Mueller a hit in return to Fenway
Former Red Sox and '04 playoff hero tosses out first pitch
BOSTON -- As if clear skies and mild temperatures weren't enough, baseball's blissful return to Boston brought another happy surprise Saturday.
Bill Mueller threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Fenway Park shook as Mueller, whose 406-game Boston career might be best remembered for his critical game-tying hit off New York's Mariano Rivera in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, stepped onto the infield grass and delivered an easy strike to former teammate Doug Mirabelli.
"I'm not a big flyer," Mueller said. "I don't like to do things in the offseason. But when [the Red Sox] said, 'Hey, do you want to come out here and throw the first pitch in a playoff game?' I was extremely excited."
Mueller waved his hand to the Boston crowd as he left the field. Looking cleaner-shaven than he did in his Red Sox days and wearing a slick Los Angeles-style hairdo, he had no trouble being recognized. Only in Boston would a current employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers front office look as comfortable as Mueller did in his old No. 11 Red Sox jersey.
"[It was] awesome," Mueller said. "I mean, it's one of the best -- it's probably the best spot that I played as a player. ... The enthusiasm, the emotion, the group of guys that I was with, the staff, the front office -- everyone treated me first class. It's just a wonderful organization to be a part of."
Mueller was only recently rehired in the Dodgers' front office as a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti. He started the 2007 season in the same position, retiring after 11 seasons due to knee surgery, but replaced Eddie Murray as Dodgers hitting coach in June.
Saturday's appearance, Mueller said, was his first appearance on a pitcher's mound since just September, when he threw bunting practice to Los Angeles' Juan Pierre.
"That was the last time," he laughed.
He told the assembled media that he enjoyed his return to the field, but ultimately aspired to a front-office future.
"At the time, it was nice to be able to fill in," Mueller said. "But you know, I don't think that's going to be quite where I'm going to go, as of right now."
Would he manage?
"I don't know about that," he replied, with a sly smile.
After talking about his future, Mueller happily delved into his past.
His favorite memory in Boston?
The recent FOX television promo, in which Kevin Millar happily reminded fans of his walk before Mueller's hit?
"Great," Mueller said. "That's Millar. I love it."
The pressure of Fenway Park?
"There's always pressure," Mueller said. "It's anywhere. ... But it's always nice to have a little external [pressure], because it might rise you up even further than you thought you might rise up."
"That's kind of what happened to me," he added. "I played better than I ever played in my life when I came here."
Red Sox fans noticed, and showed their appreciation on Saturday.
One fan, 17-year-old Greg King, dug into his closet for the occasion. The Bill Mueller jersey T-shirt that he wore looked a bit faded, but remained eerily relevant.
"I just loved the way he played," King said.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.