“You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years, with respect to the support and positive response I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans. But I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball, I’ll truly miss but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
“So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.
“Thank you very much.”
— Mike Lowell
* * *
I was living in Arizona for the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies. I watched Game 4 at a party with a bunch of folks who weren’t terribly big baseball fans, and who thought it’d be funny to root for the Rockies. After a while, I stopped noticing them and they stopped speaking to me, mostly because I looked and was being completely ridiculous, hunched over a chair, chin resting on my hand, Red Sox cap on my head, Kevin Millar jersey on my back, staring unblinking into the screen.
Mike Lowell hit fifth in that game, and in the top of the seventh inning, he led off with a home run off of Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook. It made the score 2-0, and knocked Cook out of the game.
The Sox won that game, 4-3. Jon Lester, 10 months removed from cancer treatment and starting in place of an injured Tim Wakefield, picked up the win. Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the save, leaping into a sprinting Jason Varitek after the final out. And Mike Lowell was the MVP. Lowell hit an even .400 in that series, with the aforementioned home run and four runs batted in.
But what I think of first is how much Lowell loved, and loves, the game of baseball, and perhaps that was best personified in the 2008 playoffs. Lowell was bothered by a hip injury that, essentially, has sped up the end of his career. It hurt through August and September, and by October, it was becoming unbearable.
Tracking down a soft ball down the line, he rushed down, barehanded the ball, threw across his body to first, and then doubled over in pain, just a few steps from the plate. It took him a while to get up. He didn’t play the rest of the playoffs, Kevin Youkilis sliding back over to third base to cover for him. He watched from the bench in a hoodie. It killed him to be forced out of the game.
He hit .289 with an 815 OPS in his five years in Boston, had 223 home runs in his career, was an All-Star four times, and pulled off the hidden ball trick successfully twice (and tried it a third time in his first year in Boston). And like me, his hair is going gray before his time. He was just old school, I suppose. He came to work every day, he loved what he did, and he never forgot that he was playing a kids game to entertain millions of fans. And he was damn good at his job.
There haven’t been many like him. I’m glad I was fortunate enough to see him play for the Red Sox.