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White House visit behind them, Red Sox hold trip and those who skipped it in high regard

President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 9, 2019, where he honored the 2018 World Series Baseball Champion Boston Red Sox.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP

By MICHAEL SILVERMAN | Boston Herald | Published: May 11, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Matt Barnes came back from an "awesome" White House visit Thursday with equal regard for those who joined him and those who didn't.

"We live in a free country for a reason – anybody's decision to go or not go is their decision and I totally back my teammates in whatever decision they made," Barnes said before Friday's homestand opener against the Seattle Mariners "I think that's that. Guys who wanted to go, went and guys who didn't, didn't. It's 100 percent their decision."

Manager Alex Cora was one teammate who stayed away, spending the off day with his infant twins.

Besides Hector Velazquez, who said he was not attending because of President Trump's track record of disparaging remarks about his native Mexico, Cora was the sole Red Sox who skipped the event for an explicit reason. Cora believes the federal government had not done enough for his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Cora reiterated some of his views as he explained how he spent his day.

"We knew the day was going to be like that," the manager said. "In my world I decided not to go, for my reasons. I'll go back – if you read what I said, not the headline, don't read the headline, read what I said: I know the government has helped, but we still have a long ways to go. That's our reality. Just to throw that out there."

Back to the off day.

"But it was a good day for me," Cora said. "I was with the kids, hung out with them. It's been, what, 10 days without them. We knew it was going to be like that. I'm just glad, like I said on Wednesday, that was a great testament of us as a team. We played well, it was a grind and we ended up winning, and today ironic enough we're playing .500 baseball against Seattle. Hopefully from now on it's just baseball and we go from there."

Cora was asked if he noticed the Red Sox' name was misspelled as "Red Socks" in a White House calendar listing.

He smiled.

"Somebody sent me that, yeah,"  Cora said.

What did you make of it?

"Somebody made a mistake," he said.

Before the trip, Barnes' teammates stressed that the differences in opinions on the team were not divsive. That the players who skipped were players of color was not mentioned.

"Something all of us in here should be really proud of – got some guys going, some guys not, but that doesn't change the way we feel about each other in here," starter Rick Porcello said. "We've still got each others' backs. That's it. More than anything, I'm pretty proud that none of that stuff is going to get in between what we've got going on with us."

Xander Bogaerts, one of the players who skipped the ceremony, agreed with Porcello.

"We're all grown men," the shortstop said. "I know we have a few kids here but in the end I think everyone is over 21. If you don't have the right answer, you either talk to your family about stuff. There are a lot guys in here with good knowledge who can give you advice. Everyone's grown, everyone's different, you've got to respect everyone's opinions and decisions. As long as it's positive and not try to influence people and do the wrong stuff, I think everyone's decisions should be respected."

Barnes said the visit to Walter Reed Military Medical Center before the White House was an important one.

"It puts everything in perspective, it really does," he said. "You can sit here and argue and talk about whatever you want, somebody had a bad game or you have a losing season or you don't make the postseason – that sucks, it really does. But when you go there and experience what these people have really gone through, that truly is life and death. What they've done for this country and continue to do for this country puts everything in complete perspective."

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