Commentary

Not everyone booed Ellsbury

In Fenway Park bleachers, center fielder's fans' broken hearts are slow to heal

Updated: April 23, 2014, 2:46 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Sean Wilshere has been coming to Fenway Park for 20 years, ever since he was a kid growing up in Dorchester, and has sat in Section 35, Row 1, of the center-field bleachers plenty of times. So he knows he shouldn't have done it.

But when Jacoby Ellsbury launched the third pitch of Tuesday night's game between the Red Sox and Yankees on a long, arcing path in his direction -- and right where UConn's national basketball champs were just taking their seats -- Wilshere said he couldn't help himself. He was the guy wearing the Bobby Orr No. 4 Bruins jersey who leaned far over the wall in an attempt to catch Ellsbury's drive. It struck him in his left arm.

Umpire Phil Cuzzi immediately signaled fan interference. Ellsbury was awarded a ground-rule triple, and shortly thereafter Wilshere found himself on Ipswich Street, having been escorted off the premises by a Red Sox security guard.

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Gordon Edes Sean Wilshere, the fan who interfered with Jacoby Ellsbury's first-inning triple and was promptly escorted from the ballpark, said he knew he was in the wrong, but added: "I'm ticked off. I should have caught it."

Wilshere, a general contractor who works for a firm in Brookline, offered no resistance. He knew he was in the wrong. But you have to understand, he said afterward, there was a little history involved.

"I was the last one to say goodbye to Jacoby last year, too,'' he claimed. "I was. I told him, 'Jacoby, we know you're not coming back. Good riddance, goodbye.'

"I'm ticked off. I should have caught it. I had it all planned. I was going to give it to Shabazz [Napier] of UConn. He was right behind me.''

No ball for Shabazz. An early exit for Wilshere ("Oh well, I'll go home and watch the Bruins''). A big return to Boston for Ellsbury, who later doubled and scored two runs in his first game here as a Yankee after seven seasons of entertaining Sox fans with the kind of speed and athleticism rarely seen in a Boston uniform.

The pinstriped version heard more boos than cheers when he was announced. Many of the folks sitting out in the bleachers behind him expected as much. A few had other ideas. Tom Albano of Springfield rose to his feet when Ellsbury was introduced. "Two world championships they wouldn't have won without him,'' Albano said. "My favorite Ellsbury moment? His steal of home, which I think was everybody's favorite moment. And that great diving catch he made in the '07 World Series.''

"I'm going to clap for him,'' Gay Thomas of Oxford said before the game. "He was my No. 1 favorite from the time he arrived, and I followed him all the way through. I liked that he was a Native American.''

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Gordon Edes/ESPNMike and Kaitlyn Petto of New Boston, N.H., said they kept her Ellsbury jersey tucked away at home. "I found out on my birthday that he was going to the Yankees," she said. "Worst birthday ever."

But for every expression of admiration and appreciation, there were the tales of woe. For people like Elisa Vargas, who works at nearby Boston University, this was personal.

"I was heartbroken,'' she said. "The day he signed with the Yankees, I wrote on my Facebook, 'Divorce isn't easy.' Everybody who knew me knew I loved Jacoby, so they knew I was heartbroken. I woke up to text messages saying he'd signed with the Yankees.''

Ellsbury wasn't one to interact with fans in the bleachers, unlike Johnny Damon. "Johnny, it was like having a little lovefest out here,'' said Robin Stewart of Arlington, who estimates she has seen the Sox play in person close to a thousand times.

"Jacoby, he had a lot of mannerisms. He'd take his cap off on certain pitch counts, he'd walk around, he'd do things depending on how many outs there were. But he wouldn't look back.''

But Vargas recalled the time she scored tickets a few rows from the Sox dugout and had her moment with Ellsbury.

"Every time he walked by, I would harass him -- in a very loving way,'' Vargas said. "It was his birthday in 2009. I brought a 'Happy Birthday' sign. He said thank you. I yelled, 'I love you.' He waved at me. And I brought another sign -- 'Jacoby stole my heart.' He acknowledged me. That made my love stronger. But now it's like ..."

Let Catherine Tofil of New Jersey tell you what it's like. She'd come to the game with Andrew Smith, a Toronto native with whom she'd just finished medical school on St. Kitts and Nevis, and don't be fooled by their good natures and easy smiles.

"I was going to run down to the front row to let him know exactly how I felt,'' she said. "I'll still let him know.''

Smith was a little more forgiving, though he had an ulterior motive: On the second round of his fantasy-league draft, he'd picked Ellsbury.

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Gordon Edes/ESPNSox fans Mike Barbosa of Sharon, Mass., and Jennifer O'Neil of northern Virginia had different feelings about Ellsbury's departure. "He broke my heart," said Barbosa. "He pulled a Damon," said O'Neil.

This was not all gender-driven, either.

"He broke my heart,'' said Mike Barbosa of Sharon, Mass. "But at least [Shane] Victorino comes back tomorrow.''

Barbosa was sitting with Jennifer O'Neil, who had come up from northern Virginia for the game. She'd long admired Ellsbury, but for her it was pretty cut and dry.

"He pulled a Damon,'' she said, referring to another former Sox center-fielder who had cast his fortune with the Yankees.

Mike and Kaitlyn Petto had come down from New Boston., N.H., for the game. Mike Petto, who had watched the '75 and '86 World Series with his father, had given Kaitlyn an Ellsbury jersey as a gift. She wasn't about to wear it Wednesday night.

"I found out on my birthday that he was going to the Yankees,'' she said. "Worst birthday ever."

It's not as if these feelings won't have time to marinate, either. Ellsbury is signed to play for the next seven seasons for the Yankees.

Still, there were no hard feelings from Mamoru Iguchi of Brookline ("Call me Itchy"), who, like his friend Robin Stewart, has been coming to Fenway for years.

But Iguchi has gone where few Sox fans have dared. He has openly showed affection for a Yankee (although most everybody in New England made an exception last year for Mariano Rivera).

"I loved Bernie Williams,'' Iguchi said. "Class act. I've had beer thrown at me for defending Bernie Williams.''

And then there's always a Yankee fan around who is more than willing to put the whole thing in perspective. In this case, it was 15-year-old Jermaine Colon of Boston, whose family of Yankee fans took up a good portion of one row.

Colon came to the game wearing a T-shirt. The front reads, "Hey Red Sox, Reflect on This." Turn around, and it reads, "Go ahead... Take Your Time" -- with a picture of 27 Series rings, stacked three deep.

Imagine how much love there will be here for Ellsbury if he adds to that number.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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