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2003: Diary of a Season

2003 was a memorable year in Red Sox Nation. It seemed every game had a heart-stopping finish, whether it was a crushing defeat or a stunning comeback win. I was able to attend a total of 36 Red Sox games, including 29 regular season home games, trips to Chicago and Baltimore, and a dramatic playoff game. The stories and pictures from my 2003 experience are on the pages that follow.

Saturday, February 1, Fenway Park

My 2003 season really began before pitchers and catchers found their way to Fort Myers. Getting tickets is an event in itself. In 2000, I waited in line outside Fenway on an icy January morning for several hours, but Opening Day was sold out by the time my turn came. In 2001 and 2002, I had ordered over the phone, but one year it took six hours of dialing before I got through, and the next it took twelve! For the '03 season, a new method was in place. To keep people from having to camp out overnight, fans were invited to arrive between 9 and 10 am and receive a numbered wristband. When our wristband numbers were announced, we could go down to the ticket office and purchase our tickets, and while we were waiting there would be entertainment in the .406 Club.

I had a lot of fun at the event. It was really nice to be able to wait for tickets indoors instead of out in the cold. (And there were free donuts and coffee for everyone as we arrived!) There was some initial confusion over the wristband system, but I think if they had advertised it earlier (the event was announced a mere three days in advance), more people would have understood it. Over 1500 wristbands were passed out at 9 am, and then at 10 a random number was selected as a starting point, and groups of 25 at a time were able to go down to the ticket office. It wound up being 224, so the people who were numbers 1-223, despite arriving first, had to wait a long time. But what was good was that when those fans voiced their disappointment, Charles Steinberg and the other Red Sox officials present asked for suggestions for how to improve the system in the future. One thing they said was that next year they'd have more than eight ticket windows open, so it will go faster.

I was number 691, and it was 4:30 when I got to the ticket window. Since we were only allowed 8 games per order and I needed 16 tickets, I was trying on my cell phone all day while I was waiting, and I managed to get through around 2:30. In 2002, tickets had gone on sale over the phone first, and I was dialing and getting "all circuits are busy" all day until almost midnight. So this year having to only wait until 4:30 was much faster, plus we got to hang out in Fenway and talk about baseball all day! What could be better than that on a gray February day?

I went to the .406 Club and grabbed a seat overlooking the field. The Jumbo-Tron announced which wristband numbers were being called. Charles Steinberg fielded questions for awhile. Then Tim Wakefield came in and signed autographs for everyone who wanted one. Then there were trivia questions, with Red Sox souvenirs as prizes. I won a souvenir mini-bat for knowing which Devil Rays pitcher gave up Rickey Henderson's 80th career leadoff homer (Delvin James - it was during Lowe's no-hitter, and I had been at the game and written about it for last year's "Diary of a Season" afterward, so I remembered it easily.) Later they handed out more souvenirs randomly without having to answer trivia. Then Theo Epstein answered questions.

New first base coach Dallas Williams was next, then Larry Lucchino, and then Jerry Trupiano. They also told us Grady Little was on his way up from North Carolina, where he had a Boys and Girls Club appearance in the morning, but that he'd be at Fenway "for the night shift". They assured us they'd stay open as late as they had to to make sure that everyone there got their tickets. From time to time they'd check in with the ticket office and announce, "There are still Yankee games available. Opening Day is still available." They also asked for feedback by way of applause for various issues from retiring Tony Conigliaro's number to renovation vs. replacement and a whole bunch of smaller issues. It was fun to feel for the first time that ownership was even remotely concerned about the happiness of the fans.

February 18 - 19, Fort Myers, Florida

This year I made my first trip to Spring Training in Fort Myers, Florida. Even though only pitchers and catchers were required to be there and our trip got cut short by a blizzard on the east coast, it was a wonderful experience. I know I'll be returning for many more springs to come! See my pictures and read the full write-up here.

Friday, April 11, Fenway Park, Section 38

Opening Day, Take 1

The Red Sox 2003 season opened with ten games on the road. There was the opening night heartbreaker in Tampa Bay, when Alan Embree and Chad Fox blew Pedro Matinez' lead. The next night we got our first taste of the resiliency which would define the season, when Kevin Millar's 16th-inning homer won it for the Sox. It was then on to Baltimore, where Fox lost another Pedro start, and then to Toronto. By the time they came home for the Fenway opener, the Sox were already 6-4.

Opening Day's game was scheduled for 2:05 on Friday. A big storm was predicted for that day, with rain starting mid-afternoon and continuing all day Saturday. Saturday's game was at night, so it wouldn't be a problem, but Friday's opener was questionable. When I arrived at Fenway at 11:30, it hadn't started raining, so I hoped that they'd be able to get enough of the game in before the rain came for it to be official. I had been looking forward to Opening Day all winter, and better yet, with ten games already played, it was Pedro who would be starting!

When the gates opened at noon, there were plenty of things to check out. The seats over the Green Monster were the main new addition. I had always thought I would be offended by so drastic a change, but I found it subtle enough to look good. The seats weren't open yet, but workers who had built them were invited to sit there for the first game. The scoreboard on The Wall had been expanded to include National League scores and a couple of ads which were also unobtrusive. The wall behind the bleachers had been lowered, and a new message board was added to provide more info on the pitchers and hitters. Follow this link to see more detailed pictures of the 2003 Fenway changes.

Light rain started around 1:00, and the tarp was brought out as batting practice ended. As game time approached, the rain got worse. It didn't look like they could get the game in after all, but the opening ceremony got underway on time. As the players were introduced, Fox, Embree, Ramiro Mendoza, and the other members of the bullpen who had blown games were booed. I personally don't think it's right to boo the home team on Opening Day, but I seemed to be alone in that sentiment. After the National Anthem, Ray Charles sang "America the Beautiful" sitting at a piano which had been brought onto the field in front of the Red Sox dugout. Then several former Sox players came out from behind the flag on the Green Monster, escorting local children whose parents were serving in the armed forces overseas. Unfortunately, it was hard to hear who they were, because the speakers that used to be in center field on the light tower over The Wall had been taken down when the Green Monster seats were added. The acoustics in the bleachers were terrible for the first few weeks of the season, but luckily the speakers were eventually returned to their original place.

It wasn't long after the ceremony ended that we were told the game had been canceled. It would be played Saturday afternoon at 1:05, so it would still be the opening game, and most likely it would still be Pedro. I headed home cold, wet, and ready to do it all again the next day.

Saturday, April 12, Fenway Park

Opening Day, Take 2

I got up Saturday morning and dressed in several warm layers of clothes in anticipation of spending several hours in the rain, wind, and 50 degree temperatures. By the time I got off the T outside Fenway at noon, it had finally stopped raining. Some people were walking back down to the T station saying the game was rained out, but I didn't believe them. But as soon as I came around the corner of Yawkey Way, I saw that the game had indeed been canceled. Apparently even though the rain had stopped, the field was too wet to play on. The opening game had been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader in August, and we could use our ticket stubs for that game or trade them in for any other available game. Meanwhile, Saturday night's regularly scheduled game was still on, and it was now the opening game and Pedro would be starting. I got in line outside the ticket office to try to exchange my ticket for the night game. Red Sox staff were around to tell us that there were still several thousand tickets available for the night game, so we would all be able to get them if we wanted.

An hour's wait later, I was able to trade my rainout stub in for the night game. I was determined to be there, no matter how long it took. It was still six hours before the start of the game, and I didn't want to go back home and then have to come all the way in again, paying for tolls, parking, and subway tokens again. I'd already done that twice without a game to show for it yet. So I called a friend who lives just outside Boston, and fortunately she was home that day, so I took the T over to her house. In the afternoon the sun came out and the temperature reached 60. My friend laughed at all the layers I was wearing. It turns out long johns, a long-sleeved shirt, a Pedro T-shirt, a fleece pullover, and a winter jacket are a bit much for traipsing through a mall! (But when the game was finally played it did get cold again, so I was glad I was dressed warmly.) At 5:30 she dropped me off at the T station, and I headed back to Fenway for my third attempt at Opening Day.

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This page and all photos copyright © 2003-2004 by Kristen D. Cornette.