Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli on Triumph, Tragedy and One Boston Day

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: Mike Napoli #12 of the Boston Red Sox stands for the national anthem before Game One of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 23, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: Mike Napoli #12 of the Boston Red Sox stands for the national anthem before Game One of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 23, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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In 2011, as a member of the Texas Rangers, Mike Napoli came as close as any player could to winning a World Series. He and his team were bested by the St. Louis Cardinals in a dramatic Fall Classic that went seven games.

Being so close yet so far from something you’ve worked your entire career for would fill any man with pain. Watching someone else take that same thing and celebrate all of the joys that come with it, the joys that were once fabled but soon appeared as a reality only to be snatched out from under you would fill most men with hatred and self-doubt.

Few players get a shot at greatness, even fewer get a second chance to obtain it. This was Napoli’s. The unwavering feeling of not knowing what’s next coupled with the gut-wrenching intensity that comes with a World Series still left Napoli with little doubt in himself and his team.

“It’s because we still had each other, we made it feel like we were supposed to win the World Series,” he said. We were a confident group and we were out there to win it and have fun while we did it.”

And that’s exactly what they did. In a battle of arms and offense, the Red Sox led the series 3-2 and headed back to Boston for game six.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Koji Uehara on the mound, Napoli looks to teammate Dustin Pedroia and mouths the words ‘I’m gonna catch it.’

It was an early ode of appreciation to Pedroia and coach Brian Butterfield with whom Napoli had polished his defensive skills with tirelessly throughout the season.

Without having his defense tested one more time, Napoli watched from first base as Uehara delivered a devastating split-fingered fastball, striking out Matt Carpenter and giving Boston its first World Series clincher in front of the Fenway Faithful in 95 years.

"“To be able to win a championship after I lost one, it took a lot off my shoulders, man. It still hurts, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as it used to.” – Mike Napoli on redemtion"

And so, it was found. After a lifetime of searching, what Napoli came to Boston looking for in February, he found eight months later on an October night.