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The changing of the guard at Fenway Park is complete. Bobby Valentine donned a Red Sox jersey and cap during a Thursday evening press conference and is officially the new manager of the Boston Red Sox.
"I'm honored, I'm humbled and I'm damn excited," Valentine said. "I understand the rich tradition of baseball in this city. I understand the great rivalries that this team has."
Valentine takes over for Terry Francona, who guided the Sox to two World Series titles in his eight-year run. That run ended with the team's historic September collapse, when they missed the playoffs after having a big lead.
At the introductory press conference, the former ESPN baseball analyst joked that he needed a teleprompter and he seemed almost stunned to have this job.
"It's the beginning of a life that I think will extend beyond anything I ever thought of doing," Valentine said. "The talent level and the players that we have and this organization is a gift to anyone. I'm the receiver of that gift."
This is the first big decision made by General Manager Ben Cherington. Cherington was hired to replace Theo Epstein, who left in October to become the general manager of the Chicago Cubs. There have been reports that Valentine was the guy the team's ownership wanted and that they overruled Cherington. Thursday night he said that's not true and defended the hire.
"He's a native New Englander, he's managed for parts of 15 seasons in the big leagues," Cherington said. "He's been to a World Series as a manager, he won a title in Japan. He has enormous baseball intellect. He is creative, he is open-minded, and he badly wants to win."
Valentine was also asked about the perception that he can be a divisive figure. He said it's a lot like the reputation last year's Red Sox team has now after the September collapse and stories about players drinking in the clubhouse.
"I think people who know me and take the time to get to know me understand I have some qualities in my character that are OK," the 61-year-old said. "I am not the genius that I've heard people refer to me as. I am not the polarizing guy I have heard people refer to me as."
Valentine didn't have a lot to say about specific players because he hasn't been around the team much yet. He said he needs more information.
"This is a challenge of getting to know Dustin Pedroia to figuring out who and what he is. Getting to know Adrian Gonzalez, getting to know everybody, Carl Crawford, every person on this team so that I can feel that I am part of their team," Valentine said.
Valentine put on the No. 25 jersey on Thursday evening at Fenway Park. That's the number the late Tony Conigliaro wore when he was hit by a pitch in 1967 — a horrible memory for Red Sox fans. Valentine's favorite number is two, but Jacoby Ellsbury wears that one.
This program aired on December 2, 2011.
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