Nixon makes Fenway return

Nixon makes Fenway return

BOSTON -- You can take Trot Nixon out of Boston, but the Boston years can never be taken away from Nixon. That became overwhelmingly evident when the right fielder returned to his old digs -- Fenway Park -- with his new team (the Cleveland Indians) on Monday.

Nixon brought his pine-tar soaked hat and blue collar intensity back home on Memorial Day. Wearing No. 33 (son Chase suggested it to match his age) instead of the familiar No. 7 he wore as Boston's everyday right fielder for eight seasons, Nixon was given nothing short of a hero's welcome.

When public address announcer Carl Beane introduced Nixon during the starting lineups, the Fenway faithful stood up and applauded. They did so again when Nixon went back to his familiar post in right field in the bottom of the first inning.

And when Nixon stepped to the plate against Curt Schilling in the top of the second, his familiar introduction song of choice -- "Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash -- accompanied the loud and long ovation. Nixon belted Schilling's 1-1 pitch for a line single to right. And in a best-case scenario for Red Sox fans, Nixon did not score and Boston went on to win the game, 5-3.

"It was great to see him," Schilling said. "This is such an incredible city and they remember their own. He will always be born and raised a Red Sox, regardless of where he finishes his career, and it was nice to see them acknowledge that."

Though Nixon has long been known for his fire -- he used to answer to the moniker of "Volcano" -- the right fielder let his guard down long enough to savor he warm welcome.

"It's great to be back here and see a lot of people I've been close to for so many years," said Nixon. "I could spend all day naming all the names. Try to keep things in the perspective where I have an obligation to the Indians, just like I had an obligation for eight or nine years with the Red Sox."

If this day wasn't in bold highlight on Nixon's calendar, you can bet it was at least circled.

"I've been looking forward to coming back here for some time," said Nixon. "I've got a lot of friends, a lot of special guys over there that I've been through a lot with."

A homegrown product of the Red Sox -- general manager Lou Gorman's regime selected him in the first round of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft -- Nixon made his mark with clutch hits and all-out hustle. He cemented it by being on the 25-man roster of the first Red Sox team to win a World Series in 86 years.

And Nixon left Boston on good terms following last season. Nixon's durability had failed him the last three years, and the Red Sox opted for a five-tool replacement in J.D. Drew.

Even after winter back surgery, Nixon found a very appealing new home in Cleveland, where a talented core of players looks primed to make a run at the postseason.

When the Indians and Red Sox converged on the field between batting practice rounds, the expected hug-fest took place between Nixon and several of his former teammates.

"He's a total baseball player," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "If you're going to get a team together and you have one game to play and you want guys who give it their all and scrap, that's the guy you want. You want to bring him to the table when you have to scrap out hits and make plays on defense."

What did manager Terry Francona appreciate most about Nixon?

"The way he approached the game," Francona said. "His willingness to try to run through the wall, even sometimes when he'd probably hit it and bounce off and get hurt. He'd play hurt. He's down and dirty. You saw the pine tar and the helmet and his hat was always wrinkled up in his back pocket. He's kind of a throwback."

Nixon's work in Boston was hardly limited to what he did on the field.

Roughly 10 minutes before the first pitch, Nixon and wife Kathryn, standing in the grass area behind home plate, were presented with the 2007 Jimmy Fund Award. It was a tribute to the many years of service the Nixons' gave to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Red Sox owner John W. Henry and Francona both took part in the ceremony.

As the roars came thundering down from the sold-out crowd and a video tribute marking Trot Nixon's on- and off-field work in Boston was played on the scoreboard, Kathryn Nixon's eyes welled up with tears.

Trot Nixon simply smiled and took in the moment. There was still a baseball game to be played.

"I was spoiled for my entire career to play in this type of atmosphere, sellouts every night. I was spoiled," said Nixon. "Having the opportunity to win and have a winning record every season, I'm very fortunate. Even when we had our time in the playoffs, the biggest thing you want to do is take some of it in. At times, when we won [in 2004], you didn't take it all in."

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