Ryan Dempster walked away from the Red Sox and a guaranteed $13.25 million before the season started, and skipped this week’s trip to the White House that honored the World Series champions.
But he wasn’t about to miss Friday’s home opener. There was a big, diamond-encrusted ring just his size that needed to be picked up.
“It’s going to be a special moment,” said Dempster, speaking to reporters inside the Red Sox clubhouse a few hours before Friday’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewer. “It’s something you play your whole career for, and some guys in here are lucky enough to already have some [rings], but it’s going to be the first time for me, so I’m really excited.
“It’s just fun to be back around the guys for a little bit.”
Dempster chose to take the year off, announcing in February that he wouldn’t pitch this season because of physical and family issues. He never announced his formal retirement — leaving open the possibility of a return — but sounded on Friday as though he’s content with the decision.
“To step away like this and not be playing is different, but at the same time the guys have been unbelievable,” he said, “and [manager] John [Farrell] and everybody has let me be around a little bit and let me kind of wean myself off of it instead of going cold turkey.”
Has he ever reconsidered his decision?
“No, not yet,” he said. “I’ve already planned golf trips in the summer, and I get to go camping I think for the first time since I was 15, so a lot of fun things, and I get to be around my kids a whole bunch, which is really cool.”
He’s pitched for five different clubs since breaking into the big leagues in 1998, but spent just one season with the Red Sox, making 29 starts last year and going 8-9 with a 4.74 earned run average. He made his World Series debut in Game 1, pitching the ninth inning of an 8-1 win.
Three more wins delivered the Red Sox their third World Series title in 11 years. It was a championship celebrated on Friday, bringing Dempster back for at least one more day on the Fenway Park field with his teammates. He wasn’t at Tuesday’s White House ceremony because it was his daughter’s fifth birthday (at which he took plenty of selfies, but “they didn’t get retweeted as much as David’s did,” he said).
Looking around the clubhouse, Dempster seemed at the same time to be both at home and out of place, if that’s possible.
“It’s a different feeling,” he said. “[I’m] trying not to step on anybody’s toes and have some fun. It’s definitely a life adjustment, but one that I’m looking forward to.”