Today is a bittersweet day for me. Kevin Millar signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Now, I’ve been a Red Sox fan since the mid-seventies and that will NEVER change.
There have been many players who won my heart. From Freddie Lynn, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans to Wade Boggs, Steve Lyons and Roger Clemens to Derek Lowe, Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez. They came and went and will always have a place in my heart – but it’s the team I root for when push comes to shove…not the player.
In 2003 I started a website for Kevin Millar. It started as a larky thing…a group of us who post on the Red Sox Fan Forum needed a place we could post pictures because mlb.com suddenly began prohibiting posting photos on the fan forum. Since I had a domain name (a personal one)…I started publishing pictures of our favorite players…and then people started REQUESTING pictures. After a few weeks, I noticed a trend. More people were asking for pictures of Kevin Millar, Todd Walker and Bill Mueller than anyone else. Since I had "adopted" Millar at the beginning of the season, I chose him and started a page for him.
It has morphed into more than I could imagine. Kevin has seen the page, as have many of his friends and family. He even has posted on the guest book. I correspond with his mother and one of his old coaches on a fairly regular basis and every so often one of his brothers or cousins emails me to say ‘hi’ and ‘thanks’.
So many people emailed me to tell me how special Kevin was to them…people who know him and people who found him through the Marlins or the Red Sox (and one fan who had been following him since his days in Portland)! In almost 3 years, I’ve never heard one bad story about him. And I’ve met some amazing people BECAUSE of him.
In September 2003, a woman from the Red Sox Fan Forum suggested the two of us go to a signing where Kevin would be. I had never met her and only knew her as "Booklady", but I figured I didn’t have much to lose, so I agreed. We met and immediately hit it off. We became fast friends. That day we met Kevin Millar and David Ortiz and we saw the chemistry they had together first hand.
That one meeting turned into another meeting of more people from the Red Sox Fan Forum. As of today, there is a group of almost 40 of us. Men and women. We’ve met in person, traveled together and attended many games together. We consider each other friends. There is a smaller bunch of us, around ten of us, who get together every so often for weekends together…we talk baseball, but we have so much else in common as well that baseball isn’t the only thing we discuss. All of us agree on one thing, Kevin Millar was a big part of how and why we became "real" friends.
I know Kevin Millar isn’t the best player to ever grace a baseball field. I know he’ll never be an All-Star, nor will he make it to the Hall of Fame. But Kevin Millar plays baseball because he loves it…not because he wanted money or fame. He made all of Red Sox Nation fall in love with him in 2003…and he was a major reason the Red Sox won it all in 2004. My heart literally aches at knowing he is no longer on the team. And that has never happened with any other player. Kevin is the type of player all players should be like. As long as he doesn’t lose that…he’ll never lose me as a fan.
So I am sad today…because this is the real deal. No rumors, no whisperings on message boards…Kevin is an Oriole. The positives? Kevin has a job. That’s most important. And he’s in Baltimore. On a team I like, a team not likely to do much damage in the AL East, and a team that will be able to use him with fans who will be able to appreciate him for who he is. It’s on the east coast, so following him will be easier (thanks, especially to cable and the internet!).
So even though I’m sad, I’m also quite happy for him. And for the first time in my life, I’ll be rooting for someone against the Red Sox. I’d never root for the Orioles OVER the Sox…but I’ll root for Kevin, even when he plays against them. (Okay, not if it’s an important at bat…two outs, two on, tie score and Kevin is up…but for the average at-bat, I’m cheering for number fifteen!)
It’s an odd feeling…having "a player"…but it’s nice.
So here’s to Kevin Millar. Without him, who knows where the Red Sox would be in the baseball history books right now. He affected my life in so many different ways. Thank you for EVERYTHING Kevin!
Cowboy up (and don’t let us win tonight!).
(Pictures of Kevin, taken by me in March and May of 2005)