Former Celtics center Jason Collins left Boston as just another NBA player. Last night, he was back as a lauded national figure to throw the first pitch in Fenway's first ever "Pride Night," part of the ongoing Pride Week in Boston.

Collins made headlines nationwide in late April when he came out the closet in an interview with Sports Illustrated, becoming the first openly gay male athlete.

In an interview with The Boston Globe , Collins reported that this offer from the Sox was by far the most shocking outpour of support he’s received since making history.

The night started with a pitch for social progress and ended in a big-time blast, as Beantown’s Big Papi Ortiz (who else) hit his 11th career walk-off homer, to beat the Rangers 6-3.

It’s fitting that Ortiz, who showed a similar courage to Collins, by uplifting Boston fans and challenging potential terrorists in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, would link himself to Collins and the social significance of the night so perfectly.

Collins will also march in the Pride Parade for the first time, on Saturday afternoon, alongside Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III, his longtime friend and college roommate, who he credits as an inspiration for coming out.

“I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been to a Pride parade, Collins said. “Joe has told me, ‘Prepare for anything.’ I’m looking forward to a brand new experience and really seeing the community celebrate who we are. That sense of acceptance will be a lot of fun.”