Red Sox rookie reliever Daniel Bard is ESPNBoston.com's playoff correspondent, giving readers a look inside the locker room throughout the postseason. As he gets ready to face the Anaheim Angels in the American League Divisional Series, Bard tells us what the journey has been like, from his life as a rookie to the emotions of celebrating clinching the wild card to deciding playoff shares.
--As told to Louise K. Cornetta
I was a rookie this year. So that meant I had to do things like carry veterans' drinks to them on the plane and dress up for the last road trip of the year, which is pretty standard. I was the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Make that Sexy Cowardly Lion with a little miniskirt and fur, but we had a good time with it.
Unlike most teams, we don't do a pink backpack that the rookie pitcher has to bring out to the bullpen. We have something like a tackle box from Bass Pro. Pap [closer Jonathan Papelbon] got it. It weighs about 50 pounds. It's not embarrassing in the way it looks like a pink backpack would, but it's a lot to lug around. I don't think we get it too bad here. It used to be worse when they had more older guys on the team. It's kind of eased up because our team leaders who are position players are [Dustin] Pedroia and Youk [Kevin Youkilis]. They don't seem to get into it as much as some guys in the past.
I get along great with all the position guys, but you have a little bit more in common with the other pitchers, as our free time is the same. I'm close with Manny Delcarmen. I've gotten to know Billy Wagner really well from sitting next to him in the bullpen for hours the last month or so. Clay [Buchholz], Josh Beckett, it tends to be more pitchers that I'm close with.
We call ourselves the pirates out in the bullpen, Manny is wearing a T-shirt that talks about that right now. That's been around long before I was here. I don't really get where it started. I think [former Red Sox pitcher] Mike Timlin about six or seven years ago maybe got it going, and now everybody is a pirate that comes out of the bullpen.
If I had to say, the hardest part of being a rookie is just being told what to do and having to do it every time because that's the role I'm in, but it only lasts so long. I just try and have fun with it.
The best part is probably just the excitement of it all. Everything is for the first time like the first time at Yankee Stadium, first run at the playoffs, first October. It's only the first time once. I'm just trying to enjoy it. It's been really fun so far.
The [wild-card] celebration wasn't ideal because we didn't clinch with a win. I think that would have been a little better. It didn't stop us from having a good time. After we lost, I went home and ate dinner real quick and came back about an hour later. We watched the last inning or two of Texas' game in the clubhouse. We had a good time celebrating. We were running around the locker room giving guys hugs. Guys that had never been to the playoffs, guys who you had been through the whole year with, it's kind of an emotional time. It's fun, though. Those times off the field can kind of bring teams together even more than the stuff on the field sometimes.
I think pretty much the whole team with the exception of four or five guys that have babies and stuff were back here at 2 o'clock popping bottles of champagne. I learned the goggle trick. In Double-A last year, we celebrated a playoff appearance, and I didn't have goggles, and champagne burns. I learned my lesson, so this year, I went looking for a pair. Then after we celebrated at Fenway, we went to the Baseball Tavern [a nearby bar], where they had blocked off the whole downstairs for us. It was cool because it was a safe environment for us to go have a good time, and it was just each other with wives and girlfriends. We were able to kind of let loose and have fun.
I got a few text messages and voice mails, maybe a handful, when we clinched. I'm sure I'll get more as we go along, but the fact that it happened at 2 a.m. Eastern Time, which is the time zone most of my friends are in, most didn't find out until the next day. The people who follow really closely were all aware of it, though.
During the last few games [of the regular season], we had our shares meeting to decide who gets what portion of the playoff share money. I was surprised I was there because I wasn't here the whole season. I got called up about a month into the season. So I guess that's enough days. I'm learning all this right now. We kept the arguing to a minimum, I think. I spoke a couple times. But unless I really had an opinion, I pretty much kept my mouth shut and raised my hand when I needed to. It's hard to get things decided in one meeting because there are always things to go over like having to figure out how many people are on the grounds crew and things like that. But for the most part, we knocked it out.
As I get ready for the playoffs, my buddy Andrew Miller, who was with Detroit two years ago in the playoffs, he's with the Marlins now, and their season is wrapping up. He gave me some advice. As much as I am ready to go home, we still have got something to play for. He said, "There is nothing that will beat playing in front of your home fans in a playoff atmosphere." Even in Boston it's going to be different, every home game here is pretty exciting and the crowd is into it, but he said, "It's a whole different story when there is that on the line."
Clinching the wild card means I get to play baseball for another few weeks, hopefully a month. A chance to play on the big stage. A chance to win the city another championship.