Remy takes step toward return to booth
Broadcaster visits Fenway and opens up about depression
BOSTON -- Jerry Remy, who has developed an enormous following in his 22 years as a color commentator for Red Sox games, revealed Wednesday that his leave of absence from the NESN broadcast booth has been prolonged because he is dealing with depression.
However, Remy said that he still expects to resume his popular tandem with play-by-play man Don Orsillo this season.
"You know, I plan on coming back this year but I can't give a day because I've already passed two deadlines of my own," said Remy, who on Wednesday night attended his first Red Sox game since announcing his leave of absence on May 6 and made a guest appearance in the booth.
Before the bottom of the second inning, the scoreboard in center field said, "We welcome Jerry Remy back to Fenway Park," and there was live video of Remy standing in the booth with Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley. Fenway Park erupted with applause. Remy waved to the crowd.
Remy, 56, looks forward to the time when he's ready to return to work.
"I said at the beginning of this, when I'm ready to come back, to come back full time, and do the job the way it's supposed to be done [I'll be back]. I've got a date in mind, but I don't want to say what it is because I've already missed a couple of my dates," Remy said.
Remy -- who had lung cancer surgery last November -- then opened up about the string of events that occurred over a span of more than a year as he spiraled into depression.
"This stuff has actually been going on since last season when I found out through X-rays with Dr. Ronan that he saw a spot on my lung that he didn't like very much. So he ordered a CT scan and on the CT scan, there was another spot that showed up," Remy said. "All during last season, this was kind of weighing on my mind. I didn't know what it was, and I kept taking CT scans every three months with the understanding that at the end of the season, [the surgeon] was going to take it out.
"I went in the week before Thanksgiving; they took that out. That couldn't have gone better. There was no follow-up treatment. There was a CT scan every six months. No chemo, no radiation, none of that."
Then, however, Remy developed an infection in late January that forced him to miss the early part of Spring Training. In hindsight, Remy admits that his biggest mistake was rushing back for the latter part of Spring Training and then working the schedule of a traveling baseball broadcaster for the first month of the season.
"That [infection] put me back at Mass. General for 10 days," Remy said. "Three weeks of antibiotics. That was probably worse than the surgery. And I lost 25 pounds. Looking back on it now, it was probably my fault that I went to Spring Training. It was an easy schedule so I didn't have any problem. Once the season started, I had a big problem. I wasn't ready. I wasn't strong enough. Emotionally, I wasn't ready, and physically, I wasn't ready."
After opening with three games at home, Remy flew with the Red Sox to Anaheim for a six-game West Coast swing. At that point, he realized what a big mistake he had made.
"We got to Anaheim, and I went to bed, and the next morning I got up and felt like I got run over by a truck," Remy said. "I knew right there, I was trying to trick myself into thinking I could do this. All these things together, it takes a lot out of you. Physically, you get injured, you know you're going to get better. It's not life threatening. This is a little bit different. This messes with your mind a little bit."
Still, Remy didn't pull himself off the road. He went on the team's second road trip, which started in Cleveland on April 27, and that's when he finally realized he could no longer work.
"Don saw me crash firsthand. It wasn't fair to go on one day and work, and then not work. That wasn't fair to the company," Remy said. "We all decided that a leave of absence would be the best thing to do. With all that, it all finally came crashing down on me."
Even though he wasn't strong enough physically to keep working at that point, having his daily passion -- analyzing Red Sox games -- taken away from him was simply too much.
"So I've been fighting depression for the last couple of months," Remy said. "I've been in therapy for that, trying to get the meds right, trying to get all that right. Physically, I'm back. I put the weight back on that I lost because of the infection. Mentally, they've been trying to get the right combination of meds. I think I'm on the right path. Doctors told me to expect stuff like that. It was probably going to happen, and some were surprised I didn't crash before I did."
Remy has been thoroughly touched by the uncountable number of well-wishes he has received during his absence.
"I have boxes and boxes and boxes of cards, letters, prayers, kindergarten schools doing things, e-mails, tweets," Remy said. "I can't believe the people that I've heard from. In a way, you feel like you've done something right for 22 years. It's awfully nice, and there's no way I can write back to all these people. When I get back on the air, that's the way I'll thank them. That was overwhelming. Overwhelming."
Remy's first step toward returning to work came last week, when he attended a Paul McCartney concert at Fenway. The next step was Wednesday, when he replicated his normal pregame routine in the clubhouse, and even attended manager Terry Francona's pregame press conference. He referred to it as a trial run.
"I didn't know until 2:30 [today] that I was coming," Remy said. "It sounds crazy, but kind of a big step was coming to the McCartney concert because I got back to the ballpark. It's weird. I felt like, 'I'm home.' The better I felt, there had to be a day I had to come here. I looked at [my wife] today and I said, 'I think I'm going to go in today.' She said, 'Get in there, get in, go hang around.' I didn't expect this. Like I said, I have a date in mind but I wanted to get in here prior to see how I feel. I can't say I feel great, but I'm here, where a month ago, I would have not been here."
Remy doesn't think it is hard to be open about what he's been going through.
"I'm not ashamed of anything," Remy said. "Look, people deal with cancer all the time. People deal with depression. I'm not embarrassed by that. ... People go through these things. I'm not immune to all that. I will say this, this last two years -- I knew about it last year, I didn't know I had cancer but I knew I could -- has been very trying and it's taken a lot out of me, it really has. The way I feel I'm going to get that back is by doing what I do and what I enjoy doing, and that's doing the games."
And as for his decades of smoking, which was likely the cause of his lung cancer? Remy has quit the habit, and strongly suggests to all kids that they never start it.
"As President Obama says, I have not been perfect but I've been pretty good," Remy said. "It's very difficult. It's a terrible addiction, and I'm not going to preach to the choir because I didn't like it when people preached to me. We all know what we're doing, we all know, somehow it's going to get you, sooner or later. I would just ask kids never to pick the first one up. Once you pick the first one up, you're screwed. That's all I could ask. I'm not going to preach to people who smoke but for those who don't, for the kids out there, don't pick the first one up. Don't do it. You don't need it."
Although Remy has understandably been more focused on his life then the Red Sox, he did offer a prediction that will warm the hearts of fans who have relied on his insight for two decades.
"I haven't been following that closely, but they're going to be fine," Remy said. "They're going to the playoffs."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.