By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Times, they are a-changing.
Of course, in the world of sports, things are always changing. Trades are made, coaches are fired, and rosters continually turn over. That’s just the nature of professional sports.
Yet through all of that, the constants remain — the faces that have been around so long that they’ve come to embody the franchise for which they’ve played. And certainly, the city of Boston has seen plenty of these iconic players come to the city and stay for a great number of years.
But for one of these players, Monday marks the beginning of the end, as David Ortiz will play in his final spring training home game.
Now, Ortiz is a man who openly hates spring training and has always treated the month-long preseason with disdain, so there’s absolutely no reason for the Red Sox to hold an over-the-top, heavy-on-the-cheese ceremony at their fake little Fenway Park down in Florida. But, of course, that’s not stopping them from holding one.
So, on the day when Ortiz gets honored for playing his final fake baseball game at a baseball stadium that opened four years ago, let’s take this opportunity to look forward. Specifically, let’s take a look at what the future of Boston sports looks like without David Ortiz, who made his Red Sox debut on April 1, 2003 and is currently the second-longest tenured active Boston athlete.
With Ortiz gone, here’s what the list of longest-tenured active Boston athletes will be beginning in October. (List made based on the date of the player’s professional debut. Players who left the team and returned later — like Hanley Ramirez and Patrick Chung — are excluded.)
1. Tom Brady
Still the lasting face of Boston sports, the Patriots quarterback will be under center for the season opener in September, marking the start of his 17th season in New England. Brady’s Patriots debut involved him breaking the soul of Giovanni Carmazzi, the quarterback from Hofstra who was drafted 134 picks ahead of Brady and suffered from a career-ending loss of confidence in the Hall of Fame Game against the Patriots. We then got our first real look at Brady (if we were bored enough to stay tuned) at the tail end of a 34-9 beatdown at the hands of the Detroit Lions in November of 2000, when America was still waiting for the state of Florida to recount their presidential ballots. Brady went 1-for-3 before Lee Johnson came on to punt. It was magical.
2. Patrice Bergeron
Amazingly, Bergeron is near the top of this list despite only being 30 years old. That’s something that can happen when you make your NHL debut at age 18. Bergeron donned the Spoked B in an NHL game for the first time on Oct. 8, 2003, skating 10:16 against the New Jersey Devils and registering one shot on net. He scored his first goal 10 days later as part of a three-point night against the L.A. Kings. Brian Rolston and Sergei Samsonov assisted on the goal by Bergeron, who earned first star honors for his performance in the 4-3 victory.
3. Dustin Pedroia
Sporting jersey No. 64 on his back, the diminutive second baseman made his MLB debut in Anaheim on Aug. 22, 2006, late in a floundering Red Sox season. Pedroia actually made it into the starting lineup as a shortstop that day, marking just one of five career starts at that position. Pedroia picked up his first career hit in his second at-bat, but he’d go on to hit just .191 at the big-league level in 31 games as a rookie. Then, in 2007, he went all “Laser Show, Relax” on everyone en route to winning a World Series and Rookie of the Year honors.
4. Stephen Gostkowski
It’s really quite fascinating how Bill Belichick was able to identify Stephen Gostkowski as a viable replacement for one of the best kickers in NFL history. But over the past decade, Gostkowski’s been as good as it gets for the Patriots, making the use of that fourth-round pick in the ’06 draft look rather brilliant. Gostkowski made his NFL debut on Sept. 10, 2006, kicking the game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter against the Bills in a game which the Patriots eventually won 19-17.
5. Zdeno Chara
Coming off an embarrassing last-place finish in the 2005-06 season, the Bruins went out and made a huge splash in free agency, acquiring Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara. Though new GM Peter Chiarelli made quite the goof by also signing head coach Dave Lewis, the two on-ice additions proved to be influential in the franchise’s turnaround. Chara was given the captain’s “C” before the regular season began, and he made his Bruins debut on Oct. 6, 2006, recording two assists in a comical 8-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. He’s gone on to play nearly 750 regular-season games (and counting) and nearly 100 playoff games as the Boston captain.
6. David Krejci
Krejci may not have been an obvious candidate for this list, but he did indeed make his Bruins debut on Jan. 30, 2007 at the ripe old age of 20. He played in six games that season, recording zero points, and he’d go on to play 56 games the following season. He’s now played in more than 600 regular-season games and nearly 100 postseason games for the Bruins.
7. Clay Buchholz
As a lanky right-hander from Texas, Clay Buchholz made his MLB debut for a spot start against the Angels on Aug. 17, 2007. He went six innings, allowing four runs — three earned — while picking up his first career win. That start, of course, was soon forgotten after Buchholz’s second career start, which took place a couple of weeks later.
8. Tuukka Rask
Though he was not always the starter, Rask sure has been a Boston Bruin for some time. The netminder made his NHL debut on Nov. 20, 2007, making 30 saves in a victory against the team that drafted him, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’d play just four times that season, and he’d get just one NHL start the following year, before finally getting a chance with 39 starts in the 2009-10 season. If he stays with the Bruins for the remainder of his eight-year contract which runs through 2021, he could end up owning just about every franchise record for goaltenders.
9. Matthew Slater
The special teams ace was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and made his debut the following September. That debut came in a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 7, 2008. It was a game which was remembered for something much more significant than Matthew Slater’s two special teams tackles.
10. The 2009 Crew
In terms of current Boston athletes, there were too many who debuted in 2009 to properly rank them in a list. On the Patriots, that list includes Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer and Rob Ninkovich (September 2009). For the Red Sox, Junichi Tazawa made his debut in August 2009. And for the Bruins, Brad Marchand (Oct. 21, 2009) and Adam McQuaid (Dec. 19, 2009) first showed up in ’09. And for the sake of getting a member of the Celtics on here, Avery Bradley played in his first NBA game on Nov. 22, 2010, making him the only current player to have shared a locker room with The Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.