By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the passing of Red Sox great Tim Wakefield. When the Red Sox broke the news of his passing around 2:30pm EST on Sunday, my heart sank and I couldn’t move. I didn’t know Wake personally nor did I ever have the privilege to meet him, yet he has been a major part of my life, and my Red Sox journey, for over 2 decades. From my initial awe when I saw his knuckleball for the first time in the late ’90s to my later respect for his incredible work off the field to his straight and honest commentary in the booth and the studio, Wake was one-of-a-kind. The tremendous outpouring of stories and personal messages from ex-teammates, colleagues, and fans has been overwhelming in the hours since the announcement.
I’ve never met anyone who loved the Red Sox more, or who better understood how to use the power of sports to help those in need.Tom Caron, NESN
Tom Caron summed up who Wake was with his quote above. The deep sense of purpose Wake had to use his platform and notoriety for good is his legacy. His devotion and commitment to his family and supporting them is his legacy. His impact on ex-teammates and colleagues who credit him with guiding their careers and lives because he was always available for advice or just to talk is his legacy. His ingrained passion and love for the Red Sox organization and the game of baseball is his legacy. We are quick to judge people based on their career accomplishments partially because it’s easy and partially because it’s how we determine who has achieved greatness in a sport. By on-field metrics, Wake was a solid pitcher who had a really nice career, being part of 2 championships (2004 and 2007) and 1 all-star appearance. I’m personally grateful for a number of his on-field performances but it’s who he was as a human being that’s the most impressive and deserves to be honored, recognized, and admired.
Wake was not someone who wanted the spotlight to be on him and would probably be embarrassed by the amount of love being shared publicly. He didn’t have a huge ego and a drive to be front and center and that made me respect him even more. He devoted thousands of hours to the Jimmy Fund and did most of it without drawing any attention to himself, only attracting attention when he felt it would benefit the charity to use his platform. In the modern era of social media and public personas looking to draw attention on themselves at every corner, even at others expense (including his former pitching colleague who shall remain nameless on this blog), Wake was a unicorn. He was a truly genuine and humble person who loved getting to know, and spend time with, other humans.
Nothing here is news or anything that isn’t already out there in the thousands upon thousands of messages about Wake’s passing but I don’t think we talk about who athletes are as people enough, whether it’s good or bad. The concept of “I don’t care what they do in their personal life as long as they can x” (pitch, hit, run, jump, catch, etc) has always bothered me. I think it very much matters who a person is beyond just the athlete and Wake is a glowing example of someone who I would want my kids to look up to, like I did growing up (and still do).
May we all strive to live our lives and use our platform the way Tom Wakefield did. Sending all the love and best wishes to Wake’s family and friends who are hurting right now. Wake left an incredible and indelible legacy that will not be forgotten.