Greenwell returns to 'family'

Greenwell returns to 'family'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Greenwell walked into a somewhat informal press conference at City of Palms Park on Tuesday and sat with a replica of the Green Monster at his back. Call it an eerie feeling for the man who patrolled left field at Fenway Park on a full-time basis from 1987-96.

"It's been a while since I bounced off of that thing," said Greenwell as he walked past the fake Monster to get into his seat.

Greenwell will be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in November and threw out the first pitch before Boston's exhibition game against the Mets on Tuesday.

It was fitting that it was Tim Wakefield's day to pitch. Wakefield is the only remaining Boston player who played with Greenwell, the sweet-swinging lefty who produced a career average of .303.

"It's great to see him and his family again," said Wakefield. "It's a nice honor for the Red Sox to do that for him. It's well deserved."

Greenwell threw that first pitch to Sox legend Jim Rice, the man he replaced in left field all those years ago.

Though Greenwell has lived in Fort Myers for years, Tuesday marked his return to the Red Sox family.

Bitter at the way things ended with the Red Sox under the regime of then-general manager Dan Duquette, Greenwell withdrew from the only Major League organization he played for.

"It's fun because you feel like you're back in the organization again," Greenwell said. "It's been a long time. I haven't been back to Fenway Park since the day I retired. ... I've always felt like I've had Red Sox blood in me."

It was another former Boston general manager -- Lou Gorman -- who recently informed Greenwell he would be going into the Sox Hall of Fame along with teammate Mo Vaughn and others after the 2008 season.

"It was exciting," said Greenwell. "To hear from Lou Gorman and hear his voice again, that was kind of neat. Definitely exciting for me. I joked with Lou and said, 'What, did you all run out of people?'"

Though Greenwell's career ended abruptly at the age of 34, he had some memorable years.

As a rookie in 1987, Greenwell hit .328 with 19 homers and 89 RBIs in just 412 at-bats. The following year, he finished second to Jose Canseco in the race for American League Most Valuable Player, hitting .325 with 22 homers and 119 RBIs.

Injuries robbed him of being that productive again, but Greenwell is proud of his career. Canseco has admitted many times that he did steroids the year he beat Greenwell out for MVP. And Greenwell also wonders if Mark McGwire, who topped him for the Rookie of the Year Award in '87, might have done the same.

"If you look back, the guys that finished in front of me, we would all have doubts," Greenwell said. "I'm a player that easily put up numbers that you look at and think, 'I could have won the MVP and the Rookie of the Year back-to-back years.' [If that happened], you're looking at a different person sitting here, aren't you? You really are. You're looking at a guy that did something that's unbelievable. But the guys that finished ahead of me, I wonder."

But Greenwell also made it clear he's at peace with playing at a time when players started using performance-enhancing drugs. He doesn't feel it's his job to judge them.

"To be honest with you, I don't blame the guys," said Greenwell. "I understand the pressure. I was very tempted myself, because I understood the pressure to perform."

Why didn't Greenwell succumb to those pressures?

"The truth? My wife's a nurse and basically told me she'd kill me if she caught me doing them," said Greenwell.

No player is under more suspicion regarding steroid use these days than Roger Clemens, a man Greenwell was very close to when they were teammates.

Greenwell's thoughts on the Rocket and his current plight?

"First of all, [he was the] hardest worker I ever met in my life, period -- in sports and out of sports," said Greenwell. "He would blow me away on how much he worked. Really, that's the bottom line for me. Do I know or think or have an idea whether he did do any of that stuff? I really don't. I don't have any idea. My thought is no, because he's such a hard worker, he wouldn't do that.

"But then when you watch the hearings and you see the things going on, it does cast doubt. I certainly hope that people don't judge his career on that. I think that's a shame."

When it comes to his own life, Greenwell has few complaints. He is fully retired now after being involved with real estate for many years.

His amusement park in Fort Myers is still in business, but Greenwell's brother is running it.

Greenwell is a very proud father these days, as his son, Bo, is a prospect with the Cleveland Indians.

Just as his son tries to reach the Major Leagues, Greenwell is reuniting with the team he played with for so long.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.