Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo returns to Fenway Park with fond memories of Red Sox

June 30, 2014 - 4:58 pm

As he makes his second trip to Fenway Park, Anthony Rizzo remembers the tough times. In May 2008, Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The 2007 sixth-round pick of the Red Sox was scared. At the young age of 18, Rizzo faced a monster bigger than anything he had faced in his life before. Rizzo did not know what to do or what to feel. Then playing at Single-A Greenville, Rizzo cut his season short after just 21 games and began to undergo chemotherapy. At a time when Rizzo needed all of the support in the world, the Red Sox organization was there for him. "They did everything," Rizzo said. "They paid for all of my bills. They made sure I was OK. Treated me first-class. I'm forever grateful." After Rizzo was successfully treated, he made his return in '09 to Greenville and was promoted to High-A Salem. Rizzo worked his way up to Double-A Portland before he was traded to the Padres as part of the package that landed the Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. At the time of the trade, Rizzo did not know how to feel. "You think you're untouchable," Rizzo said. "That was tough, being traded while I still had a lot of friends in the Red Sox organization. When you get traded once, you realize the business of things, but you don't know it until you go through it." For Rizzo, getting traded by the organization that drafted him was a tough mental hurdle. "They drafted me," Rizzo said. "They shaped me into the player that I'm still becoming, and a lot of instructors and coaches along the way have helped out, and also in San Diego. That's kind of fresh when you first get drafted, that's kind of shaped me into how I am now." Rizzo was traded once again when the Padres sent him to the Cubs. In the Windy City, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who helped the Red Sox draft him and then acquired him for the Padres as San Diego's GM, welcomed him with open arms. Rizzo is glad that Hoyer believed in him after he had a tough time at the plate in San Diego, where he hit .141/.281/.242 with one home run and nine RBIs in 2011. "They obviously had faith in me after San Diego," Rizzo said. "I wasn't too good so I came over here and they traded for me. It was nice because they really believed in me, and even last year they let me play all year and they've shown the confidence in me with the extension and all of that. The relationship has been good." Had Rizzo not been traded by the Red Sox, it's feasible to think that the first baseman could have been starting for the team during its 2013 World Series run. Rizzo prefers not to think about that hypothetical situation. "It would obviously be nice to have a nice shiny ring on," Rizzo said. "As a kid when you get drafted, you play for an organization, but you also play for the other teams out there so you just have that organization's name on you. You obviously want to play for that team, but I know firsthand, you're playing for a lot of other teams. You have to keep working and get better because everyone is watching you all of the time." While being traded twice before the age of 22 was tough for Rizzo, he is glad to have ended up in Chicago. "I was young so it was tough," Rizzo said. "Going from the Red Sox, it was just, I was very bittersweet about it because I liked the Red Sox' mentality. And when I got to San Diego, I loved it there, too. And now that I'm in Chicago, I love it here too."