The Red Sox may not be in action this October as the American League playoffs get under way, but there’s another Boston sports team eager to use the diamond at Fenway Park. The Celtics, enjoying a rare off-day after opening their preseason schedule this week, took the field at Fenway on Friday afternoon for a leisurely softball game.
“It was a fun day,” Kevin Garnett said. “Beautiful day at Fenway. It was a dream come true, man. I felt like I was 10 years old.”
“That was one of the best days of my life,” added Paul Pierce. “We had a lot of fun. That was a fun day, man. You had to be there to know what I’m talking about.”
The Celtics met up early Friday afternoon and took a team bus over to Fenway, using the bus ride as a chance to pick teams, high school gym class-style. Garnett and Rajon Rondo served as the two team captains. Turns out Rondo was more than a captain — he was the star of the day.
“Rondo was voted the MVP by far,” coach Doc Rivers said. “They said it wasn’t even close. And Jermaine O’Neal they said was terrific, too.”
The other Celtics didn’t fare as well on the diamond. Good thing they’ve got day jobs.
“I probably batted about .100,” Pierce said. “But I was a Gold Glove recipient.”
“I played left field,” said Garnett. “Danny [Ainge] hit a couple to me — some I got, some I didn’t. It was a good day. 50-50. I’ll take it.”
O’Neal was an unlikely hero — coming off of a hamstring injury and having to request a “designated runner” to help him through the game, the Celtics’ center managed to silence his critics and emerge as a softball stud.
“It was a little bit personal for me, because they took me second to last in the draft,” he said. “I wasn’t very happy about that. So I was the first one to take it yard. First at-bat of the game, I took it yard. Probably the longest distance of the day. I felt pretty good about that.”
In addition to being his team’s captain and most valuable player, Rondo was also the organizer of the event. The Celtics’ point guard briefly played high school baseball at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and he was eager to take the field this week and show off his skills on the diamond.
“Rondo wanted it,” Rivers said. “Rondo asked me before camp, and we couldn’t do it because guys weren’t in town. But he asked me again on Monday. It was all Rondo’s deal. It was great. He asked me on Monday, we made a call, and the Red Sox were great to us. They gave us the field, and the guys went out and played. It was terrific.
“It was great the Red Sox gave us the stadium. That was phenomenal.”
With the start of the regular season now less than three weeks away, the Celtics are working hard to establish team chemistry with what little free time they have. The C’s have brought in a lot of new faces and a lot of personalities, but events like this one have brought the team together in no time.
“This is a close-knit group,” Pierce said. “With the personalities we’ve got, it’s all team chemistry, it’s all team bonding, and it’s fun, man. We’ve got a great group of guys, and that’s why we do things like that. From top to bottom, everybody likes one another. It’s fun when we do things like that, because it builds our chemistry and our team bonding.”
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Garnett added. “I think the more you do together, the more activities you have together, the more you get to know one another, the more one-on-ones you have with each other, I think it sort of eases the competitive drive that we’re used to playing with against each other, and we can come together for this common goal. So far, so good with that.”