The Inside Scoop On Why Some Red Sox Players Wear Their Numbers

BOSTON (CBS) — Baseball players are an interesting bunch, often the most superstitious of all professional athletes.

That can range from a number of intricacies, from eating the same pregame meal, taking the field in a certain number of steps or putting their socks on in the same order each and every day. There are those who dig into the batter’s box in a unique fashion, have a routine in the field before every pitch, and let’s not forget about the wild facial hair that can sometimes resemble an overgrown meadow.

The most common thing though is a player’s jersey number. Some don’t really care what number goes on their back, while others are willing to dish our enough cash for a fancy sports car if someone else has their digits. During his time down in Fort Myers, Florida at Red Sox Spring Training, WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche asked the hard-hitting question: How did you get your jersey number?

Some players had an easy path to their favorite uniform number, while others have had to settle for something new.

Why Does Xander Bogaerts Wear No. 2?

Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz present Derek Jeter with a piece of the Green Monster signed by all members of the Boston Red Sox prior to Jeter's last game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz present Derek Jeter with a piece of the Green Monster signed by all members of the Boston Red Sox prior to Jeter’s last game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Bogaerts said he was always either No. 1 or No. 2 growing up in Aruba, and Red Sox fans may not want to hear why he likes the deuce on his back.

“Growing up I always liked Derek Jeter,” he told Roche. “He was on the Yankees so I enjoyed watching him a lot; they always played on ESPN and was probably the most games I saw TV. I liked the way he played. And also, when Hanley Ramirez came up in the big leagues with Miami he had No. 2. So it’s for both of those guys, but Jeter first.”

Bogaerts originally sported No. 72 when he first came up with the Red Sox during their World Series run in 2013. When Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the New York Yankees that offseason, Bogaerts quickly laid claim to his favorite number.

A New Number For Jackie Bradley Jr.

Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Bradley Jr. was No. 44 when he first came up in 2013, and has worn No. 25 since then. This season, he’ll have No. 19 stitched on the back of his jersey, available for the first time with Koji Uehara now in Chicago. It’s the same number he wore in college at the University of South Carolina, but as he explained to Roche, it’s a number that has a lot of meaning to him and his family.

“My birthday is April 19. My mother was in labor with me for 19 hours; I was actually almost a miscarriage baby, so there’s something behind that in honor of her,” the outfielder explained.


He also notes that Jackie Robinson was born in 1919.

Brock Holt’s Wild Journey To No. 12

Red Sox infielder Brock Holt. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Red Sox infielder Brock Holt. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The ultra utility man was No. 2 during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that was taken by Ellsbury when Holt was acquired by Boston in 2012. So when he made it to the Majors with the Red Sox in 2013 he was given No. 26, a number he had to change shortly after when the team retired it for Wade Boggs.

“I got here and was kind of handed 26. Some Red Sox fans didn’t like that because they thought it should be retired, and we’re happy it’s finally up in Fenway Park where it belongs,” said Holt. “They called me in the offseason and told me they were retiring No. 26, and said I’d need to find a new number.”

Holt picked No. 12 as a tribute to former teammate and friend Mike Napoli, who had just left via free agency. He shot Nap a text when he made the decision, which turned into a funny exchange because Napoli had just picked a new number of his own after signing with the Cleveland Indians: No. 26.

Now, Holt says he wears the lower number as a badge of honor.

“Whenever you get into the lower numbers you feel like you’ve made it,” he said. “I was always No. 1 growing up; that was my favorite number. [No. 12] has a 1 in it, I like 2, so I think it fits. It’s pretty symmetrical on the back and it feels good.”

Swihart’s No. 23 Isn’t For That Famous No. 23

Blake Swihart of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Blake Swihart of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Usually when you see the No. 23 on someone’s back, you instantly think of Michael Jordan, no matter the sport. But that isn’t the case for Sox catcher Blake Swihart. It’s the number the team gave him when he made his debut in the Majors, and he’s sticking with it until they tell him otherwise.

“Luis Tiant always gives me a hard time and says I better rep it the right way,” said Swihart. “It’s a cool number to have.”

Swihart said he tried to stay with No. 1 or No. 10 throughout Little League, but he’s had a handful of different numbers throughout his time on the diamond.

“Usually, I’m No. 1, 10, 5 or 25,” he said. “So 23 fits in there pretty good.”

An Entertaining Explanation From Matt Barnes

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

“That was the number given to me for my first game, and I don’t care enough to change it right now, I guess,” the reliever said of his No. 68 jersey. “Also, all the numbers I’ve ever worn are taken.”

Seems fair enough. Barnes said he was No. 13 growing up, went to No. 26 in college and No. 31 in the minors. He’s always tried to stick with some form of 13 (backwards or a multiple of the number), but he’s happy to have adopted No. 68.

“Hanley is wearing [No. 13 now], so that’s out. Brock had 26 and that was retired, so that’s out. I wasn’t going to be the first pitcher after [Jon] Lester to sport 31, so I was stuck with 68. When they gave it to me I just said ‘I’m going to rock this,'” he said. “I’ve kind of adopted 68; it’s my number.”

He’ll always have a special place in his heart for No. 13, and he doesn’t buy into the superstitions that go with it.

“I love it. I’ve always grown up loving 13. Don’t know why, but I do,” he said, scoffing at the notion of bad luck on Friday the 13th. “Friday is a good day and I love 13.”

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