All-Star Game has decided Boston feel
Sox's five players, manager and coaching staff arrive in Detroit
DETROIT -- Back when they were chasing history instead of trying to repeat it, the Red Sox were merely a baseball team, albeit one with a passionate following. Now they've become something different altogether.
Allow Johnny Damon, one of five Red Sox players at this year's All-Star festivities, to elaborate.
"I think the fans kind of look at us different," said Damon, who will lead off for the American League on Tuesday night. "We kind of feel like we're the Harlem Globetrotters; we're the traveling baseball team that everybody comes and admires. We're like zoo animals. People stop and stare and they can't believe what they actually see when the Red Sox are walking down the street. People have taken a huge interest in us. I think that's very awesome.
"That's the kind of aura we bring to Boston. You have guys who are somewhat eccentric, white guys (Bronson Arroyo for example) who get braids in their hair, you have Kevin [Millar] talking all the time. We have what people like and that's what makes the Red Sox so special now."
And there is Damon, with his long hair, beard and effervescent disposition, leading this rock star image that has started to shape the defending World Series champions.
While the All-Star Game is a Major League event, this year's showcase is also very much a Red Sox event. All you had to do was take a peek inside the hotel ballroom where the American League player press conferences took place.
An entire side of a room was practically taken over by Boston players, as there were stations set up for Damon, captain Jason Varitek, sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, and right-hander Matt Clement, the only first-time All-Star of the Boston five.
Perhaps it was just as well that Ramirez never showed up for the availability session. There were already plenty of Red Sox holding court. And that was after American League All-Star manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox held an earlier press conference.
There has never been a better time to be a player on the Boston Red Sox.
"We have the game's best gamecaller in Jason Varitek," Damon said. "Matt Clement, he's been everything that we could ask for, especially after losing a Pedro Martinez and a Derek Lowe, and also losing Curt Schilling for most of the first half. And, of course, you can't say enough about Manny and David. Those guys make me look real good. All I have to do is get on base and they'll take care of the rest."
With four Sox in the starting lineup, Clement available out of the bullpen and Francona and his entire coaching staff participating in Tuesday's game, it figures to be a Boston-centric evening.
"It feels good, it feels like we're playing at Fenway, all the coaches, having the manager, having so many of our players starting out there," said Ortiz.
But the Red Sox will do plenty of mingling with the other 27 players on the AL squad.
"It is good because you have that comfort zone of having your teammates here," said Varitek. "But it's also fun to sit next to Mark Teixeira, talk to him, talk to Michael Young, talk to Bob Wickman. That's what makes the experience the experience."
And of course, a big part of the experience will be the usual wide array of Red Sox fans on hand.
"They really give us a lot of support and represent us everywhere you go," said Ortiz. "They deserve everything that is going on with the Red Sox right now. They are the best. I can't complain about Red Sox fans."
If being the champs creates an avalanche of extra attention, Damon isn't about to complain. Instead, he'll continue to enjoy the limelight.
"Well, it's great," Damon said. "I think the fact that we won the World Series and we get to come to the All-Star Game and represent the Red Sox very well, our team deserves it. Everyone who is here deserves to be an All-Star, our team especially."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.