The way Jacoby Ellsbury sees it, being a part of the Red Sox can be considered the first chapter of his baseball career. Joining forces with the Yankees will be the second.
Ellsbury’s second chapter began when he signed a seven-year, $153 million dollar contract with New York in December but it didn’t officially begin until Thursday when he faced the Red Sox for the first time.
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“As a young kid, if you’d tell me I’d play for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, I’d say that’s pretty special,” Ellsbury said. “I look at the time in Boston as the first part of my career and I’m with the New York Yankees, this is the second part of my career. So I couldn’t ask for two better organizations to play for and I’m excited for the opportunity this year and for the future.”
Ellsbury’s time with the Red Sox began in 2005 when he was a first-round draft pick out of Oregon State. He joined the Red Sox two years later and batted .353 in 33 regular-season games and then .438 in the four-game World Series sweep of Colorado.
Ellsbury played seven seasons with the Red Sox, and appeared in 743 regular-season and postseason games.
“I think of the championships,” Ellsbury said. “I think of the fans. I think of the great memory of the people I met in Boston that I’m going to continually have lifelong friendships with, the ups and downs through the seasons we had, but a lot of great memories I take away and it was all positive. I’m definitely blessed that I could play in that organization and I’ve been given a chance.”
Ellsbury is the latest former Red Sox to make the switch to the Yankees. Recent players changing sides include Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkillis, Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs. Luis Tiant changed sides in the 1970s and Babe Ruth was famously among several players sold to the Yankees by ownership Harry Frazee in the 1920s.
The comparisons to Damon might be the most relevant since both are left-handed hitting center fielders with a similar combination of speed and power.
“There are some comparables but I know it’s been done before,” Ellsbury said. “It’s not just Johnny, it’s not myself, it’s a lot of guys. I feel blessed to play for the Red Sox and I feel blessed to play here to be part of that rivalry and I’m excited for the seven years I have here.”
Ellsbury has not yet received his championship ring but has heard about it and saw clips of the visit to the White House highlighted by David Ortiz taking a selfie with President Barack Obama.
“I got a few messages from the guys congratulating me on the ring,” Ellsbury said. “They said it was awesome, exact words. They were excited. I got the message from them when they went to the White House basically letting me know that you’re a part of this and congratulations.”
Many believe a reason the Red Sox won that ring stemmed from motivation after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. The Red Sox adopted “Boston Strong” as their motto, which Ellsbury reflected on as the first anniversary approaches.
“It was so tragic,” Ellsbury said. “I think of all the families. My wife, she’s run the marathon. Just a day that when it happened, as players we tried to do everything we could to put a smile on someone’s face, try to help the city in any way that’s possible.
“As baseball players we felt obligated to go out and play as well as we could and put on a good show for that region, the city of Boston [and] the fans. Going to hospitals talking to victims they were excited to see us do well and that put a smile on our face and I think that drove us that much more to succeed last year just to do something special.”
Ellsbury will return to Fenway Park for the first time next week.
“That’s the reason I love this rivalry,” Ellsbury said. “The passion that the fans have. I haven’t thought about too much just because whatever reception I receive will be out of my hands. But I gave that organization everything I had. Every time I stepped out on that field, I gave them everything I had, left it out there and I know the time I was there, they respected that. They liked the way I played, the way I went about my business. So we’ll see what happens. I’m sure there’ll be two different receptions for me — tonight’s game and when I head up to Boston.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.