Nomar makes return to Fenway with A's

Nomar returns to Fenway with A's

BOSTON -- Were A's infielder Nomar Garciaparra a less than gracious man, he could very well go all Ron Burgundy on anyone he comes across in New England.

He's kind of a big deal here. To say the least.

That much was made abundantly clear several times Monday, Garciaparra's first day back at Fenway Park since he was traded from the Red Sox to the Cubs in a blockbuster, multiteam deal on July 31, 2004.

The first sign: The audio feed from Garciaparra's packed pregame news conference was piped out onto Yawkey Way so the fans who turn the street into a pregame party zone could listen in.

Another: After Garciaparra took ground balls at shortstop with Oakland teammate Orlando Cabrera, who replaced Garciaparra as Boston's shortstop after the aforementioned trade, his jog to the visitors' dugout -- and his emergence from, bat in hand -- was met with wild cheering from a throng of fans in various versions of Garciaparra's No. 5 Boston jersey.

And then there was this: As Garciaparra, who got a rare start at designated hitter, strode to the plate for his second-inning at-bat, Fenway Park erupted in adulation, a lengthy standing ovation serving as the reception for which he'd expressed hope during his news conference.

"I don't know what to expect," he said. "I hope it's great."

It was probably even greater than Garciaparra had hoped. It seemed to last forever -- long enough for him to take off his batting helmet and do a slow, standing 360 to acknowledge the cheers coming from every corner of the stadium before patting his heart with his right hand and then clapping along with the fans.

As was the case at one point during the news conference, Garciaparra, 35, appeared to have tears in his eyes as the crowd provided some form of closure; the Red Sox were on the road when his 11-year tenure with the organization came to an end.

"I didn't get a chance to thank them," he said of the Fenway faithful.

Garciaparra made his big league debut in 1996, earned American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1997 and spent the next seven years cementing his status as one of Beantown's most beloved baseball figures.

Although Garciaparra was traded away a few months before the Red Sox ended their epic title drought, the organization gave him a 2004 World Series ring anyway.

Cabrera, now Oakland's starting shortstop, has one of those, too.

"We've talked about it," Garciaparra said. "The first time I saw him, I said, 'Man, congrats. Way to go win it for us. Way to get us a ring.' ... He's awesome. We learn from each other. It's a lot of fun."

Garciaparra, who grounded out to third base in his emotional first at-bat, talked mostly about his time in Boston during the news conference. He even conceded that he'd always hoped to start and end his career there, adding, "That dream is still there."

For now, though, he said he was at peace with his utility role with the A's, though frustrated that a chronic condition that affects both calves prevents him from contributing on a regular basis.

"It's nothing I did," Garciaparra said. "It's nothing I could have prevented. It's just something I have. Now that I know I have it, I'm pretty grateful I've come this far."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.