NEW YORK (AP) — Jacoby Ellsbury’s family changed game attire along with their star son.
After nine years in the Red Sox organization, the 30-year-old outfielder left Boston during the offseason to sign a $153 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees.
When Ellsbury played against his old team for the first time Thursday night, he said father Jim was in the stadium ready to cheer in appropriate gear.
“They got decked out from Day One,” Jacoby said.
Ellsbury scored the game’s first run and had an RBI single in New York’s 4-1 win Thursday night.
“Playing with him so long and then you see him playing against us, it’s definitely kind of weird,” Dustin Pedroia said.
Ellsbury was selected by Boston with the 23rd overall pick of the 2005 amateur draft. When he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning, it was his first plate appearance against Clay Buchholz, taken by the Red Sox with the 42nd selection that same year.
“He was my first roommate in Lowell,” Ellsbury remembered from their summer in the New York-Penn League. “He’ll be a friend of mine for life regardless of what jersey he has on or what I have on. I mean, you never know. These are guys that you can play with down the road, too.”
The pair helped Boston win World Series titles in 2007 and last year, when the Red Sox celebrated a championship clincher at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.
And then Ellsbury left Beantown for Broadway, following in the path of Babe Ruth, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Johnny Damon.
“He did what’s best for his family and, obviously, no hard feeling in the clubhouse about it,” Buchholz said. “I really wish him the best of luck because he’s one of the best. Different seeing him in another uniform, but at the same time you know that’s the business side of the game.”
Ellsbury spoke with David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes near the batting cage before the game and playfully looked under Pedroia’s cap.
But friendship stopped when the game starts.
Ellsbury came to the plate in the first inning with Derek Jeter at first and grounded a ball between first and second. But he was denied a hit when Pedroia made a diving stop, popped up to his feet and threw to first in time for the second out.
“The first thing would be keep him off the bases,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He can create some havoc.”
Ellsbury reached when third baseman Jonathan Herrera bobbled his fourth-inning grounder and scored the game’s first run on Brian McCann’s single.
Switching from Yankee Stadium’s third-base dugout to the first-base side felt weird on opening day. He expected to feel strange when seeing “Boston” on the opponent’s uniforms.
Having changed organizations four times during his playing days, Yankees manager Joe Girardi expected Ellsbury to have some extra emotion against the Red Sox.
“I think sometimes you might try a little bit too hard against that club because you’re so close to them,” he said.
CC Sabathia thought back to when he faced Cleveland and Milwaukee for the first time after joining the Yankees.
“You never want your friends to get hits off you at any time,” the New York ace pitcher said. “You always try to get them out just for bragging rights.”
Farrell and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington planned to give Ellsbury and Yankees reliever Matt Thornton their World Series rings before Friday night’s game. Farrell called it “a chance to share a moment and congratulate them for a great experience.”
But Ellsbury figures to have a different experience on April 22, when he plays his first game for the Yankees at Fenway Park. He’s ready for some jeers.
“I’m sure,” he said, “there will be two different receptions.”
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