Crawford, Adrian excited to make home debut
High-profile acquisitions embrace pressure of playing in Boston
One had played most of his career in the balmy weather of San Diego, his hometown no less. The other had played all of his home games under the roof of Tropicana Field.
But within a 72-hour window in December, everything changed, not just for the Red Sox, but also for their two new stars.
Since Adrian Gonzalez was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Padres and Carl Crawford signed a seven-year, $141 million free-agent deal, the players have had time to mull their new lives in a fishbowl of a baseball market.
But they won't get their first true taste until Friday afternoon, when they experience life in Boston as a member of the Red Sox for the Fenway Park season opener.
There might be some extra tension in the air, as Boston, a top contender in the minds of most prognosticators, had a disappointing opening road trip, going 0-6 through Texas and Cleveland. And the day will also come with all the mania that surrounds every Red Sox-Yankees game, no matter the time of year.
Amid what is sure to be an electric atmosphere, St. Petersburg and San Diego will never feel so far away for the two stars, who will likely get warm ovations during pregame introductions.
"Oh, I'm very excited about it," Crawford said. "I'm looking forward to it -- my first game at Fenway as a Red Sox. It should be really interesting for me and exciting. We'll see how it goes."
Then there is that whole rivalry thing.
"Yeah, that's one of the things you kind of signed up for when you came over here," said Crawford. "I'm really excited to see how that's going to turn out the first time we play against the Yankees."
When you are a high-profile newcomer on the Red Sox, the rivalry is just part of the deal.
"I'm very excited to be here in Boston. And I'm ready to beat the Yanks," Gonzalez said on that December day that he was unveiled at Fenway.
That was the last day that Gonzalez set foot in his new baseball home. But he returns there Friday, ready to set up shop for years to come.
After opening on the road in Texas and Cleveland, Gonzalez and Crawford experienced their first six games with the Red Sox. But the home games are a whole different animal.
Every game is sold out. The media, waves of media, clutter the home clubhouse throughout the pregame hours and the postgame. Every area of the team is scrutinized over 162 games by fans and media, and seemingly the entire region known as Red Sox Nation.
"I believe that when you put those things that you mentioned, it only makes me more excited," Gonzalez said. "It only makes me want to play better every day. Those are the things that we all play for, and you'll see that those are the things that will make me go out there and give it 100 percent like I have my whole career."
That type of culture shock isn't for anyone. But Gonzalez and Crawford seem to have just the type of professional personalities to adapt well to their new surroundings.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein always tries to be as mindful as he can about the market adjustment when he makes acquisitions. Gonzalez is a player he had courted for multiple years before finally landing him.
"I think he's someone who is driven for all the right reasons," Epstein said. "He's not externally motivated. He's not in it for the attention, not in it for the money, not in it for himself. He's driven by his teammates, he's driven to win and he's driven to become one of the best of all time. People who have that type of profile tend to do well in any environment, including the most pressured-filled environments. This is something he wanted."
Because he is protective of his client, it was human nature for agent John Boggs to have at least some concern about Gonzalez going from laid-back San Diego to ultra-intense Boston. But then he remembered exactly who his client is, and immediately put those concerns aside.
"You hear all the pressures that come on a player, but then I just have to check myself and realize we're talking about Adrian, and I think Adrian has the demeanor, the personality, where I don't think that's going to get to him at all," Boggs said. "The competition to Adrian, I think, is a stimulant, and it's something that really gets his competitive juices obviously going.
"I don't think he has real highs and real lows. He's almost kind of in a steady hum. I think it will be a win-win. If you knew anybody who had that best personality to handle this situation, he has the best personality to handle this situation. That's really the long and short."
In fact, both players sort of chuckle at the notion that added pressure is a bad thing. In some ways, they've been craving this.
"I'm definitely ready for that," Crawford said. "That's one thing that attracted me here. You know it's going to be sold out. You know it's going to be exciting. You know there's going to be a lot of screaming and hollering. That's something that gets you up and keeps you going. That was definitely one of the things that attracted me here. Instead of getting booed, they can boo somebody else now."
"Pressure is something you put on yourself," said Gonzalez. "If you were to say that I have pressure, that's your perspective. I'm just going to go out there and have fun and enjoy the fact that it's a packed house and feed off that energy."