Jacoby Ellsbury has already reached Major League Baseball's summit and his career is just beginning.
The Red Sox center fielder was installed into the Boston lineup during Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and proceeded to show the entire nation why he is considered one of the top players in the Boston organization and a front-runner for top rookie honors in 2008.
In Game 3 of the World Series against Colorado, he went 4-for-5 with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. Ellsbury then went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored Sunday night in Game 4 to help the Red Sox sweep the Rockies with a 4-3 victory. The double led off the game and he scored the first run of the contest.
"I was just trying to be a little more aggressive," Ellsbury told the Denver Post after Game 3. "Early on in the first two games, I got deep in counts and had to battle back tonight."
Ellsbury started the season at Double-A Portland and hit .452 in 17 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and hit .298 with 33 stolen bases. Earning a promotion to Boston full time in September, Ellsbury hit .353. He was 1-for-3 in Game 7 of the ALCS and never left the starting lineup after that.
"To start the year, I was in Double-A and just trying to get to Triple-A," Ellsbury said. "Then, once I got there, just try to get a call-up in September or something like that. But to be on the postseason roster and be here in the World Series is just a dream come true."
Storybook ending with Red Sox for Kielty: A tough year had a fabulous ending for Bobby Kielty. He spent most of the year on the disabled list with the Oakland A's before his release from the organization in August. He was signed by the Red Sox, but hurt his back crashing into the outfield wall in his first game for his new club. But Kielty's year ended on a grand note, as he hit what proved to be the game-winning home run in the clinching game of the World Series.
"There was no way I wasn't going to swing," Kielty told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was hoping to hit a first-pitch fastball, and that's what I did. I was sitting on that pitch like no other. I was selling out."
Kielty was grateful the Red Sox gave him another chance this season.
"I couldn't have asked for a better team to be hooked up with," Kielty said. "I went from a situation where we weren't close to first place, and now this is pretty much the best team I ever played on."
Cook overcame great odds to start Game 4: Aaron Cook didn't get the ending he was looking for, but he proved he belonged on the mound for the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 of the World Series Sunday night.
Cook has had to go through a series of ordeals already in his career. In 2004, he battled blood clots in his lungs. The result of that battle has left a five-inch scar at the base of his neck and a three-inch scar on his chest.
"You can't really become the person you're supposed to be until you deal with something," he told the Denver Post Saturday after quoting one of his favorite Bible verses. "I think that gives you strength, once you've been through something, to deal with other things. I had the blood clots in my lungs in '04, and I believe that helped me to have the strength to get through the oblique injury this year."
As for this season, Cook had not pitched since Aug. 10 due to an oblique strain. He kept trying to talk manager Clint Hurdle into activating him for a spot on the postseason roster, but Hurdle didn't do it for either the National League Division Series or Championship Series, though the decision to leave him off the roster was tough.
"Sentimentality could never be a part of it," Hurdle said. "I had to stay removed from that. If it was all about sentimentality, Aaron would have pitched in the League Championship Series. We want to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time."
Varitek knows how to chalk up the outs: Players come and go in Major League Baseball, but one who seems to have been in Boston forever is catcher Jason Varitek. As the Red Sox were getting ready for Game 4 of the World Series, Varitek, the team captain, was treating it as just another game.
For him, it may well have been just another game as it was his 53rd postseason game of his career, more than any other Red Sox player ever.
"He's had a great run," Dan Duquette, the former Red Sox general manager who traded for Varitek during the summer of 1997, told the Boston Herald. "The catcher's involved in every out. Twenty-seven times a game, he makes a decision that helps you win."
During his run with the Red Sox, Varitek has hit .268 with 148 home runs and 611 RBIs, making him one of the most productive catchers. In the World Series, he hit .333 and was 2-for-4 with an RBI in Game 4. Add what he means to the pitching staff, and there is little wonder why he wears the "C" on his uniform.
"A good catcher who prioritizes the pitching staff is a huge asset to the organization," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "He's like the command center of our organization as far as run prevention. It's a great asset."
Said Duquette: "He's a switch-hitter with power, but day in and day out, you can talk to the pitching coach and the manager he plays for, and they'll tell you he's the best in the business at understanding his pitchers and understanding how to get the hitters out."
Biggio humbly accepts Roberto Clemente Award: With a yellow Sunshine Kids pin prominently displayed on his suit, Craig Biggio accepted the Roberto Clemente Award Saturday before Game 3 of the 103rd World Series. The award is the top humanitarian award given by Major League Baseball.
Biggio retired after the regular season, capping a 20-year career with the Houston Astros. He has raised close to $2.5 million for his favorite charity, which helps children with cancer.
"I'm very humbled and honored, obviously, to be this year's recipient (of) the Roberto Clemente Award," Biggio told the Houston Chronicle. "He was such a magnificent player on the field. I knew there were a lot of older players (and) coaches that have been around that said he was a five-tool player.
"And a lot of younger people would go watch him play when they were kids. But I think the biggest thing about Roberto is, as great of a player as he was, he was a bigger man off the field in his generosity and his time and giving back to his community."
Clemente's widow, Vera, and her sons Luis and Roberto Jr. were there to hand out the award. The family was more than proud to honor Biggio with the award.
"My sons and myself, we're very proud to be here this afternoon and to congratulate Craig Biggio for your beautiful career, and especially the work that you and your wife, Patty, have been doing," Vera Clemente said. "I (was) very impressed when I met you both. It's like if I met you many years before."
Taguchi brings unquiet perspective to broadcast: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder So Taguchi would certainly rather be back in the World Series than watching it, but to fill that void in 2007 he spent some time moonlighting as an analyst for NHK network in Japan. As the only Japanese player to have both won (2006) and lost (2004) a World Series, Taguchi can offer a unique perspective.
"(Wednesday night) was his first night and he was outstanding, because he has the ability to explain the game from a player's perspective that is very understandable for the viewers," Brad Lefton, who has worked as a writer and director with the Japanese networks, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "It was not a baseball person talking to another baseball person."
One angle Taguchi has used was filling time with some of his personal experiences from playing in two World Series. "I try to tell the Japanese audience how exciting it is to be in the World Series, how big it was and what it means, physically and emotionally, to play in it, and how much fun it was to play these games," he said.
Will Lofton's energy remain in Cleveland?: For the Cleveland Indians and outfielder Kenny Lofton, it seemed to be a marriage made in heaven. A nice reminder of the glory days of the 1990s -- yet still a contributor -- Lofton brought the Indians' fans to their feet every time he came to bat this fall. But as for his future in Cleveland, nothing is certain.
"We have a lot of alternatives in the outfield," general manager Mark Shapiro told MLB.com. "As far as how that shakes out, we'll have to gauge how the winter goes on."
If it were up to the fans, you can guarantee that Lofton would be back -- a fact even Shapiro does not deny.
"He energized our fans," said Shapiro, "and it was exciting to watch him play that meaningful role for us at that most important time."
Madson brings treats to kids: Reliever Ryan Madson, along with Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson, spent Sunday afternoon signing autographs and taking pictures at the Phillies' 15th annual Halloween party for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"This is fun," Madson told MLB.com. "It's great to put a smile on these kids' faces. It's worth taking time out and doing it. It's cool to take their mind off things for a couple of minutes."
Over 200 kids were there with Madson, Thompson, the Phillie Phanatic, former Phillies infielder Kevin Jordan and broadcaster Scott Franzke. Along with lots of prizes and gifts for the kids, the event included magicians, jugglers, clowns and a man on stilts.
"The stilt-walker had an airplane flying around him," said Madson. "That was pretty cool. I thought we were at the airport."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.