07/19/2011 12:54 PM ET
Wheeler: Playing for Boston a dream
New England native was a big Red Sox fan growing up
I lived about an hour away from Fenway Park growing up. I went to about a dozen games when I was a kid. The stadium was just far enough away that it was tough to get out there often. Add to that I was playing ball myself all the time. I think most kids would rather be out on the diamond playing rather than watching a game. I would always keep track of my team, though.
Most of my family is still in the immediate area. A lot reside in Rhode Island. Some are in New Hampshire. For the most part, though, everyone is still close by. My immediate family is small. I have only one sibling, a younger sister. I live in Beacon Hill now, which is about two miles from Fenway.
Some of my favorite players growing up were Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Mike Greenwell. Later on, I enjoyed watching Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra play. I always kept tabs on the Red Sox, no matter where I was playing. I just never gave much thought to being able to have the chance to play for them one day.
As my baseball career was unfolding, my primary goal was to make it to the Major Leagues. Being able to play for the Red Sox is an added bonus. I rooted so hard for them growing up. It's just amazing for me to be where I am now.
Though I started my career with Tampa Bay, Fenway was actually the last stadium I played in. When I was with Houston, I never had a chance to play in Fenway. We never played them in Interleague Play. It wasn't until I went back to the Rays for a second stint beginning in 2007 that I got to play at Fenway.
It was cool coming to Boston to play the Red Sox, even as a visiting player. I knew how passionate the fans were about their team. They love their team, and with good reason. I just wanted to go into the game and do my thing. My goal was always to shut down the opposing team. In those instances, it just happened to be the Red Sox, my childhood team.
This past winter I was a free agent. The Red Sox were one of the first teams to call. It took a little while to get the deal done, but it was worth it. It wasn't until the negotiations began that it really hit me that I might have a chance to play for my hometown team. It was my childhood dream. It didn't actually sink in until I showed up for Spring Training and put the jersey on. Early on this season, I was still trying to wrap my head around it.
Now that I'm on the Red Sox, there have definitely been more ticket requests. Luckily, I put my dad in charge of that so I don't really have to deal with it. I just told him to try to get everyone to a game this year. I come from a big family. My dad is one of 11 kids, and my mom is one of five. That's a lot of aunts and uncles.
We try to spread the tickets out. There are just some games that are off limits, though, like the Yankees games. I just can't bring the whole family out for those games.
Veteran reliever Dan Wheeler has pitched better of late after a rough start in this his first season with the Red Sox. Plagued by injury earlier this season, the right-hander is 2-1 through 30 games. In June, Wheeler postd a 2.35 ERA.