BALTIMORE -- The visit to the White House was clearly the headline portion of the off-day the Red Sox had on Tuesday, but the trip to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later in the day was perhaps the most meaningful.
Seeing wounded soldiers without limbs and countless other misfortunes put things in perspective in a hurry. By coincidence, the Boston Celtics were at the facility during the same time as the Red Sox.
"I think that was the better part of my day, to be able to go over there," said Mike Napoli. "To be able to get their mind off of what their struggles were for a couple of minutes, to be able to talk to them and thank them for what they've done for us. I think, for me, that made my day. It just topped off everything to be able to do that."
While Jonny Gomes stood out with the American flag sports coat he wore to the White House, the soldiers confirmed to the outfielder that his attire was perfect.
Honored to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Thank you to all who have served & continue to serve. pic.twitter.com/mVpf9lcjId- Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 2, 2014
"I don't know much of the [publicity] -- positive or negative -- going into it, but at the end of the day, what the troops said to me at Walter Reed was pretty awesome," said Gomes. "I got more thank yous for that from these guys and they sacrifice health and limbs for what that flag stands for at the end of the day. Like I said, I didn't try to make any statement or anything. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to do it again."
The visit was a chilling reminder for Gomes, given the fact he nearly chose the path of military service.
"I think it's a little different for me with my past," said Gomes. "In 2001, I had two contracts on my table, one from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the other for the Marines. I always put myself in a position to think, 'Which one of those guys would have been me? Would it be the tombstone? Would it be the guy who is the double amputee? Would it be a guy who is still over there?'"
For David Ortiz, it was his third trip to Walter Reed after winning a World Series. But this visit meant just as much to him as the others.
"Unbelievable," Ortiz said. "This one young guy, he's like 26 right now, he got both his legs blown up by a bomb. His spirit was so good. Me, [Dustin] Pedroia and some of the Celtics players, we were around him and we were looking at each other like, 'Seriously?' There's many people complaining about stupid things in life and look at this guy. I think the best thing that ever happened to me was to go and look at this guy. I guarantee you that made me a better human being.
"He was so excited to watch us and see him in the hospital, it was unbelievable. I had a really good time there yesterday visiting the veterans and getting to hang out with them. It was a good thing for all of us, to see how excited they got to see us. I think every single athlete should go out there and hang out with these people. It would give them a good moment of happiness. This guy was sitting down, with no legs and he was acting like he was the happiest guy on the planet earth because of the fact we were all there and hanging out with him. That was awesome."
Ortiz beaming after selfie, vows it was spontaneous
BALTIMORE -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was still beaming on Wednesday, a day after he had the unique opportunity to take a selfie with President Barack Obama.
"You don't get an opportunity to get a photo with the president every day," Ortiz said. "That's a one-in-a-lifetime chance, and it happened. I appreciated it."
Though there were news reports that suggested Ortiz took the selfie for promotional reasons due to a relationship he has with Samsung, he staunchly denied that had anything to do with the photo or that it was prearranged.
"It was a once in a lifetime moment," said Ortiz. "How did I know he would let me take a picture with him?"
When did Ortiz decide he could actually take the selfie?
"It was right at the moment when I gave him the jersey and he asked to take a picture now or whatever, so I said, 'Oh, wait a minute. Let's see if I can get away with one.' I was lucky that I did," said Ortiz. "I think it was something I'm never going to forget. People went crazy about that."
By Wednesday evening, Ortiz's selfie had generated nearly 40,000 retweets.
"You don't get to see that every day," Ortiz said. "It wasn't anything promotional or anything like that. Who knows that you're going to be able to take a picture with the president or a selfie? How many people can guarantee that?"
If any other player besides Ortiz had snapped the selfie, the Red Sox might have been surprised. But in this case?
"Let's not be surprised about what David Ortiz does, ever," said left fielder Jonny Gomes. "That was pretty cool, and I think it was pretty cool that Obama was on board with it, too."
After sitting out Opening Day, Gomes gets start
BALTIMORE -- Though Wednesday was the second game for the Red Sox, it was Opening Night for Jonny Gomes, who got the start in left field due in part to his strong history against Orioles righty Ubaldo Jimenez.
Gomes entered the game 5-for-12 lifetime against Jimenez with two homers and five RBIs.
"It's exciting," said Gomes. "The other day wasn't my turn, and that's fine. I like to be in there, win or loss to try to affect the game. It will be nice and I'll go out there and give it my all."
Though Gomes will likely get most of his starts against lefties this season, manager John Farrell will keep an eye on good matchups against righties.
With Shane Victorino on the disabled list, Gomes might get some more opportunities early in the season.
"This is my second year here, and it's pretty impressive how deep this organization is all the way down to the Minors," said Gomes. "From what we did last year, I think there's not really a stat for it, but how well we hid injuries last year -- when you're talking David Ortiz going down in the beginning, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Vic for a minute, [Jacoby Ellsbury] for a while. We truly did hide injuries pretty well last year. Hopefully we can copy that this year when some of these starters go down."
• Victorino rejoined the Red Sox in Baltimore after being placed on the disabled list. However, he missed Tuesday's trip to the White House and didn't come to the ballpark on Wednesday due to an illness.
"He's been able to get treatment while at the hotel," said Farrell. "Given where we are in the 15 days, he'll be getting treatment anyways. We want to keep him out of the clubhouse."
• Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica might be new to the team, but his teammates helped convince him to go to the White House on Tuesday.
"I just asked these guys if I could make that trip, because I wasn't on the team last year," said Mujica. "I was in the World Series from the other side of the bench. They told me, 'Hey, you're here. You're on the team. You have to go.'"
• All players who suited up for the 2013 Red Sox have been invited to Friday's ring ceremony at Fenway Park, confirmed Farrell. Ryan Dempster, who won't pitch this season, is expected to attend. Farrell wasn't sure if Stephen Drew, who remains unsigned, will make the trip.