Longtime Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, who has been on a leave of absence since his son Jared was arrested and charged with murdering girlfriend Jennifer Martel in August, said Monday he will return to the NESN booth this season.
Remy, who was solemn and candid during a meeting with a small group of reporters at NESN’s Watertown headquarters, had not spoken publicly since his son’s arrest.
“I felt for a couple of months, for two or three months, that it was over,’’ Remy said. “There’s no way I was coming back. I had two main concerns: What the public would think and whether I could be myself. The answers at that time [in November and December] were no.”
Remy, 61, said he had a circle of three friends and his wife, Phoebe, who urged him to reconsider. But he didn’t change his mind until after the new year.
“[They reminded] me about my career, and where it came from, and where it is,’’ said Remy, a lung cancer survivor who said he made the decision about a week ago after his most recent CAT scan came back clean.
“When I got drafted as a baseball player, I got drafted [late], and I made it to the big leagues. I wanted to quit, my father talked me out of it. When I started this job, [I was] awful. I was terrible. I couldn’t wait for the first season to be over. I wanted out. Didn’t quit. Continued on for 26 years.
“When I got cancer, I wanted to quit. I didn’t, it drove me to depression, it came back, I continued on. Some of these things started to resonate a little bit with me.
“But I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t intend to be one now. It’s what I do. It’s what I know. It’s what my comfort level is. It’s where I feel I belong and I feel I’m going to do so as long as possible. I hope in no way that my decision to come back to do games has a negative impact on the Martel family. I’m quite certain they understand I have to make a living, and unfortunately mine is in the public eye. I’m quite certain they understand that.”
Remy said he has spoken to the Martel family since his son’s arrest, though he did not inform them he would be returning to his job. During his 35-minute interview, he repeatedly emphasized his sympathy for the family.
“One thing that I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle in this press conference is that there’s a family out there struggling daily,’’ he said.
“I don’t in any way want to take away what they have had to deal with, what they have had to go through. It’s by far the worst day of my life, and obviously the worst day of the Martels’ lives. They don’t have the comfort of talking to her, of seeing her. They’ll never see her again. Her daughter will never see her again.”
Her daughter, 5-year-old Arianna Nicole Remy, has been in state custody since her father’s arrest. Jerry Remy and his wife are among three parties petitioning to gain custody, he said, but would not elaborate further.
“There’s a little girl that’s going to grow up with no mother and no father,’’ he said. “She’s probably going to have issues. We can’t even imagine at this point.”
Remy said he would not address his situation during the Red Sox’ first broadcast this season, acknowledging that the reason he was speaking now was to hopefully prevent it from being a story in spring training. But he said he recognizes that there are some people who don’t believe he should come back, and that as more details emerge about his son’s past — the trial is currently set to begin in October — there could be some backlash against Remy, who is notoriously private outside of his public life.
“It’s not easy,’’ Remy said. “There’s going to be more stuff that comes out . . . I think it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen. I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I know that’s a cliché, but that’s the only thing we can possibly do. Criticism hurts, obviously. The fact that you’re not good parents. Call me a bad father if you want, but I’ll be damned if my wife is not a good parent.”
Remy, who played in the majors with the Angels and Red Sox from 1975-84 and coached for a year in the minors before beginning his broadcasting career, said his life on the road is no excuse for how his relationship with his son, who has an extensive arrest record dating back several years, turned out.
“It’s no excuse,’’ he said. “Jared’s had issues from a very young age. And we as a family have tried to do the very best we can to address those issues. It takes two to tango.
“Everybody knows about his past. I’ll be damned if my wife didn’t do the best possible job any mother could do. I have tried to do the best possible job I could do. Sometimes things just don’t work out.
“We’ve tried the best we possibly could to get him the help he needed. Did we ever anticipate this? No. It ended up in a very, very disgusting and tragic way.”
Remy indicated that he has no expectations that his son will be found not guilty.
“He’s in jail without bail,’’ he said. “This is not a case where you’re trying to get away from [a] murder [charge].”
But he paused for several seconds when asked how his feelings for Jared have changed as the process has gone along.
“It’s been a full range of emotions, from disbelief, anger, to self-reflection,’’ he said. “And you still get a chance to talk with him. Only time he’s ever talked about it was an initial conversation with his mother. Made a comment. And since then, our conversations have basically been about his children and football. College football. Which I know nothing about and he knows everything about.
“It’s been very, very difficult. I’ve run the full gamut. He’s still my son.”
Remy said he found out about what had happened after the Red Sox’ Aug. 15 game in Toronto. He was on the bus back to the team hotel when a reporter tried to call him.
He said his initial reaction was that it was related to a prior incident on Aug. 13, when Jared Remy was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after shoving Martel into a mirror. But then, he said, he began worrying that something more had happened.
“I called my wife and she gave me the news that Jen was dead,’’ he said. “Obviously I was in shock.”
He said he spent the next 4-5 days at a friend’s house.
“It became worse and worse,” he said. “The initial shock. The initial grief. All of it worse. There was no way I could come back to do Red Sox baseball.”
He didn’t watch a game from August until the playoffs. During the Red Sox’ postseason run, which he did watch, he said manager John Farrell checked in periodically with encouraging texts.
Remy informed longtime broadcast partner Don Orsillo Monday that he would return. The banter between the broadcasters has long been a part of their appeal. Orsillo asked him a pointed question: How can they can be light and fun again?
“If I didn’t think I could be myself, I wouldn’t do it,” Remy said. “I hope that doesn’t come off as insensitive. It may be to some. But that’s the only way I know how to do my job.
“I’m sure there will be people out there upset with me. It’s the only way I know how to do a game. I’ve thought of all these things a thousand times, believe me.”
Describing himself as “a Howard Hughes with no money,’’ Remy began returning to the public eye just recently. He went out to dinner with his wife and took his grandson to a Providence College basketball game. The return to the broadcast booth comes in just a couple of weeks.
“It’s always been my comfort zone,’’ he said. “I can’t just sit there. I just can’t sit in my chair. I’ve been there long enough already. [Calling Red Sox games] is what I enjoy. I’ve done it for 26 years. This will be my 27th as an announcer. That’s not going to go away.”