Boston Red Sox fans love players who play hard, play well and play with personality.
Pablo Sandoval checks all the boxes.
Sandoval was a fan favorite during his seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants. The third baseman’s popularity could reach new heights in Boston, as Kung Fu Panda joined the Red Sox this season with both a championship pedigree and a deep appreciation for what ultimately matters in professional sports.
“This game is for the fans,” Sandoval said Saturday at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “You have to treat them and love them the way you want to do. Respect of the fans is one of the things that I have in my mind. Especially on a new team, you have to respect them and show that you love the game to play hard for them.”
Sandoval appeared to have a blast while interacting with Red Sox fans at Foxwoods, as Baseball Winter Weekend marked his first opportunity to really embrace his new home. The 28-year-old started his Saturday by seeing snow in person for the first time, and the smile still hadn’t left his face by the time he spoke with reporters covering the event.
“It’s great. It’s one of the greatest moments,” Sandoval said of mingling with Red Sox Nation. “You can spend time with them one-on-one. It’s a moment you share with them. I love it. I love to be a part of this because normally fans don’t know who you are outside the field, so this is time you can show them all the things you can do for them.”
The Red Sox already are well aware of what Sandoval can do for them on the field. It’s why they made him a top priority this offseason and signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract in free agency. But Sandoval, a two-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, likely will bring more to the table than a hot bat and an underrated glove. He’s a very marketable player whose larger-than-life personality could captivate Boston.
“One thing that we spend a lot of time at is understanding the person behind the player,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday at the team’s annual Town Hall. “They’re driven by their personal pride and their motivation to succeed as a player.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re out for themselves. But I think our guys recognize that when you win as a team, that’s what creates a common bond among the group of guys that go out and achieve something.”
Sandoval achieved so much during his time in San Francisco. The Giants also made an aggressive push to re-sign the beloved slugger. It’s reasonable to wonder why Sandoval left behind something so special, but his decision ultimately boiled down to wanting a new challenge. He’ll certainly find one in Boston.
“I did a lot of things out there,” Sandoval said. “I wanted to try something new.”
The Panda already is embracing Boston. It likely won’t be long before Boston embraces The Panda.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images