BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Jacoby Ellsbury knew this day would come as soon as he signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees.
On Tuesday, he makes his return to Fenway Park, but this time wearing a Yankees uniform. That attire usually brings a sea of boos from the Fenway crowd to begin with, but when a player who crossed enemy lines dons that jersey for the first time in their old ballpark, those fans tend to get a little bit louder.
“We’ll see what happens,” Ellsbury told the media ahead of his return to Boston. “You can’t think about what they’re going to do. In this game, you can really only focus on what you can do. Not worry about all that other stuff you can’t control.
“I gave the organization everything I had for a third of my life,” added Ellsbury. “Nine years in an organization — drafted by them, came up and won two World Series. I left it all on the field.”
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Ellsbury hit .297 in his seven years in Boston, scoring 476 runs and stealing 241 bases in 715 games. He became a household name after batting .438 in Boston’s four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series, and was a .301 hitter in his nine playoff series as a Red Sox.
He nearly won the MVP in 2011, finishing second to Detroit ace Justin Verlander, when he hit .321 with 32 homers, 105 RBI and 119 runs.
But Ellsbury knows those good times with the Red Sox are in the past. He’s seen (and heard) how the Fenway faithful greet the opposition, and probably heard plenty of jeers himself during his time in center field given his injury-prone history in Boston.
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Through his career Ellsbury has seen other postseason heroes and fan favorites return to Boston to a less-than-flattering reception from the fans. He remembers Johnny Damon returning in 2006, after signing a four-year deal with the Yankees, and even though the bearded idiot helped Boston end an 86-year World Series drought just two seasons prior, it didn’t keep the boo birds from having their fun with the then-clean shaven Damon.
“The fact that almost everybody will be booing will make it easier,” Damon said of Ellsbury’s Fenway return in the New York Post. “That would be tougher on certain individuals, but the good thing about him is that he plays hard.’’
“Every situation is different, the one I think of is Johnny who came back,’’ Ellsbury said. “You look at Nomar [Garciaparra] but every situation is different. It’s not going to be the same. Look at Youk [Kevin Youkilis]. I am not going to think about it too much, it’s out of my hands.’’
Ellsbury has already played against his former team this season, going 5-for-14 against Boston during a four-game series in the Bronx two weeks ago, so the pre-game hand shakes and hugs with former teammates won’t be as big a novelty come early Tuesday evening.
But Ellsbury will hear a much different welcome when he steps to the plate at 7:10. If Johnny Damon was greeting with “Judas Damon” chants, just think how clever Red Sox fans will be with Ellsbury.
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