With the on-field celebration gathering momentum, almost everybody focused on the stage in left-center field, where the Red Sox would receive the World Series championship trophy. But not Jacoby Ellsbury. He stood facing the capacity crowd that waited for the awards ceremony. It was not an intentional move, just a happy accident, a result of where family, friends, and admirers caught Ellsbury for photos and autographs, hugs and handshakes. Still, the frenzied, passionate fans did not go unnoticed. Far from it.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Ellsbury of winning his second championship ring. “It’s tough to really put into words. Obviously, you can see the fans. I don’t think anybody has left yet. It was just a fun journey with this group of guys [on the team], a fun process from Day 1 of spring training. It’s definitely rewarding.”
When asked if the fan support, the unique hold baseball has on Boston would influence his thinking when it came to free agency this winter, Ellsbury said: “I haven’t even thought about it. You don’t get this many opportunities to play in the World Series. When you do, you want to capitalize on it. So, I haven’t thought about [free agency].
“But this is unbelievable. This is what it’s all about. This is what runs through your head when you’re a young kid and you sit in the backyard. It’s playing on a big stage. It was fun.”
Still, whether Ellsbury will remain with the ball club is uncertain, many would say unlikely, given the attention he will draw from other teams. The free agent will have plenty of bidders this offseason. The talked-about potential destinations for Ellsbury include the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and, yes, the Cardinals.
But on the field after the Red Sox’ 6-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 6, Ellsbury was full of praise for Boston, its fans, and his teammates this season. The same was true moments later inside the clubhouse, where he donned goggles and held a bottle of champagne in each hand, waiting for the right moment to pop the cork.
“I think we do it for the city,” said Ellsbury. “When times are down, times are tough, hopefully we can compete on the field and show them how much we care.”
Given the Red Sox’ struggles in recent years and their disastrous 2012 season, Ellsbury added: “It’s so tough getting to this position. We’ve had some great teams the last couple years and we know how tough it is. It’s a great feeling celebrating with this group of guys.”
During the game, Ellsbury played a key role offensively. He went 2 for 4 with a walk and scored twice. In the third, after he singled through the hole at second base, he scored on a bases-clearing Shane Victorino double. He crossed the plate with the first Boston run.
Ellsbury went 6 for 24 in the World Series, but started producing at just the right time in Game 5 in St. Louis, driving in a crucial run in the seventh inning in the 3-1 win. And that carried over to Wednesday night in front of the home crowd.
When asked about his offensive contributions, Ellsbury said, “This is what it’s all about, being on the big stage. You want to help your team compete. We treated this like a Game 7. You never know when your opportunities are going to come again. We’re so happy we closed out tonight.”
When Ellsbury outwitted and outran the Cardinals infielders and returned safely to first base in the fifth inning, he personified just how much the Red Sox wanted to close out the series Wednesday night. And for the audience at Fenway Park and at home it had a Keystone Cops feel. At first, it appeared Ellsbury had been picked off at first, then Ellsbury found himself caught in a rundown. Calling upon an impressive combination of speed, start-stop-start ability, and running savvy, Ellsbury easily slipped by an attempted tag by St. Louis reliever Kevin Siegrist and slid into first with room to spare.
The Fenway Park crowd oohed and aahed as Ellsbury made his escape from what seemed like a certain out. And in its quirky way, the play seemed to capture how everything was going right for the Red Sox and wrong for the Cardinals. It also was a timely microcosm of the 2013 Red Sox, a gritty, grind-it-out, never-give-up ball club.
“We wanted to do it for the fans,” said Ellsbury. “Obviously, Boston Strong. We just wanted to go out and compete, grind it out, play hard. I know the fans saw that we did that this year.”
Once the celebration dies down, Ellsbury and Red Sox Nation will wait and see whether his grind-it-out play will be back at Fenway in 2014.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.