Friday, May 3, 2013
Red Sox's Napoli can still hear chants
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Napoli appeared on Fitzsimmons and Durrett on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM on Friday morning and made it clear again that the best two years of his career came with the Texas Rangers.
The question is will they still be after this season?
In case you missed it, Napoli is pounding the baseball for the Boston Red Sox just like he did in the second half of the 2011 season and into the playoffs and World Series with the Rangers.
Napoli leads the majors with 21 extra base hits, 14 doubles and 31 RBIs. In Boston's 10-1 victory Wednesday, Napoli pounded home runs of 472 and 467 feet at Toronto's Rogers Centre. One of them handed where a fan was eating dinner.
A free agent after last season, Napoli didn't want to leave the Rangers, but he wanted more than a two-year offer on his next contract. He ended up picking Boston twice, first after a three-year offer that he accepted, then a one-year, $5 million base that the Red Sox guaranteed him after a hip condition was discovered during his physical.
Napoli said Thursday morning that's it worked out because signing with the Red Sox has allowed him to play first base, which has helped him deal with his hip. The Rangers wanted him to catch as well as play first.
"Boston with me being able to play first base every day and not being behind the plate, with my hip and physically how I was, it was just a better decision for me," Napoli said on Fitzsimmons and Durrett.
No one with the Rangers is surprised with Napoli's hot streak to start the season, beginning with his manager, Ron Washington.
He saw it firsthand in Texas.
"Napoli is streaky," Washington said. "The good thing about Nap is he is comfortable. He wasn't comfortable here. I don't why because of all of the injuries. But when he's comfortable, he's dangerous. He can hit the ball to all fields. When he was struggling for us last year, he couldn't hit the ball to the opposite field."
The anticipation is Napoli will get a warm reception Friday night at Rangers Ballpark, unlike Josh Hamilton, who was booed loudly on his return with the Angels.
Napoli, as he always does, said nothing but good things about the Rangers, their fans, the Metroplex, you name it while on with Fitzsimmons and Durrett. It's the same things he told the Boston media this week in anticipation of his return home.
Napoli was asked for his favorite moment on Thursday's show, and he hesitated for a moment, surprisingly not picking his game-winning double in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series at Rangers Ballpark that gave the Rangers a 3-2 series lead over St. Louis.
"That was a great moment," Napoli said, and then focused on a playoff game against Tampa Bay. "When they first started doing the Napoli chant that against James Shields and Tampa Bay. It was pretty cool. I was shocked, 'I was like you guys can't be doing this to me.' It was a key situation. It was something I'll never forget.
"I think about it all the time, it was 50,000 people screaming my name. It was so loud. It was a great moment."
Rangers' fans most certainly will be chanting again when Napoli steps to the plate for the first time Friday night, even as a member of the Red Sox.