Champion Red Sox are feted at White House
WASHINGTON — In the end, after President Obama praised the Red Sox for their good works on and off the field last season, the commander-in-chief had one final duty to perform Tuesday morning on the South Lawn of the White House.
David Ortiz wanted a selfie.
After the Sox presented Obama with a No. 44 team jersey, Big Papi grabbed his smartphone and snapped a photo of himself with the president.
Sox manager John Farrell and assorted teammates were grinning widely in the background.
“Yeah, baby,” Ortiz said. “It was good. You don’t get that opportunity every day. Chat a little bit with the president and take a selfie.”
Based on his remarks to the crowd and the smile he had in the photograph, Obama was just as glad to spend time with Ortiz.
“The legend,” he said. “The only man to play for all three championship teams, the biggest bat in the dugout: Big Papi. Love this guy.”
Five months after they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, the Red Sox had won again.
“This has been a great experience,” Farrell said.
Jonny Gomes wore white pants, a stars-and-stripes suit jacket, and black sunglasses wrapped around his shaved head for the event, an outfit that left him looking like a well-tailored superhero.
“I’m a pretty patriotic person, whether it’s my outfit or what I stand for,” Gomes said. “I didn’t want it to be too much of a distraction. I hope it’s not. Just truly blessed for my freedom and everything that the flag stands for.”
Gomes purchased the same jackets for his teammates — who wisely left theirs on hangers — and one extra that he presented to Obama that bore the signatures of the whole team.
“He definitely approved,” said Gomes. “He made sure to look me right in the eye and said, ‘Nice jacket.’
“Just a true, great opportunity to share this with all the teammates.”
Said Farrell, “I don’t think he’s necessarily going to wear that jacket as Jonny might. But, still, it was a good time.”
Gomes never expected to be chatting with any president at the White House. He was homeless for a time as a child growing up in northern California and had several brushes with death, including a heart attack at the age of 22.
Gomes played on four other teams before he joined the Red Sox and only rarely has been an everyday player in the majors.
But there he was on Tuesday, a central figure on a memorable team celebrating a championship.
“It’s pretty special with the forks in my road, the adversity I’ve had in my road, to be able to share a day with the president,” Gomes said. “Not only with the president, but with my teammates. It’s something I stand for and that’s a team and winning.
“To get that opportunity to win the highest possible game you could win, the World Series, and be able to share it with the highest leader of our country, there’s not too much after that. It’s pretty special.”
Obama mentioned eight players during his nine-minute remarks along with Farrell, team president Larry Lucchino, team chairman Tom Werner, and principal owner John Henry. His only false note was pronouncing first baseman Mike Napoli’s last name as “na-POLL-ee.”
Obama also paid tribute to Boston’s resilience after the Marathon bombings and the deadly fire in the Back Bay last week. One of the guests at the event was MBTA police officer Richard Donohue, who was wounded during the gun battle with the accused bombers.
“The first responders, the brave citizens, the resolute victims of these tragedies, they’re all Boston Strong,” the president said. “And ultimately, that’s what this team played for last season, and every man behind me did his part to keep the team rolling.”
Obama said he was proud of the last-to-first Red Sox.
“I’m grateful for their character and their embrace of the essential role they played in the spirit of that city,” he said. “Sometimes, sports seems like it’s trivial, it’s just an entertainment. And then, every once in a while, you’re reminded that sports represents something else and it has the power to bring people together like almost nothing can.”
The only Red Sox player to miss the event was Shane Victorino, who was ill, according to a team spokesman. Victorino, like Obama, is from Hawaii and has met the president several times and was not trying to make any kind of political statement.
Two players not on the team last season — righthanded reliever Edward Mujica and infielder Jonathan Herrera — tagged along.
Mujica was a member of the Cardinals last season but did not play in the World Series.
The Red Sox later visited wounded veterans at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The team had a day off after opening the season with a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Monday. The series continues Wednesday night against the Orioles.