.

Dear Theo Epstein,
The 2008 season was dramatic, exciting, and fulfilling for Red Sox fans – even without a World Series appearance. At the same time, it begs the question: what has to change in order for the Sox to repeat as world champs in 2009? Good luck in your quest to determine the answer to that most difficult question.
– Karen Kupiec, Red Sox Nation Governor of Connecticut
 
Dear Jason Bay,
I appreciate how you filled some shoes that were not easy to fill. Manny was a big part of the Red Sox team, but you gladly filled that spot, overlooking the pressure that you might have felt.  I am so grateful that you quickly adjusted and helped us reach the postseason. Your presence on the team made a big impact on team dynamics; I could tell that other players enjoyed playing with you, and that you enjoyed being in Boston. Thank you, Mr. Bay, for a great first season with the Red Sox!
– Melissa Rehon, Red Sox Nation Governor of Utah
 
Dear Jason Varitek,
Thank you, the team and the entire organization for one of the most incredible Red Sox baseball seasons ever!  Starting with early morning games from Japan, through watching some team players achieve record milestones, stealing first place form the Rays prior to the All Star Break, making the playoffs, and playing some of the most inspiring and captivating baseball ever even with injuries and adversity. I also want to personally thank you for your perseverance and always performing as the ultimate professional and Team Captain.  It is this type of example, which helps us all get through these tough times and believe as long as we have a chance and perform as hard as we can we can win at anything! For the Glory!
Bill Moore, Red Sox Nation Governor of Pennsylvania
 
To the Boston Red Sox,
Thank you for the excitement you bring to our household. We thoroughly enjoy every minute of your 162 game schedule, the post season, and even action that takes place in the off season. Watching the Red Sox brings our family together in the evenings and gives us conversation fodder at the dinner table. You have provided us with so many lasting memories over the years. Thanks again for the great jobs everyone does throughout the year, we appreciate it.
– Bob Lever, Red Sox Nation Governor of North Dakota

Dear Red Sox Players and Coaches,
We would like to thank each and
everyone of you guys in the dugout this year. There were so many
reasons to make excuses. From flying halfway around the world for
Opening Day, all the injuries to deal with and personal discord (just
to name a few). But you fought through all of it and you were still
only one game away from the series. You never gave up, YOU NEVER MADE
EXCUSES and you should all be proud of that. I know we are. So go back
home and enjoy some well deserved personal time off. For Mikey, Papi,
Josh and of course Tito … Get well soon. And if you make it to Texas
this off-season, let us know .. we would like to shake your hands and
say THANKS!!
John Mathews, Red Sox Nation Governor of Texas

Dear Theo Epstein,
Thanks for keeping such a great team together who are so dedicated to the Red Sox and the members of Red Sox Nation. The signing of Jason Bay
was a great addition to the team and he quickly won the hearts of the
Fenway Faithful and RSN. Your continued dedication has helped the Red
Sox put together the best run of seasons in nearly a century. Red Sox Nation thanks you for your continued hard work and dedication to the Red Sox! Best,
– Megan Berlo, Red Sox Nation Governor of Indiana

Dear Terry Francona,
First of all, thanks for a great season in 2008. The team played
great right to the end and we are very proud of what they accomplished
this year, especially with all the adversity and injuries we had to play
through. How do you keep the team focused during the off-season and build on this momentum heading into the 2009 campaign?
Thanks again. West Virginia loves the Sox!
Todd Barrett, Red Sox Nation Governor of West Virginia

To the team:
Thank you for the effort, heart, strength and dedication you all showed throughout the season. You make us so proud to be Boston Red Sox Fans. We’ll forever remember game 5 in the ALCS and the incredible feeling we had witnessing a historic comeback that will never be duplicated or taken away from us. What a magnificent battle! Francona giggling after the win was sweetness defined. (Unless you were an owner of the Dubble Bubble Company.) Truly, a great season. Cannot wait for ’09. Thank you again. Sincerely,
– Karen Doherty, Red Sox Nation Governor of California

Dear Red Sox Players, Coaches, and Staff,
Even though as fans we always
want our team to go all the way, we know it is not always easy. Making it to the postseason and being on top as one of the two best teams in the American League while other teams were playing golf is more than enough to make us proud. There
are days when you get up in the morning and things aren’t the way you
had hoped they would be. Sometimes winning is not all that matters, it’s
the footprints you leave while playing the game, and you guys did that in game 5. History and being part of that history sometimes is worth more than a win.
Thank you for a great year and I hope to see all of you back as part of the Red Sox in 2009. WE ARE VERY PROUD TO BE RED SOX FANS.

 Alexa Jimenez, Red Sox Nation Governor of Florida

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