Red Sox expect much from D.C. trip
Visit with injured troops to follow meeting with President Bush
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This plane ride the Red Sox are taking on Wednesday following an abbreviated workout is not your average field trip. The defending World Series champions will be honored in unison for the first time since their championship parade when they go to the White House for a visit with President George W. Bush.
Then, there will be a perspective-filled journey to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is also in Washington, D.C.
The remaining members of the Boston's 2004 World Series champions still remember well the thrill of standing on the lawn at the White House. They also recall the chills they got from visiting with the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed.
"It will be fun to go to the White House again," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "It's always a trip you like to make because you know you won. But going to Walter Reed Hospital, that was interesting, seeing some of those soldiers who were coming back from the war and injured, and it's definitely something that puts your life in perspective. You realize that you get to play baseball for a living, while other guys are giving up their bodies and lives to be able to play."
For many members of the 2007 Red Sox, this will be the first visit to the White House and Walter Reed.
The way center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury looks at it, this visit to Washington, D.C., is just another example of how surreal his life has been since his rise from September callup to World Series hero.
"I'm definitely excited to go," said Ellsbury. "It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many people get to go and meet the president. This should be fun."
Ellsbury has heard enough from his veteran teammates to get an idea of what to expect at Walter Reed.
"Eye-opener," said Ellsbury. "That will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I just have a lot of respect and am very grateful for what they've done. It will be a good trip. Without baseball, I wouldn't have had the opportunity."
For the injured Curt Schilling, the trip to the White House figures to be the highlight of Spring Training. Schilling has long been a supporter of President Bush, and he's also deeply interested in military matters. The right-hander can still recall the trip to Walter Reed back in 2005 in vivid detail.
"You always hear 'hero' or 'superstar,' all those words people use for athletes, then you stand in a room of heroes and superstars," Schilling told the Hartford Courant. "They're double-amputees, 19-, 20-year-old kids, and it's just another perspective-giving event in life that you never, ever forget."
Sox center fielder Coco Crisp hardly fashions himself as a photographer. But he realizes the need to make Wednesday's field trip a keepsake afternoon. What will Crisp say to Mr. President?
"I'm not going to say anything except maybe, 'Can I take a picture?'" Crisp said. "Just enjoy it -- it's going to be exciting. A couple of people called me yesterday. My cousin and my grandfather said, 'Have a safe trip and have fun.' My dad said, 'Take some pictures.'"
Though manager Terry Francona is a creature of habit -- skipping even the most minor drill of Spring Training isn't something he typically enjoys -- he has an appreciation of what will occur on Wednesday.
"It was humbling, and it was an honor to be there," Francona said of the last trip to Walter Reed. "You're talking about the end of a day, we're moving, we're getting on a plane, and I didn't hear one person say, 'Hey, let's go.' Everyone wanted to stay and talk. It was an interesting experience. I've heard a lot of the veteran guys telling the younger guys, 'Hey, this is what you'll remember about this trip.'"
As for the White House, this will be Francona's second visit in the past five weeks. Francona and World Series Most Valueble Player Mike Lowell were recently guests of President Bush at a dinner.
"That was a fun night -- that was a really fun night," Francona said. "We had dinner, we had conversation [with President Bush]. That was really cool. Got to go to the Oval Office."
This trip will have too large a traveling party to get such access, but the Red Sox are nonetheless looking forward to the day.
"I'm extremely excited," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's a great opportunity for the guys that didn't go there in '05. I'm thrilled, and I can't wait to see what's going on over there."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.