BOSTON (WHDH) - As tributes pour in for longtime Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, the star is being remembered for his contributions both on and off the field.
Wakefield, who spent nearly 30 years with the Red Sox organization, died Sunday. On Monday, Red Sox officials discussed Wakefield and his impact at their end of season press conference.
“Great person, great husband, great dad, great player — let’s not forget about that,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora.
Cora said Wakefield was a great teammate, adding “he was huge in the community.”
“We always talk about hall of fame people who are good on the field but they’re better off the field,” Cora said. “This guy, he represented us with dignity.”
“He made sure everything in the clubhouse was on point too,” Cora separately said. “Very hard on young players, but in a good way.”
Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy said Sunday was one of the saddest days in the history of the Red Sox.
“As I think back on our time here and the history of the Red Sox, I’m not sure there’s a player that has been more active or involved with every area of the operation,” Kennedy said of Wakefield.
Wakefield, with his legendary knuckleball, won 200 games during his career, including 186 wins with the Red Sox.
Among his off-the-field contributions, Wakefield served as the Red Sox’s first Jimmy Fund co-captain, spending countless hours during his playing days and after his retirement supporting cancer patients.
In one 2010 radio telethon, Wakefield appeared alongside Jimmy Fund Co-Captain Clay Buchholz and a cancer patient named RJ.
“Is there a kid at the Jimmy Fund you haven’t met yet?” broadcaster Dale Arnold asked.
“I hope not,” Wakefield responded. “I would like to meet every one of them.”
Lisa Scherber, the director of patient and family programs at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute became close to Wakefield over the years.
“He was just real,” Scherber said. “He was just really special.”
“We really realized, ‘Wow, this guy is something else, his heart is where it needs to be,’” Scherber said.
Scherber said Wakefield and his wife, Stacy, came in every Christmas Eve with gifts for patients at Dana-Farber.
Much like the days when legendary Sox slugger Ted Williams made his unheralded visits to Dana-Farber, the cameras were often nowhere to be found when Wakefield popped in.
“Never any media knew of it,” Scherber said. “He just did it. He would just call me and say ‘Can I do it?’ and I’m like ‘Of course you can.’”
During one trip to a ballpark in Chicago, Scherber said Wakefield noticed a teenage cancer patient named Robbie trying to hop down some steps. Robbie had lost a leg.
“He ran up the stairs and he put Robbie on his back,” Scherber said. “It made me smile because I just remembered that moment and he’s had us on his back this entire time.”
Sunday brought with it this year’s annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. Before he died, Wakefield had planned to take part in the walk, planning to gather his strength and gather his family to walk to Fenway Park from Dana-Farber with Scherber.
“That was the plan on Saturday night,” Scherber said. “And that’s what cancer is about. It doesn’t have a good timetable.”
“This one hurts,” Scherber continued. “This is kind of a punch in the gut.”
Wakefield won two World Series titles with the Red Sox. He also won the MLB’s prestigious Roberto Clemente Award for community service during his career.
After Wakefield’s death, the American Flag at Fenway Park was flying at half staff on Monday. A message honoring Wakefield was also displayed on Fenway’s outfield scoreboard.
Speaking earlier in the day, Kennedy said the Red Sox organization will follow the lead of Wakefield’s family on further opportunities to recognize, honor and say goodbye to Wakefield.
“We’re going to miss him,” Cora said. “The family, obviously we’re here for them — Stacy and the kids. The same way he was there for us, throughout, we will be there for them.”
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