BRISTOL - No Bristol Blues player will ever wear No. 14 ever again. In a pre-game ceremony on Thursday night, the Blues organization honored Boston Red Sox great Jim Rice for his achievements both in Bristol and in Boston and retired his number.
“I was very fortunate to play here,” Rice said. “I was fortunate enough to play for the Red Sox [and] I was fortunate enough to be in the Hall of Fame. So by having my number retired and playing here, that is history.”
After a press conference held early in the evening, Rice made his way over to the Blues dugout and had a long talk with the players, who gathered around him in a semicircle to listen to what the Hall of Famer had to say. Even BB, the Blues’ mascot, got in on the powwow.
Before the ceremony itself started, Rice retreated to the Blues dugout and the Blues players formed a tunnel from the dugout out to nearly the third base line. Blues general manager and the night’s emcee Rick Muntean gave Rice a rousing introduction and Rice emerged from the dugout preceded by a flower girl laying down rose petals. As Rice arrived at home plate, he helped the flower girl blow kisses to the crowd and urged her to curtsey, which drew a round of applause and cheers from the crowd.
Muntean continued to laud Rice’s achievements at all levels of baseball as Rice stood by and smiled. Muntean then welcomed a local artist out to home plate, where he presented a portrait of Rice during his days with the Bristol Red Sox.
Then it was Rice’s turn to take the mic. He began by thanking the Blues, the fans and Bristol in general for the honor. His speech then took a motivational turn. Speaking directly to the Blues and Worcester Bravehearts players, Rice urged them to dream big and make the most of every opportunity they are presented with.
At the close of his words, the Muzzy Field crowd rose to its feet and gave Rice a standing ovation as a likeness of his Bristol Red Sox jersey, emblazoned with his No. 14, was revealed on the left field wall, where Rice played during his time in Bristol.
This was the second time in as many seasons that the Blues have honored a famous ball player who had history at Muzzy Field. Last season they celebrated Babe Ruth’s time at Muzzy Field.
The honor and celebration meant a lot to Rice because of his fond memories of his season spent in Bristol.
“I had a great time here in Bristol,” Rice said.