As 3 a.m. was approaching on Thursday, the once-pristine grass of Fenway Park was trampled by the feet of celebrants and littered with empty beer bottles.
But for Ryan Dempster, it was a perfect time to throw batting practice to some family and friends who had watched the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, to win the World Series.
Dempster pitched just one inning in the Series, his role reduced when the Red Sox tightened up their rotation for the postseason. But for the first time in his 16-year career, he was a World Series champion.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dempster said from behind goggles in the clubhouse. “Being a part of this team has been such a great experience. Sharing it with this team, with these guys, it’s amazing.”
For veteran players such as Dempster, catcher David Ross, righthander Jake Peavy, and outfielder Jonny Gomes, winning the Series was a career-changing moment. All had been on playoff teams in the past but not come close to what they experienced with the Red Sox.
Peavy said he was in tears in the dugout watching the top of the ninth inning as Koji Uehara got the final three outs.
“I had a good feeling with this team from the first day I walked in the clubhouse,” said Peavy, who was acquired in July from the Chicago White Sox. “To see this all come together now, it’s a great feeling. I’m so happy to be with this bunch of guys.”
For Ross, who spent more than two months on the disabled list because of a severe concussion, the championship was particularly emotional.
“This whole atmosphere, it’s amazing. To win the World Series in Boston, I can’t put into words how fortunate I feel like I’ve been,” Ross said. “I thought my career was over at one point this year and now I catch the last out of the World Series? Are you kidding me?
“I love this team. Everybody put their necks on the line every night. Win or lose, we were always OK.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the catcher for much of the regular season and postseason before being replaced by Ross for the final three games of the Series. Saltalamacchia was thrilled about being part of a championship team, but also reflective. He is now a free agent and unsure of where he stands with the team.
“It’s a little bittersweet because I don’t know what will happen,” Saltalamacchia said. “But this was a great experience for me, being with this team. We came a long way.”
Gomes said before the postseason that he wanted to help “drive the bus” in October. He started 11 of the 15 playoff games and was a modest 7 of 42 at the plate. But Gomes hit a home run and drove in five runs. His three-run homer against the Cardinals in Game 4 changed the course of the Series as the Sox won the final three games.
“It’s not about me or any individual. I was waiting a long time for this. But it’s the team,” Gomes said. “I wanted to be part of a world championship team. That was my goal. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
“The day I got drafted and got the opportunity to play, that was my greatest day in baseball. But this is the second-greatest day, to be a champion now.”
Gomes said the support of the city helped define the team.
“People said they jumped on our back. But it was the exact opposite, we jumped on Boston’s back,” Gomes said. “The way they rallied to us, they wouldn’t let us quit going back to that Detroit series when we were getting no-hit [in Game 1 of the ALCS]. I come to work every single day inside a museum. This was the loudest museum.”
Said manager John Farrell: “This team has a place in history and as the year went along the fans really recognized and appreciated the way we played the game. They had a connection with each and every guy in uniform and our players fed on that.”
General manager Ben Cherington, a team employee for 15 years, said he was happy for people in the organization “who could hold their heads high” after finishing in last place in 2012.
Gomes was asked what he would say to President Obama when the Red Sox visit the White House.
“I’m going to tell him he needs to throw that White Sox hat away and put on a Red Sox hat if he wants to be a champion,” Gomes said.
With that, Gomes picked up a World Series flag and paraded around the field. There was more celebrating to do.