You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere
Friday, April 8, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 36
Red Sox 9, Yankees 6
To say the Red Sox hadn’t gotten the season off to a good start would be an understatement. They had stumbled through Texas and Cleveland and found themselves with a dismal 0-6 record, which was especially stunning considering the improvements they had made over the winter. Still, my mantra throughout the week became: “When we’re standing on Boylston St. watching the duck boats roll by, we can look back on this week and laugh.” By the time I was heading in to Friday’s home opener, I saw it as a clean slate, a chance to start over fresh at home with plenty of time left to make up the ground they had lost. I was excited to be going to my eleventh Fenway Park Opening Day. I was looking forward to seeing not only the new guys but the return of the players who had been injured last year. It’s all good on Opening Day!
I went in early to make sure I could get a parking spot at the T station, and walked around the outside of the park when I got there. At Gate D, on the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness St., there was a new set of ticket windows and a new gate at the bottom of the stairs that were added a few years ago. I turned the corner and stood outside the players’ parking lot for a while, but I assumed most of the players would be inside already. I did see radio announcer Joe Castiglione drive in, but then I continued down to Lansdowne St. I got in the Red Sox Nation line, which gets to enter a half-hour early to watch the Red Sox take batting practice from the Green Monster.
By the time we had to come back down, batting practice was over, so I had plenty of time to walk around and check out all the other changes to the ballpark. The biggest change was the renovation of the concourse inside Gate D. There were new concession stands and tables with more room to walk around. The food stands were pretty high-tech, with monitors above them; some showed the prices and some showed the pre-game show on NESN. Inside Gate A there was a fruit cart selling apples, oranges, nuts, and taffy. Out on the field, the big addition was three new video boards. Two were HD replacements of the existing ones, and the third replaced a couple of billboards. For now, they just had Opening Day logos, but we’d see more later. I went back out on Yawkey Way, headed into the souvenir store, and picked up a copy of this year’s Media Guide.
I made my way to the bleachers early, because it was warm in the sun and the opening ceremony would be starting soon, and met up with my friends. Our seats were almost all the way back in the centerfield bleachers, up near the back wall. The festivities began with the unveiling of the new video boards, which was less spectacular for those of us who were right up under them than it must have looked in the rest of the park, but I’ll get plenty of chances to see them in my remaining games. After introducing the Yankees (giving us a chance to boo everyone* right down to the massage therapist), the Red Sox came out of the dugout as a team to line up for introductions. The biggest cheers were for fan favorites Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, manager Terry Francona, long-time Red Sox Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and of course Johnny Pesky, who still gets announced with the rest of the lineup.
* Bleacher comment of the day: As the Yankees introduced one washed up, aging former star after another – like Andruw Jones, Freddy Garcia, and Bartolo Colon – the guy behind me shouted, “Are there any 50- or 60-year-olds they can sign? Where’s Albert Belle these days?”
As usual, the giant American flag was unfurled over the Green Monster. I didn’t have a good angle to photograph it like I have in some years, but I did get a good view of the people on the Monster helping to hold it up. There was a moment of silence and then Taps for Lou Gorman, the former Red Sox GM who had died a week earlier. A native New Englander, Gorman built the Red Sox teams of the 1980’s and 90’s, was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002, and remained a consultant for the team. The National Anthem was played by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band, which to me was much nicer than when some famous person does it with the words all wrong and the tune changed around.
Unlike some years, I hadn’t heard any rumors about who would be throwing out the first pitch, so it wasn’t until Joe Castiglione announced, “It was 50 years ago that this outfielder made his debut…” that I knew it would be Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz came out from behind the flag to a loud ovation. These moments make me emotional when I start thinking about what it would be like if 30 years from now Big Papi comes out to throw out the first pitch. Captain Carl threw the first pitch to current captain Jason Varitek, and then Pesky came out again to say “Play Ball.”
It didn’t look good when the Yankees got two runs off John Lackey in the first, on a double over the head of Fenway newbie Carl Crawford in left. But a certain sparkplug of a second baseman wouldn’t let the game get out of hand if he had anything to say about it. Dustin Pedroia came up for his first at-bat since last August (and only his third game since last June) to a big ovation, and launched a laser into the front row of the Green Monster seats, just inside the “Fisk pole.” I remembered him homering in the first game last year and in the first game of the 2007 World Series, and noted how he has a knack for setting the tone. (It wasn’t until I got home that I realized he had also homered in the 2009 home opener, making this his third straight Opening Day with a home run.) It was as if he was saying, “OK, guys, we can get started now.”
And they did. In the second inning, three straight singles loaded the bases and then Pedey himself drove in two more with another big hit. Adrian Gonzalez and Big Papi also added RBI singles, as the Red Sox built a 6-2 lead.
Lackey labored through his outing, and by the time he left after 5 innings, the Yankees had tied it back up. But in the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia banged a big double off The Wall to put the Red Sox back on top, and J.D. Drew padded the lead with a 2-run single in the seventh. The bullpen was lights-out, the way it’s supposed to work, with Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, and Daniel Bard throwing scoreless innings and Jonathan Papelbon breezing through a 1-2-3 ninth.
Once we heard the first few notes of “Dirty Water,” we knew all was once again right with the universe. With so much time left in the season, that one win over the Yankees had wiped out the pain of the first 6 losses. There’s a long way to go, but as Terry Francona mused after the game, “You’ve gotta start somewhere.”