Byline: Jennifer Toland
BOSTON - It was as if Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek really never left.
The longtime former Red Sox knuckleball pitcher and catcher, who both announced their retirements this offseason, were back at Fenway Park yesterday to throw out ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day.
Like many Opening Day honorees before them, Wakefield and Varitek, wearing their old Red Sox uniform jerseys, emerged from behind a giant American flag that covered the Green Monster. The pair, which helped the Red Sox to two World Series championships, received a thunderous ovation as they walked across the field and to the pitcher's mound.
"It was very emotional for both of us," Wakefield said. "Standing behind the flag and reminiscing about our time together - being able to share the day is really special."
Wakefield and Varitek visited the Red Sox clubhouse before the game and wished their former teammates good luck. It worked. The Red Sox beat the Rays, 12-2.
It might have been more fitting for Varitek to catch the first pitch from Wakefield, but Varitek said the team decided it wanted them both throwing a ball, so Jim Rice and Dwight Evans were behind the plate instead.
The 45-year-old Wakefield announced his retirement in mid-February after 19 major league seasons, 17 with the Red Sox. He spent much of last season in pursuit of his 200th career win, which he eventually got on Sept. 13. He finished with 186 wins for the Red Sox, six shy of the club record shared by Roger Clemens and Cy Young.
Varitek, who turned 40 Wednesday, retired a couple weeks after Wakefield. Varitek caught four no-hitters during his 15 seasons with the Red Sox and finished with a .256 career batting average. He played in just 107 games over the last two seasons.
Varitek said the last month and a half has been a time of adjustment. "I don't know if it's all sunk in yet," he said. He said he watched Boston's first game of the year in Detroit on TV in its entirety.
"I sat down and didn't move," Varitek said. "I wanted to see it...