FORT MYERS, Fla. — Maybe Tom Hanks was wrong when he uttered the famous movie line, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
Actually, there is crying in baseball, although it’s certainly not out in the open, like Wade Boggs bawling in the Red Sox dugout after the 1986 World Series.
But it does exist.
Last season the Boston Marathon tragedy, coupled with the rags-to-riches rise of the world champion Red Sox, made it an emotional year.
In an unscientific poll taken in the Red Sox clubhouse, a majority of 25 players, including retired players, said they had cried at some point in their baseball careers, although mostly in Little League or after winning the World Series. Several others admitted they “teared up” in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings.
David Ortiz has a unique perspective on crying.
“There is crying in baseball,” says Big Papi, who says he “probably” cried as a kid playing the sport in the Dominican Republic. “We understand that crying is when tears come out of your eyes and stuff. Trust me, there’s a lot of us, we don’t tear out like a lot of people do, but we suffer, crying inside.”
Ortiz helped heal Red Sox Nation after the bombings, but he never actually cried after the attacks. “I felt like [expletive] though,” he says.
He decided to try and help the broken get stronger.
“It’s easy for someone to knock you down, the worst part is learning to get back up on your feet,” Ortiz says. “If you are able to do that, you’ll always be able to get over things.”
Players talking about their emotions is a tricky subject, with varied responses.
Legendary pitcher Luis Tiant is proud to admit he wept many times in his baseball career. Former MVP Dustin Pedroia, however, claims the only time he cried in his life was when “I had to do an English paper.” Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. claims he entered the world in his birthday suit without a single tear.
“I came out stone-faced, too,” he says. “Blank stare. I was never really a crier.”
Not even after striking out with the bases loaded as a kid?
“Nah, every day’s a new day,” says Bradley. “Get back out there and get ’em tomorrow, it’s just a mind-set some people have. It’s done and over with, time to move on. And use it to your advantage next time.”
Former major league pitcher Bob Tewksbury, once a sports psychologist for the Red Sox and now in that role for all of MLB, declined to talk about the subject, as did one active player who did not want to be identified.
“I won’t talk about it, but I’ll read the story,” he said.
A difficult topic
Manager John Farrell admitted it’s a difficult topic.
“How do you define crying?” asks Farrell. “There’s clearly emotion in baseball, how that’s expressed, that’s based on the individual.”
Has he seen players cry?
“Oh God, I was a [Cleveland Indians] farm director so I was in charge of 200 players. So when they don’t like a decision you make, yeah, sometimes there’s an emotion that comes out of it,” he says.
Farrell always tried to be compassionate.
“Behind every nameplate, behind every uniform, there’s a person, a life, and likely a family,’’ he says.
Maybe baseball players are too macho to admit that they cry?
“If you polled everybody in here you might get a host of different responses on that,” the manager says. “You know what, some might want to hold their emotions till they get out in their own personal moment. There’s varied responses.”
Asked if he had ever wept, Farrell smiles, and says, “Did I? There have been things that have brought out different emotional responses that have been strong. In my own moments I can’t say that I haven’t.”
Red Sox catcher David Ross openly wept on the field at Fenway Park after the Sox won the World Series last October.
“We were celebrating on the field and the families started to come out,” says Ross. “Somebody asked me who I was looking for and I just said my family and I started to get a little upset. And then I saw my wife.”
The whole year flashed before him.
“All that I had been through and all that she had been through having to coach me and help me through my concussion and what she had seen me go through,” he pauses, then continues. “You see your family who sacrificed so much for you . . . that’s when I started crying.”
Other than that, he believes there’s no crying in baseball
“It’s a man’s sport,” he says. “We don’t let our emotions in a negative fashion try to affect us too much, unless there’s some kind of anger.”
So kicking the water cooler is OK, but crying is not?
“Yeah, I guess so,” he says. “It’s a different feel of emotion.”
A dad’s influence
Pitcher Clay Buchholz doesn’t cry anymore because of his dad.
Buchholz was 8 or 9 when he lost an All-Star game in Lumberton, Texas.
“I wasn’t good at hiding emotions,” Buchholz says. “I definitely let them all out. I got in trouble with my dad. He didn’t want me crying on the field. There were a couple of kids crying [also], but I was the son and he was the coach, so he was able to get mad at me instead of everyone else. After that, I tried never to cry again. When you’re little it doesn’t matter, but nowadays I don’t think there’s crying in baseball.’’
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is a veteran playing for his fifth major league team.
“I’ve seen plenty of guys cry,’’ he says. “I just never have. I’m an emotional guy, I just don’t cry. I just don’t have that in my game. Maybe one day. When I get emotional it’s more frustration and anger than sadness and wanting to express emotion.”
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts says he definitely cried as a kid in Aruba, but not now. “As a professional, when things have gotten tough and you’re frustrated and struggling, you just can’t let it get to you,” he says.
First baseman Mike Napoli agrees. “I follow the rule, there’s no crying in baseball,” he says. Not even when he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips before last season?
“I didn’t cry,” he says. “I have no idea why. I was disappointed, but you’ve just got to keep moving on. Maybe I don’t have a crying feeling. I don’t know. I just never cried.”
The gutsy Pedroia repeatedly insists he hasn’t cried, ever.
“Yeah, I’ve had bad [stuff] happen to me, but I don’t sit there and cry,” he says. “I’m not a doctor, not a psychologist. I’m a baseball player. I don’t have any feelings. If you don’t have ’em, you don’t have ’em, dude.’’
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks says he never wept as a Little Leaguer.
“I don’t think I ever cried because I don’t think I ever made an out there,” he says with a giggle.
He said he teared up at Fenway after the Series-clinching win over the Cardinals.
“I didn’t cry but it was a special time,” he says. “It’s something that a lot of guys may never see. We were standing out by the podium on the field and there was all the smoke and fireworks, you couldn’t even see the crowd. You could just hear them. It was like being in a bubble.’’
What about when he was banished to the minors for part of last season?
“Oh no, it’s part of the game,” he says, “it’s a business. That was my fault and no one else’s.”
Outfielder Daniel Nava agrees there’s no crying in baseball. “Because it’s a 162-game season,” he says. “No one gets too high or too low, that’s the nature of baseball. Compare baseball to football, it’s not anywhere as close as football. They play 16 games, and there’s end-of-a-career possibilities.”
He says it’s OK to cry at a retirement. “That’s something I think it’s acceptable, but for the most part I don’t think guys get that high or that low,’’ he says.
Baseball vs. life
Ace pitcher Jon Lester, who beat cancer and won two World Series titles, says he hasn’t cried in baseball.
“That [cancer] is a little different, that’s not really baseball, that’s life,” he says. “I feel it’s got to be a pretty devastating moment [to cry]. I feel like guys who retire or maybe get their careers cut short cry.”
He doesn’t think crying in baseball should be looked down upon.
“If other teammates cried, I wouldn’t think any less of them,” he says. “Trust me I’m not Mr. Macho guy. I think everybody expresses emotion differently. Some guys come in here and beat that chair up, other guys if it’s crying, it’s crying, whatever it is. I don’t think you look down at anybody for what they’re expressing.”
At Fenway at the Series-clincher, Lester was standing next to the weeping Ross.
“I think people handle situations differently,” he says. “To each his own. If he’d hugged me, yeah, maybe I would’ve started crying.”
Center fielder Grady Sizemore says he never cried, even after a series of surgeries kept him out of the big leagues for two seasons.
“Nah, nah, it never came to that point,” he says. “Nothing ever went that bad, and as far as winning goes I enjoy it, but I never got so emotional that I cried.”
Pitcher John Lackey says he maybe cried as a kid, maybe not. “I think I’m more the hit-the-water cooler kind of guy,” he says.
Right fielder Shane Victorino cried in Hawaii.
“When I played as a kid, absolutely,” he says. “I’ve been frustrated and I’ve obviously cried about it. You see guys show emotions of anger, but I don’t think you see too many grown men cry. But does it happen? No man is too big to say it can’t happen. You know what I mean?”
Outfielder Jonny Gomes believes there is no crying in baseball.
“No, why would there be?” he says. “It’s built around failure. You better get used to failure, man. I wish I could fail just seven times out of 10.”
He says he never has cried in baseball. “I don’t think I have tear ducts,” he says.
But Gomes is forgetting his first game after suffering a heart attack at the age of 22. Just four months after a heart attack, he homered for Tampa Bay against the Phillies in a spring training game, then bawled uncontrollably on the bench.
Gomes does not think there’s room for crying in baseball.
“I don’t think you want to let your opponent or someone else know your weakness when you’re down. You don’t want to feel defeated,” he says.
Relief pitcher Craig Breslow cried in Little League and then got emotional days after the World Series victory.
“I wouldn’t call it crying, but after reflection I realized how incredible this experience was,” he says. “It’s definitely emotional. There’s a difference between being emotional and crying. Crying is kind of a less voluntary action.”
The Yale graduate says there is a wide spectrum of emotions in baseball.
“It is impossible to paint all individuals with one brush,” he says. “There are likely guys who cry and likely guys who don’t cry.”
Reliever Felix Doubront said he cried tears of joy with his family after the World Series.
“But that’s the only crying allowed in baseball,” he says. “It’s a macho man thing that you don’t cry. We all grew up and we went through that when we were kids. It’s a man’s game right now.’’
Reliever Andrew Miller believes crying in baseball is a taboo.
“It’s a room full of testosterone and I don’t think anybody wants to show any of that,” he says.
He then laughs and asks, “I hope you don’t have video of me crying or something.”
Pitcher Junichi Tazawa says the crying game is the same in Japan.
“I think it’s more individual than cultural,” he says.
The last time he wept in baseball was in high school when he failed to make the Koshien tournament.
“It’s the biggest tournament in Japan, making the tournament is everything, and when I didn’t make it I think I cried a little bit,” he says.
With the exception of Hall of Famer Jim Rice, retired players readily admitted to crying in the big leagues.
Catcher Rich Gedman says he wept before every single game of the 1986 World Series against the Mets.
“My father passed away early in the ’86 season, so before every game I wanted to make sure I thought of him,” Gedman says. “So as the national anthem was playing, tears would be welling up. It’s a pretty emotional time, that separation of thought there that he was there with me even though he wasn’t there. He was watching me play.”
Tony Clark, the current MLB Players Association boss, says his former Sox teammates made him cry after the Yankees’ historic 2004 ALCS playoff collapse, when the Red Sox, facing elimination, won four straight against his team.
“I was driving home, and it all hit me at once,” says the then-Yankee first baseman. “It was a little dangerous because I was on the freeway. I cried not knowing if I was ever going to get back to the World Series. When you are passionate about something, there are points and times that if something doesn’t go well, that emotion can overwhelm you. And as a baseball player we play to go to the playoffs and then try to win a World Series. Period. I was already playing on borrowed time. So when that all came together, that hurt.”
Tiant says crying is part of the game.
“Some people think they are too tough and a macho man, that they’re gonna look like a lady . . . so what, who cares?” he says. “We’re all human. When you’ve got feelings, you cry. In the  World Series against Cincinnati, we cried. We all cried in 1978 when Bucky Dent hit the home run. I cried a lot of times.”
Tiant cried when Fidel Castro issued a special visa to allow his father and mother to leave Cuba to see his son pitch in the ’75 Series.
“When my dad came he said, ‘What’s the matter with you, why are you crying?’ I said, ‘What do you want me to do. I thought I was never going to see you guys again.’ ”
Out on the practice field, Pedro Martinez emerges from the clubhouse for the first time this season with a smile that never fades.
The former Sox star pitcher and now instructor used the “there’s no crying in baseball” line many times in his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career. Looking out over the field, Martinez sees grown men having fun, making millions, playing a child’s game in the warm sunshine.
“No, no, there’s no crying in baseball,” he says. “You don’t cry about baseball.”
“If you were born with baseball, that’s why you don’t cry,” he adds, before being enveloped by ex-teammates in hugs.
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.