Lowell's Monster career comes to an end
Veteran says goodbye to baseball with 2-for-2 game vs. Yanks
BOSTON -- The ball soared off Mike Lowell's bat, and if it had gone maybe three feet higher, his career would have had about the most storybook ending imaginable. But it ended up pretty sweet anyway.
The retiring Lowell belted one high off the Green Monster in the bottom of the fifth inning against Andy Pettitte in Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the Yankees, and manager Terry Francona decided it was a near perfect way for the veteran's career to close.
So Lars Anderson went into to pinch-run. Lowell exited to loud roars from the Fenway faithful and into the dugout, where he was congratulated by teammates. Then it was back out of the dugout for a curtain call. Lowell doffed his cap, essentially ending his baseball career.
"That's a special day for him, and [he] got to end on a hit and kind of walk away getting to tip his cap on his own terms," said Francona. "I thought that was really special. We kind of -- we were on the same page there."
It was the perfect capper on what had already been a magical day for Lowell, who was the object of a classy pregame ceremony. With his emotions still running high from the celebration before the game, Lowell promptly clubbed a two-run double over the head of Nick Swisher in the bottom of the first.
The stat line of Lowell's final game in the Majors was 2-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs in Boston's 6-5 loss in 10 innings.
"I told Tito if I hit a home run, I'm done," said Lowell. "So I was delighted with the first at-bat obviously. But it was pretty fitting for me to hit one [off the Monster]. I think that's a good end -- off the wall, [and] with my wheels, staying at first. I probably just missed it. [There was no need to] push it -- it ended up being a nice day."
Not to mention a nice career.
Lowell started his career as a Yankees prospect, even getting a September callup during New York's 114-48 season of 1998. He was traded to his hometown team, the Florida Marlins, the following year, and stayed there until being traded to the Red Sox prior to the 2006 season. He was a central figure on two World Series championship teams -- the '03 Marlins and the '07 Red Sox.
And at the age of 36, Lowell will retire with a .278 average, 223 homers and 952 RBIs in 1,601 games. He also leaves with the utmost respect from those who played with him.
"The best," said right-hander Tim Wakefield. "He epitomizes professionalism and sets a standard for being a team leader, not only vocally, but through example, and how he prepared himself, and how he played."
The ceremony was one that touched Lowell deeply. His worlds collided, as his parents, wife, two children and teammates -- past and present -- were on hand.
The Marlins sent over a cooler full of stone crabs. The Red Sox gave Lowell a $100,000 check to his foundation, not to mention his own third-base bag, which was extracted from the Fenway playing surface during the ceremony, and also a Fenway Park seat with the No. 25 on it.
The Red Sox were represented by principal owner John W. Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president/CEO Larry Lucchino, Francona and right-hander Josh Beckett. Lowell's former teammates in attendance were catcher Mike Redmond and Alex Cora, two of his best friends in or out of baseball.
"I was very excited, because I think everyone did a good job of keeping me in the dark," said Lowell. "It's easy to say it went well above and beyond what I expected. Bringing in guys like Alex Cora and Mike Redmond was really special. Having all of my teammates out there 30 minutes before a game was really cool. I think that all went way past any plan that I had.
"Since I heard it was going to be like 3:50 [p.m. for a 4:10 p.m. game], I thought maybe it's just going to be a nice thing, shake hands. But it really was something very special. I didn't want to look at my dad or my mom during the [career highlights] video. My dad cries in like a Kraft Cheese commercial, so I didn't want to look at him, because I knew it would get me a little bit. I think speaking towards the end, I really had to get my breath. I didn't want to get choked up. I really wanted to take the time to tell the fans how much that mean to me, these five years, because I think I've gotten a response that's been much more than really I've deserved."
Lowell spoke from the heart to Fenway fans with the following closing line in his speech:
"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 the positive responses I've gotten from Red Sox fans. I think it's your passion and your knowledge for baseball that 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 the 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."
Sure, Lowell would have had the option of a pinch-hitting appearance in Saturday's nightcap, or even a start in Sunday's season finale. But he was content to end it like he did.
"I told Tito, 'I would love to end my career on a base hit,'" Lowell said. "I told him, 'If I get one on my first at-bat, unless it's a home run, it's no big deal.' Then I walked and I got up again and I said, 'If I get a base hit here, 2-for-2, there's no guarantee .., if I go 0-for-3 on Sunday, I had a chance to leave 2-for-2.' I thought it was really nice. Just to get a standing ovation on the last day, that's when it kind of hit me, but I'm glad I didn't have to speak at that time, so that worked out good for me."