BOSTON — No way Ryan Dempster was going to miss the Red Sox’s World Series ring ceremony.
Dempster, who stepped away from baseball at the beginning of spring training, returned to Fenway Park on Friday for the Red Sox’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers. Dempster said he didn’t have any sudden urges to take the mound upon returning to his old stomping grounds, but the 36-year-old clearly was thrilled to be back around the guys.
“It’s going to be a special moment, something that you play your whole career for,” Dempster told reporters before the ring ceremony. “Some of the guys in here are lucky enough to already have some (rings). This is going to be a first time for me, so I’m really excited.”
Dempster had an up-and-down 2013 season with Boston, but the veteran right-hander provided valuable innings for a Red Sox rotation that was without Clay Buchholz for a big chunk of the year. There’s a great deal of value in a pitcher like that, especially nowadays, so it was somewhat surprising when the 16-year veteran walked away from the game — and $13 million remaining on his contract — this spring.
“It’s something I’ve done my whole life, so to step away from this and not be playing is different,” Dempster said. “At the same time, the guys have been unbelievable. (Manager John Farrell) and everybody, letting me be around a little bit. … instead of going cold turkey.”
While Dempster acknowledged that it’s “a little weird” being back around the Red Sox while not actually playing, he said he doesn’t have any regrets about his decision to sit out the 2014 season. His retirement — if that’s what it actually is — has given him more time to spend with his kids, and golf trips figure to be a staple in Dempster’s summer plans.
“I’ve done a lot of fun things and I get to be around my kids a whole bunch, which is really cool,” Dempster said. “My son is excited that he still gets to come to the field. That’s the most important thing I think.”
Dempster forever will be recognized as a champion in Boston.