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Uehara, Tazawa visit White House as Obama honors BoSox

Kyodo

Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa were honored with their 2013 World Series champion teammates in a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered remarks from a South Lawn podium with members of the championship team standing behind him during the televised event.

“I think for the nation as a whole there was something about this particular squad that was special and will go down in history — not just because they went from worst to first, but because they symbolized the grit and the resilience of one of America’s iconic cities during one of its most difficult moments,” Obama said, referencing the April 15, 2013 bombings that rocked the Boston Marathon, leaving three dead and hundreds injured.

“The first responders, the brave citizens, the resolute victims of these tragedies — they’re all Boston Strong. And ultimately, that’s what this team played for last season, and every man behind me did his part to keep the team rolling.”

Obama highlighted some of the team’s postseason triumphs, giving special mention to World Series MVP David Ortiz, clutch-hitting Jonny Gomes and Uehara’s dominance as a closer.

“Koji Uehara, the third-choice closer who had been signed as an afterthought, capped one of the best postseasons in major league history with his signature splitter that sank straight into David Ross’ mitt to win the World Series, four games to two,” said Obama.

“And then Koji just looked so happy after every game, didn’t he, jumping up on people.”

“I felt like, ‘Wow, this is the real thing,’ ” the 38-year-old Uehara said. “It’s a rare opportunity to get to come (to the White House). I’m extremely happy to be here.”

Uehara signed with the Red Sox in December of 2012, following his release from the Texas Rangers. Though originally slated to pitch as a middle reliever, Uehara emerged as the team’s star closer, saving 21 games in half a season and striking out 101 batters in 74⅓ innings, while walking nine. He continued his brilliant run into the postseason, racking up seven saves in 13 games and earning MVP honors in the American League Championship Series.

The 27-year-old Tazawa, who pitched in 71 games during the 2013 regular season, also made 13 postseason appearances, including five in the World Series. He pitched one third of an inning of scoreless relief in the BoSox’s decisive Game 6 victory before Uehara slammed the door on the Cardinals’ final three batters.