Why Red Sox, NESN Brought Jonathan Papelbon Back To Baseball

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BOSTON — Jonathan Papelbon pitched with all the confidence and success in the world during his major-league career, starting with a championship-winning tenure for the Red Sox that led to an induction into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

His aura on the mound presented a love for the game and the raw will to compete. When he left the Red Sox after the 2011 season, Papelbon still found success, though he lost a bit of that passion as his dominance on the mound began to simmer.

“When I couldn’t go out there and have a team completely rely on me when they got the lead to close it, I didn’t have the stuff that I did before,” Papelbon told reporters on Wednesday at Fenway Park before the Red Sox Hall of Fame ceremony. “I wasn’t going to (expletive) anybody, right? I wasn’t gonna go be a seventh or eighth (inning) guy to make another couple million here and there. It just wasn’t me. I’m all or nothing. I was angry.”

Following his last MLB season in 2016, Papelbon took time away from the game without the love for the sport that he played with. His first step back to loving baseball came during a cameo on the mound for the Savannah Bananas in 2022.

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The outing sparked a desire to return to being around the diamond on some basis. The TV set gave Papelbon that chance and the opportunity to reconnect with the Red Sox through NESN.

“NESN had been calling me two years after that,” Papelbon shared. “Before that, I said I didn’t want to do NESN. Another year, didn’t want to do NESN. Finally, I called up NESN and said, ‘Hey, I want to do it now. Is there availability?’”

Sure enough, there was. The former closer officially joined the NESN broadcast team for the 2023 season and continues with his second season in 2024.

Papelbon did not have a perfect path in his relationship with baseball, though he’s back where he should be with the Red Sox driving his passion.

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“Every day now, I truly realize that I do love the game,” Papelbon said. “… I’m in a whole different place mentally than I was when I retired. I’m glad to be back with NESN. My kids were all born here. For me, I’ve always connected with this city.”

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