Boston, MA– The biggest retirement of the year for Boston sports will undoubtedly be Rob Gronkowski, barring any shocking developments from some of the teams’ marquee players. But just because Gronk retired, that does not mean that the wheel of retirements and the circle of life (and athletic careers) stops along with him. No, athletes still come to the conclusion of their careers whether Gronk is there or not. And this week, Boston sports fans have had to bid farewell to two former New England athletes who did not have long tenures with their respective teams, but were still instrumental in the championships they won.
First of all, there is Chris Long, a ten year veteran of the NFL as a defensive end. Most recently, Long was named as the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the 2018 season thanks to off the field goodwill with the Chris Long Foundation. A former number two overall draft pick, Long was more than just an ambassador off the field. He was one of the best defensive ends of the past couple of seasons and Patriots fans were lucky enough to experience even a blip of his talents during his career.
Long played seven seasons with the St. Louis Rams and finished his career out with two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. But in the middle of those two stints in 2016, Long enjoyed time with the New England Patriots! During that year, he recorded 35 combined tackles and recovered a fumble in the 16 games he played in. He was held on a crucial play during that year’s Super Bowl, which led to the Atlanta Falcons getting pushed out of field goal range. Long’s sacrifice for the team helped spur their eventual comeback. He is a good man and will undoubtedly enjoy a well-deserved retirement!
Lastly, former Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara also announced his retirement as a member of the Yomiuri Giants. Koji spent most of his baseball time overseas with the Giants before eventually making his way to the MLB in 2009. Throughout his professional career, Koji had stints with the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, and Chicago Cubs, but none were as pivotal as his time with Boston from 2013 to 2016.
Koji was never meant to be the team’s closer, but when the team called on him to do so, he answered the call with incredible ability, en route to becoming a 2014 MLB All-Star and the 2013 ALCS MVP. With the team, he recorded 79 saves, excluding his seven during the 2013 World Series championship run. He was on the mound when the Red Sox won it all and they would not have gotten that far without him.
My personal favorite Koji moment was when he excitedly slapped Shane Victorino in the dugout and I know many teammates of his have similar joyous memories of the wild closer. To Long and Uehara, all of us in Boston certainly wish them nothing but the best.