Napoli grateful for warm reception in Boston

Indians first baseman receives ovation from Fenway faithful

Napoli grateful for warm reception in Boston

BOSTON -- Mike Napoli only spent three seasons in Boston, but the first baseman has a World Series ring, forever endearing him to Red Sox fans. Now with the Indians, Napoli felt that appreciation when he received a standing ovation from the Fenway Park crowd Friday night.

Following a video tribute of Napoli's days with the Red Sox, the first baseman stepped out of the visitors' dugout and doffed his cap during the warm reception.

"That was really cool for me," said Napoli, who won a World Series with Boston in 2013. "They've always done a great job with that kind of stuff. It was a cool moment. I always loved this place. I love the people, the fans, the city. I had a great, great time when I played here."

Indians manager Terry Francona has told the story many times. When Cleveland was looking into signing Napoli over the offseason, the manager spoke with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is good friends with Napoli and played for Francona in Boston. Pedroia raved about Napoli, and that carried weight in Francona's mind.

"He reached out to me," Francona said. "I didn't see Pedey offering any money to help us get him, but the way he talked about him -- you guys know how I feel about Pedey -- you probably can't come with any higher praise than coming from Pedey. And Nap has been all of that and more."

"He called me. I'm not wasting my time calling him," Pedroia quipped. "He just asked me what kind of guy he was. I just told him my experience playing with Nap and he's the best. You want to build your team around guys like that. He's pretty important in a lot of ways. He cares about everyone. It didn't matter how he was doing or anything.

"He puts everybody else before himself. Those are the guys that end up winning in the long run and that's why he's won everywhere he's been."

During the years the Red Sox had Napoli in Spring Training, Boston third-base coach Brian Butterfield would tell younger plays to follow the first baseman's lead.

"I sure did," Butterfield said. "Every little thing in the game is important to him. People look at him and they see a big strong guy that has power. They think, 'OK, one-dimensional.' But, he's one of the best baserunners in the league. He's very detail-oriented. If he was asked to drop down a sacrifice bunt, he'd do that for you. He'll hit-and-run. When you run your team defense, he's going to be exactly where he needs to be.

"We're just hearing glowing reports coming from Cleveland. It's not any revelation to us. We knew what they were getting and we knew what Texas was getting. He's special. He's a special person and a special player."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.