Forget the way it ended. Forget the pouting, the injuries, and the most shocking midseason trade in my lifetime.
For all the drama leading up to his 2004 departure, Nomar Garciaparra still loves us.
I was at the gym today when ESPN's Baseball Tonight came on the television, and to my delight they had our old friend Nomar as a guest. Mostly they talked about Brandon Webb's rehab, the remaining free agents (Johnny Damon is still out there), and the imminent start of Spring Training, but they did a quick question and answer session at the end of the program.
The first question posed to the former Sox shortstop was this: "What has been your favorite park to play in?"
Nomar smiled. The captions were a little behind on the gym's TV, but I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to say, so I smiled, too. Sure enough, a split second later the verdict flashed on the screen: "FENWAY." He went on to give props to Wrigley for its history, but returned again and again to the effect the fans have on the atmosphere at Fenway Park. "There's nothing like it," he said, and in my limited experience of other parks, he's quite correct. Other stadiums (I'm looking at you, New York) have scoreboards that tell fans when to cheer and clap... you'll see a lot of things at Fenway Park, but that's not one of them.
Red Sox fans are, for better or for worse, some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the game, and Nomar is just the latest player to recognize us as such. I don't know about the rest of you, but I was extremely pleased to see Nomar reiterate his love for us (because, let's be fair, things were a little tense by the end of his tenure here). Since #5 left us, we've had a literal parade of shortstops, some good, some bad, but none with the same ties to the fans that Nomar had.
I hope Garciaparra finds a team this season. I hope he comes to Fenway (in anything but pinstripes, not that they have use for him) so we can show him the love once more... and because he loves Fenway as much as Fenway loves him.