For Plainfield Native Ben Cherington, Goal of World Series Formed Early
Gretchen and Alex Cherington, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington's parents, and his sister Molly (background left) join the celebration on the field at Fenway Park in Boston after the team won the World Series on Oct. 30, 2013. (Jennifer Hauck photograph)
Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington sits in the stands before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in Boston, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
When Ben Cherington was 19 years old, his mother asked him what he wanted to accomplish by the time he reached 40.
“I want to take a team to the World Series,” the young man declared.
“And now he has,” his mother, Gretchen, said in a phone interview Thursday. “He’s done it three times. And he’s only 39.”
If you’re looking for the ultimate “Hometown Boy Makes Good” story, look no farther than Ben Cherington. A Plainfield native, a Lebanon High grad, Amherst College alumnus, a member of the Red Sox front office since 1999 and — for the past two years — the team’s general manager.
In Red Sox Nation, there may not be a more important job.
And it was Cherington’s guiding hand that developed this World Series championship roster, bringing the title to Boston for the third time in 10 years, bringing championship ecstasy to Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.
But it was the first time his family was able to share in the joy.
In 2004, they were certain the team was coming back to Boston, so they didn’t go to St. Louis. The Sox ended up winning the title.
In 2007, Ben’s sister, Molly, lived in Denver. “We thought we’d let them share it together and we didn’t go (to Colorado) that year, either,” Gretchen said. The Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in four straight, clinching the title again away from home.
This year was different.
“We were on the bubble after Game 2 whether to go,” said Gretchen. “But Ben was pretty sure they were coming back here for the last games, so we decided to wait.”
It turned out to be the right decision.
A World Series trophy was just three outs away when the text message sent.
“It was Ben’s wife, Tyler, telling us to try and get down to the dugout area for the end of the game,” Ben’s father, Alex, said Thursday, recalling the events of the Series clincher. Sitting down the left-field line, he started the long walk around the stadium toward the first base dugout.
At that same time, Ben’s mother, having received the same message, was also on the move. As was the divorced couple’s daughter, Molly.
The ninth inning was a blur of sight and sound. As they were walking through the aisles, pitcher Koji Uehara got John Jay to fly out on two pitches for the first out.
Four pitches later and Jonny Gomes packed in Daniel Descalso’s pop up for the second out.
Gretchen had primo seats behind home plate and wanted to witness the ultimate moment, but the message was clear: Ben wanted his family right there with him.
Amazingly, Alex worked his way from left field just in time to join the rest of the clan, only to find the way to the field blocked. Not one to take no for an answer, Gretchen led the group down a tight aisle until they came out by the dugout.
Just in time for Matt Carpenter’s swinging strike three to end the game and start the celebration.
Getting the attention of a security guard, the family tried to get onto the field, but were rebuffed because they did not have the proper badges. Undeterred, Gretchen took out her driver’s license.
“I told the guard that I was Ben Cherington’s mother and he told me to be on the field,” she said.
The guard checked the picture to look for a familial resemblance and was satisfied Gretchen was who she said she was. Moments later, the mother, father and sister of the GM were rubbing elbows with the World Series champs.
But it took a while to make connections with their famous son. Following the on-field celebration, the team and team officials headed into the clubhouse for the champagne dousing ritual.
That allowed Gretchen a few moments to head out toward the Monster seats in left field. There, some of Ben’s former Lebanon High classmates — Brian Garfield, Breck Taber and Dave Hall — were sharing in the festivities.
“We had seen them before the game, and it was just great to be on the field and talking with them up in their seats,” Gretchen said.
Eventually, Ben came out of the clubhouse, soaked in champagne.
“We finally did have some family time, and that was great,” Alex said. “The photographers came around, but Ben told them, ‘Not now,’ and they backed off.”
Individual players would take turns coming out of the clubhouse to race around the field and interact with the fans who remained in the stands well into the night. The Cheringtons had an up-close look as the players mingled with their families on the field.
“Stephen Drew had his kid on his shoulders and was just standing right by us,” Alex said. “And he’s my size!
“But it was great seeing them as just human beings.”
As they reflected on their son’s success one day after the Series ended, both Alex and Gretchen expressed pride in their son — mixed with a tinge of sadness.
“We don’t talk baseball as much as we used to,” Alex said. “We would watch games together all the time, but we don’t do that anymore.”
“It’s 24-7 for him, so when he’s with us we talk more about the family,” Gretchen said. “But when he was the assistant farm director, we would get more information. I sort of miss that,” she added with a laugh.
Looking out at the bleachers from her seat behind home plate Wednesday night, Gretchen Cherington couldn’t help but think back to the day when a 5-year-old Ben went to his first Red Sox game with his grandmother and sat in the bleachers.
“I was sitting there, with Ben in his suite maybe 20 rows above us, and looking out at those bleacher seats ... I couldn’t help but think of how far we’ve come from there, and what’s possible (in life),” she said.
“It’s a memory we both savor. It really is inspiring.”