Millar makes himself at home
Former Red Sox and current Oriole throws out first pitch
BOSTON -- For a different person in a different city, Sunday night's first pitch might have qualified as a certifiable, if ceremonial, "uncomfortable position."
But current Baltimore Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar never had an uncomfortable moment in his life, certainly not when the Boston fans -- who embraced him and never let go, even after his three-year Red Sox stint ended in January 2006 -- were involved.
"It's definitely a little funny," said Millar on Sunday, undoubtedly the first active divisional opponent to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park. "Most of the time, it's usually a retired person or a famous person or an actor."
Millar "retired" from the Red Sox after the 2005 season, signing a one-year contract with the Orioles, and then re-upping last December. He's certainly famous, judging by the fawning fans, many of them female, who packed the first two rows behind the home dugout while he held court with the media during batting practice.
"He's adorable!" shouted one.
An actor? Millar appeared on national television before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Indians. In a recorded pregame promo for FOX, he urged Red Sox fans to "Get off the Tobin Bridge" and "Cowboy Up!"
"I gave them the ol' wrestling script," said Millar on Sunday. "Gave them about 20 seconds of just yelling out a bunch of stuff."
"I didn't see it," he added with a laugh. "I was flying."
According to Millar, the Red Sox first contacted Orioles president Andy MacPhail about the planned ceremony. Only after receiving permission did Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino invite Millar over the phone.
There was some initial hesitation about throwing the first pitch, Millar said. But then he learned that former teammate Bill Mueller would be doing the same before Game 6 on Saturday night.
"Boom," Millar said. "All right, I'm in."
"I don't get it," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona in his pregame press conference. "This is another one of those things where [Millar] can pull it off. He's a member of the Baltimore Orioles, he's going to be spurring on the Red Sox and nobody is going to say a word. He'll probably bring the house down. I don't get it. I love it, but I don't get it. It's Millar.
"The whole place will be coming down," Francona added. "It's hilarious."
"If you worry about that stuff, I don't worry about that stuff," Millar said. "I have fun, I live for the moment. I don't worry about what people think, what people say. As long as Mr. MacPhail and everybody was OK with it, it's all in fun. I'm throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park."
And he didn't stop there. For nearly half an hour during batting practice, Millar entertained the baseball media in front of the home dugout. He even agreed to read the Red Sox's Game 7 lineup for the FOX cameras.
It was about then that the home team disembarked, jogging back toward the home clubhouse and yielding the field to the visiting Indians. Tim Wakefield wore a bemused expression as he came to recognize the familiar face. Manny Ramirez shouted something inaudible at the former Sox first baseman over the roar of the fans. Doug Mirabelli saw Millar reading for the cameras, then cupped his hands and howled, "Suck in the gut!"
"That's the tough part," Millar said, "to take all the stuff and the abuse that you get from your friends and teammates. But that's all part of it. I dish out a lot, so I deserve a lot."
He embraced Mirabelli after he finished with the FOX cameras, one of the many hugs he dispensed on Sunday -- to general manager Theo Epstein and to owner John Henry, among others.
"Doug's catching me, so I'm going to try to throw as hard as I can," Millar said.
After talking to the media, he craned his neck to look up at the fans, then couldn't help but begin signing. The first item: a red cowboy boot, which a woman claimed to have owned and worn since 2004. He agreed to the request, then paused.
"You got a hundred dollar bill up there?" he joked.
At 8:15 p.m. ET, his moment under the lights arrived. He wore his own black cowboy boots, dark jeans and a garish long-sleeve shirt, adorned across the back with angel wings and gothic letters that spelled, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodies," Latin for "Who is to guard the guards themselves," which was likely less a political statement than a bizarre fashion statement. He took long steps to the mound. Then he lobbed a high fastball to Mirabelli.
The crowd thundered its appreciation. Camera flashes popped across the Fenway grandstands.
"Great city," Millar said. "Great place. ... It doesn't matter what happens to the [2004 World Series-winning] team, and just that whole group we had for three years. It was a blast."
"So no matter what team you play for, no matter what time or frame you're in, this is always a part of your life, and a part of your heart," he added. "That's why I'm here today."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.