BOSTON -- Though they were in the process of getting revved up for Sunday night's season-opening contest against the Yankees when Pedro Martinez made his surprise appearance on the field for the ceremonial first pitch, the Red Sox still seemed to thoroughly enjoy having their erstwhile ace back at Fenway.
"I just said hi to him before the game, gave him a hug," said Kevin Youkilis, who was a rookie in Martinez's final season in Boston. "It was really cool. I didn't know it was going to happen. When he came out, it was definitely cool to see him here in the ballpark, especially, because when you think of the Boston Red Sox, he's one of the names you'll always think of. It was cool to see him like that. I think, hopefully, some day, he'll retire as a Red Sox."
The case can be made that Martinez was the most dominant starting pitcher in Red Sox history.
"It was pretty cool," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I thought the fans got to show their appreciation, and it was pretty obvious that Pedro was enjoying it, as he should. I thought it was a pretty good idea."
Francona at least got to say hi to the man he gave the ball to in 2004 on Opening Day in his first season as the manager of the Red Sox.
"I just saw him in the dugout, and it was quick," Francona said. "I got to see Pedro when I was down at David [Ortiz's] golf tournament, which was nice. It was a nice visit. It meant a lot to me."
Martinez declined to speak to the media on Sunday night, but he revealed the next day how much it meant to him to be welcomed back to Fenway in such a way. The three-time American League Cy Young Award winner was demonstrative and theatrical to the crowd as he walked in, and even once he got to the mound.
"I was telling everyone, 'I love you,'" Martinez told the Boston Herald. "They're in my heart, and I'm so thankful to God [on Sunday] for allowing me to see the appreciation and things he has done for me and how he has used me. I was so thankful and so happy to God and so thankful to the Red Sox for recognizing me now and not when I've retired or something else had happened."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.