BOSTON -- They came from all over on Friday to claim a reward for winning a World Series championship.
While Ryan Dempster may not be playing baseball, he might have been the happiest of all the 2013 Boston Red Sox who showed up at Fenway Park.
Dempster received his World Series ring during a pre-game ceremony that was part show, part solemn occasion and a certainly emotional.
"It's just fun to be back here around the guys for a little bit," Dempster said in the Red Sox locker room before the start of Friday's home opener against Milwaukee. "They're already off to a great start. It's going to be a special day out there today. Who knows what kind of trouble I'll get myself into."
The right-handed pitcher, who has been in the Major Leagues since 1998, decided over the winter to not come back to pitch in 2014. By doing so, he left $13.25 million on the table. But don't call Dempster retired -- at least not yet.
"To step away and not play like this is different," he said. "At the same time, the guys have been unbelievable. [Manager John Farrell] and everybody let me be around a little bit and let me wean myself off of it instead of going cold turkey."
He put together an 8-9 record with a 4.57 earned-run average last year. Dempster played for five different big league clubs and made the National League All-Star team with the then-Florida Marlins in 2000 and the Chicago Cubs in 2008.
Without baseball, Dempster said he's planned several golf trips and has plans to go camping "for the first time since I was 15."
The right-hander has three children and son Brady was with him in the Boston clubhouse.
Dempster had a chance to go to the White House, but one of his daughters had a fifth birthday party, and he wasn't going to miss that.
The semi-retired pitcher would not, however, miss the ring ceremony for anything.
"It's something you play your whole career for," he said, "and some guys who are in here are already lucky enough to have them. This is going to be the first time for me."
Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore, who has played the role of an early-season hero for the team, got to experience his first big league home opener from a stadium other than the one in Cleveland. He played his first seven full seasons for the Indians.
"It's magnified" in Boston, he said, "but in a good way. The people are all passionate around here. Everybody loves this team across the city. It's exciting to be a part of it."
Before the game, Farrell said that Sizemore, who was 2 for 8 in the series at Baltimore, would definitely play Friday and today. Sunday was still up in the air.
"Even if I do feel good, I'm trying to be smart. [The trainers] have got me this far and I'm going to lean on them and follow the program."
Sizemore said he's feeling close to being ready to play every day, but wouldn't commit to that until Farrell and the Red Sox medical staff signs off on it.
The Red Sox put on quite a pre-game show. Survivors and family members of the Boston Marathon bombing brought the World Series rings in from left field. Those rings were handed out to current and former Red Sox players.
Firefighters from Engine 33 and Ladder 15 on Boylston Street helped raise the World Series championship banner and were honored with a loud ovation during the game. Lt. Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy were killed in a Back Bay fire last month. The company is the one that protects Fenway Park.
After the Boston Pops played and the Dropkick Murphys sang the National Anthem, former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino handed a ball to current Mayor Marty Walsh, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The two mayors were accompanied by a lot of hardware in the form of Lombardi Trophies, World Series Trophies and the NBA's O'Brien Trophy.
Former Red Sox players Mike Lowell, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek came to the mound, along with former Patriots Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law and Troy Brown. Former Celtic Leon Powe and former Bruin Mark Recchi were also on hand. Recchi drove the golf cart with Menino in it.
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