Former Red Sox Bronson Arroyo Returns To Boston To Pitch In For Kids

Almost as infamous as his high leg kicks were right handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s cornrows during his 2003 to 2005 Red Sox season when he helped to win the 2004 World Series for Boston. After leaving the Red Sox to play for the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to the Reds to finish off his career earlier this year, Arroyo is coming back to Boston, but this time to play some music.

Next Monday, he will be at Symphony Hall for “A Double Header: Baseball Legends and Jazz Icons,” a haute event that combines musicians with sports figures to raise money for United Sound, a nonprofit that provides support to music students with special needs. The evening will include performances by Wycliffe Gordon, Jeff Coffin of Dave Matthews Band, guitar-playing Bronson Arroyo and Theo Epstein performing rock hits by Pearl Jam and the Goo Goo Dolls alongside the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Bronson ArroyoPhoto Credit: Bronson Arroyo

We caught up recently with Arroyo to find out how it feels to return to Boston, what’s up next for him and what was going through his head during that infamous A-Rod slap in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.

How did you get involved with United Sound and can you discuss “The Baseball Legends and Jazz Icons” event coming up at Symphony Hall on November 27?

When I was with the Diamondbacks, they probably do more charity work than any team in the country. They asked me to go talk to some kids about music and Julie Duty (founder of the organization) said she thought I wrote one of the songs I played for their organization. She gave me her card and said she would love to work with me. We started working together in small ways and along the way, we were always brainstorming ways to make money. The event came about brainstorming with her. I like playing music and we were thinking of ways to play a show and tie it all together. She was working with a friend at Symphony Hall at the time and is friends with Jeff Coffin of Dave Matthews. It’s really exciting because we are getting to play with an orchestra for the first time ever.

Any favorite places you like to go to when you return?

One of our favorite places for years was Daisy Buchanan’s, but that place is now gone. The Hotel Commonwealth and Eastern Standard are always fun. It’s really nostalgic to come back.

Take us back to Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS and tell us about that infamous A-Rod incident where he slapped the ball from your glove when you tried to tag him out on first.

To play in that rivalry (Boston vs. New York) was so intense. Every regular season game was like a playoff game. That play was bizarre. My job was to get Sheffield, A-Rod and Jeter out. I threw a slow curve ball that was spinning like a top really fast when he hit it. When I picked the ball up, I knew I had to make the tag. He was jogging about five feet from me and then the ball just came flying out of my hand. It happened so fast. I was just thinking that someone had to see it. Alex try to plead that it was his running style.

Tell us how you felt when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series.

I had only been with the team for two years, but it felt like a long journey. It was really a load off our shoulders to get to the World Series because we had worked so hard. The funny thing was that the Yankees series felt like we were playing the World Series. It was so intense. By the time we won Game 2, it felt like we had momentum and couldn’t stop.

Other than helping the team win the World Series in 2004, can you tell us your most memorable time at Fenway Park?

The very first time I walked onto the field was very memorable. When you make it to the Major League, you see bigger crowds, but it’s a different animal at Fenway Park. When I was playing at Fenway, I was thinking of nothing but the game. I had never felt that before. I had just come to the Red Sox from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kevin Millar noticed I was looking around the ballpark taking it all in. He laughed and said, “You aren’t in Pittsburgh anymore!”

How would you describe Red Sox fans? 

They are rabid through and through (laughs). One time I was warming up in the bullpen and I could hear people in the crowd. One guy said, “If you don’t save this game for Pedro, you’re going to get thrown out of the stadium!”  After we won the World Series, it was amazing to have people walk up to me months and months later seeing me on the street and they would never say ‘congratulations.’ Every single person who saw me said ‘thank you.’ They lived the loss for so many generations that it was ingrained in their life. That realness and authenticity was incredible.

Now that you are officially retired, what’s up next for you?

I had been playing professionally for 22 years. I grew up kind of different. I was in the weight room as a kid and lived the life of a professional athlete at a young age. I have been tied to a schedule for so long that now I am looking forward to playing music, taking some friends on trips and playing golf. I am content with doing nothing for a while.