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Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 4, 2010 – Fenway Park, Section 38

Red Sox 9, Yankees 7

Easter Sunday wouldn’t have been my first preference for an Opening Day game.  It was weird to have it at night, and I’d rather ease into the season a little bit before diving right in to a Red Sox/Yankees matchup.  But I love when they open at home, and was excited to have survived the Virtual Waiting Room back in December and actually be able to get tickets.  Plus the resurrection theme does fit nicely with the Opening Day concept of beginning a new season (although maybe not quite so well with the equally-important theme of kicking some Yankee, um… posterior).

There’s a commercial for Kingsford charcoal that’s been airing lately.  A guy dressed in pajamas and a big winter coat stumbles in a daze into his friend’s backyard cookout.  His concerned friends rush to his aid:

Friend #1:  Where have you been?

Guy:  I was inside.  There was nothing.  There was no yard, no grill…  it was just white… and cold…

Friend #1:  It was winter, buddy, just winter.

Guy:  [face brightens] Hmm.

Friend #2:  Somebody get this man a burger!

Announcer:  Winter’s over.  It’s time to come out and grill.

That’s how I felt when I emerged from the T station and walked up the hill to Fenway for the first time this summer.  The last time I had made my way here was a freezing cold night in January for the Hot Stove Cool Music concert, but now the long, cold winter was gone.  Yawkey Way sparkled in the full sun of a cloudless 75° day.  Not only was it easily the warmest Opening Day I’ve ever been to, but it was warmer than the Spring Training games I went to last month – and even a couple of June games from last year.

Yawkey Way on Opening Day.

Yawkey Way on Opening Day.

My first stop was the souvenir store to pick up the new Media Guide.  I waited briefly outside the player’s parking lot as I made my way around the outside of the park, but I figured most of the guys were already inside.  Then it was around to Lansdowne, where I got in the line for Red Sox Nation members to enter early and watch batting practice from the Green Monster.  (They didn’t have the traditional schedule magnets ready for us when we went in early, so I had to remember to ask for one when we came back down after the gates opened.)

I went down behind the dugout first, but there were so many cameras and media people that I wasn’t going to be able to get many good pictures of B.P.  Looking at all the media, I spied the ESPN desk, where new analysts Nomar Garciaparra and Curt Schilling were preparing to film segments on Baseball Tonight.

It was great to see my old friends Nomie and Schill at the ESPN desk.

It was great to see my old friends Nomie and Schill at the ESPN desk.

That started getting me nostalgic for the  glory days of years past.  And when I met up with my brother and he looked up the lineups on his phone, we found out that the first pitch was being thrown out by another hero from Opening Days of yore – the Best Pitcher on the Planet and my favorite player of all-time, Pedro Martinez.  I’ve said for years that if they decide to trot out the 2004 players on Opening Day of 2024 to celebrate their 20th anniversary, I’m going to sob like a baby seeing them all again, and I get choked up just thinking about it.  This was a great moment to hold me over until then.

My next stop was to check out the renovated concession stand behind home plate, which was larger and looked easier to navigate.  (My pictures came out a little blurry, so I’ll try to get some better ones next time.)  I was excited to see the new ladies’ room, too, because that one was always so awful and had never been redone when they improved the other ones.  It’s been moved to a new level under the new concession area and above the concourse, but when I got all the way down there, I was told it was closed because it “wasn’t ready yet”.  (The old one was so bad, I’d imagine that even in an unfinished state this one would be better, but I guess I’ll have to check it out later.)

I went around to my seat in the bleachers in time for the opening ceremony.  It started with an F-16 flyover, and then the lineups were introduced.  Mike Lowell got the biggest cheers, with honorable mention to the ovations for Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Terry Francona, Dustin Pedroia, and Johnny Pesky.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Boston Red Sox.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Boston Red Sox.

With the game at night, the National Anthem featured pyrotechnic special effects during “the rockets’ red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air” and more fireworks at the end.

The rockets' red glare lit up the sky over the Fenway façade.

The rockets' red glare lit up the sky over the Fenway façade.

Then it was time for the ceremonial first pitch.  Have I mentioned I really like Pedro?  I’ve seen a lot of good pitching performances over the years, including a no-hitter and a playoff shutout, and we’ve got a great pitching staff this year, but nothing compares to the electric atmosphere at Fenway during Pedro’s prime.  People hung on every pitch, and even waited until the Red Sox came to the plate to make their bathroom and food runs.  Tonight, we welcomed him warmly, and he returned the affection.  We even got a “Pedro, Pedro, Pedro” chant going.  He threw the pitch to Tek, then hugged Pesky, Big Papi, and Youk.

Pedro returns to Fenway to throw out the first pitch.

Pedro returns to Fenway to throw out the first pitch.

When the game started, it marked my 10th straight home opener at Fenway.  Here’s what I wrote in 2001, my first Opening Day:

This was our first chance to see the 2001 Red Sox … and I was going to be there to personally welcome them, along with 33,524 of my closest friends.  The people who attend Opening Day are the true diehards, people who go to great lengths to get tickets.  People who think nothing of sitting for hours in the cold.  And I didn’t see a single hat, jersey, or jacket with an interlocking N and Y.

That wasn’t exactly the case this year, when the place was crawling with people from New York.  (And I know they didn’t put any effort into getting tickets the first day they went on sale; they just cheated and went to scalpers or agencies, but that’s a rant for another day.)  One thing’s for sure – there was certainly no easing into the season this year!  We were thrown right into the intensity of Red Sox/Yankees from the first pitch (which Derek Jeter grounded to short for out #1, much to our delight).  It was the second home opener night game I’ve been to.  My first was 2003, when the game was rained out twice, on a Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, before finally being played on Saturday night.  That game also had a more intense feel, much like tonight.

Josh Beckett breezed through the first inning on 7 pitches, and the Red Sox went down in order in their half.  A guy behind me mused, “Is this actually going to be a 3-hour game?”  But he spoke too soon.  In the second, Beckett gave up a cheapie homer to Jorge Posada which hit off Pesky’s Pole but would have been a foul ball in any other ballpark, and a not-so-cheap homer to Curtis Granderson in deep center, for a 2-0 Yankee lead.  Adrian Beltre made a good first impression by driving in the first Red Sox run in with a sac fly.  Beckett labored a bit in the fourth, and the Yankees scored 3 more runs, including one on a double steal.

The game had all the usual ups and downs of a contest between these two teams.  Down 5-2 in the sixth, Youkilis’s triple into the deepest part of right field scored two to pull the Sox within a run, and Beltre came through again with a single to score Youk and tie the game.  After Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima coughed up two more runs in the seventh, Marco Scutaro led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and Pedroia followed with a giant blast into the Monster seats to tie the game again.  Fenway was rocking now, and an out later Youk hit a double off The Wall, his third extra-base hit of the night.  It soon got even better, when he moved up to third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.

Marco Scutaro congratulates Dustin Pedroia after his game-tying home run.

Marco Scutaro congratulates Dustin Pedroia after his game-tying home run.

Between innings, Neil Diamond came out (wearing a “Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn” jacket) to sing “Sweet Caroline”.  Steven Tyler had already sung “God Bless America” in the seventh, so I joked, “What are they going to do next?  Have the Dropkick Murphys come out to sing ‘Shippin’ Up to Boston’ when Paps jogs in from the pen?”

Daniel Bard did a good job in the eighth, and the Sox tacked on an insurance run before Papelbon made his way in for the ninth.  The last game that had been played at Fenway Park last October had resulted in heartbreak with him on the mound, so it was great to see him dispense with the first two batters quickly.  There was a harmless two-out single, and then a nice quick grounder to third to seal the hard-fought and dramatic victory.

It was just before midnight when the game went final, and it ended up being everything it was hyped up to be.  The Red Sox have the best record in all of baseball, and the cellar-dwelling Yankees are right where they belong.  All the new guys made a good first impression – Mike Cameron and Scutaro each reached base three times, and Beltre drove in two runs.  Even Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless inning.  Meanwhile mainstays Pedroia, Youk, and Papelbon did their usual thing.

I got home at 1:40, and was glad I had taken Monday off from work.  I had put in for the day back in September when the schedule came out and we were supposed to open on Monday.  When the game got moved to Sunday night, I decided to keep the vacation day on Monday because when a holiday falls on a Sunday, we should get the Monday off, right?  I’ve been calling it Opening Day Observed.  Not to mention I really need to get some rest – after all, we’ve got 161 more of these to go!

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