Epstein feeling the love of two cities in return to Boston
BOSTON (AP) Theo Epstein hadn't returned to his old office since he left in 2012, and he'd been itching to come back.
Boston, after all, will always be his home.
Or at least one of them.
''I'm definitely still a Bostonian. I'm just lucky to have a great second home in Chicago. I consider them both home,'' Epstein said in the visiting dugout at Fenway Park before a game Friday. ''How lucky is that?''
Epstein, now the president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, is back at Fenway this weekend for the first time since leaving his childhood dream job as general manager of the Boston Red Sox. His tenure with Boston was historic - he helped build the team that ended an 86-year World Series championship drought in 2004, then won another title three years later.
He left in 2012 to pursue another daunting challenge - ending an even longer curse on Chicago's North Side.
The 43-year-old accomplished that feat last season, when Chicago topped Cleveland in seven games to win its first World Series in 108 years.
Chicago is playing in Boston for the second time since Epstein took over at Wrigley Field, but he was unable to attend the series in 2014 because his wife, Marie Whitney, was giving birth to their second son.
Missing that trip fueled Epstein's eagerness to return, but waiting until he'd also won a title with Chicago made it worth the wait.
''The fact that we won (last year), obviously it feels good,'' Epstein said ahead of the three-game series. ''It's nice to the extent it kind of validates my decision to try a new challenge a little bit. It wasn't a foolish thing to leave (Boston), so that part feels good.''
Epstein gave his 2004 Red Sox ring to his father, who keeps it in a safe at home. He did bring his Cubs' ring with him on the trip, but only so his father could take a picture while wearing both rings.
The Cubs had a day off Thursday in Boston, and Epstein took a jog through his old stomping grounds.
''I was able to keep a really low profile, which is nice,'' he said. ''But one guy who was jogging past me in the other direction gave me a silent high-five, which was good. Made me feel welcomed back, which is a good feeling.''
Epstein wasn't the only former member of the Red Sox back at Fenway as pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey and Koji Uehara - all members of Boston's 2013 World Series championship team - also made their returns.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who Epstein drafted with the Red Sox in 2007, is also back in Boston, although he never played a game with the team before Epstein traded him to San Diego in a package for star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in 2010.
''When we did trade him, I told him, `This is really the hardest call I've ever had to make.' I told him, `We're going to get you back someday,''' Epstein said. ''I was able to do that, I just didn't know at the time it would be for the Cubs and not for the Red Sox.''
After breaking the two highest profile championship droughts in all of sports, Epstein said he couldn't picture himself working in any other markets.
''In Boston and Chicago, it doesn't feel like work,'' he said. ''It feels like privilege. It feels like you're part of the family when you're with the Red Sox and Cubs.''
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