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Monday, April 8, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 36

Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Opening Day at Fenway Park is always one of my favorite days of the year.  Thanks to events like Christmas at Fenway (coupled with the Fenway Park Yard Sale) and Truck Day, plus my trip to spring training, I feel connected to the team and the park year round, so the off-season doesn’t feel as long as it used to.  But with last season resulting in the worst finish of my lifetime, it was great to finally be able to put that behind us and move on.  Optimism usually runs high at the home opener, and this year was no exception.  The team had a lot of fresh faces, and unlike the 0-6 and 1-5 starts of the past two seasons, they had gone 4-2 on their opening road trip and came home in first place in the division.

It's not truly Opening Day until you've high-fived a bowling pin.

It's not truly Opening Day until you've high-fived a bowling pin.

I went in early, and Kenmore Square was quiet except for a few other early arrivers and the bowling pin mascots from Lucky Strike Lanes.  Outside the park there was a bustle of activity as vendors set up their carts, fans perused the souvenir stores, and people camped outside in the day-of-game ticket line.  I circled around the park, stopping by the players’ parking lot for a while.  Most of the players were already inside, but we did see Alfredo Aceves and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley drive in.

The field, as viewed from Canvas Alley, was ready for baseball.

The field, as viewed from Canvas Alley, was ready for baseball.

I have a Red Sox Nation membership, so I got in that line and got to enter a half-hour before the other gates opened, and I went up on the Green Monster to watch the end of Red Sox batting practice.  (I had to remember to ask for one of the annual schedule magnets when I came down as the gates opened, because they weren’t handing them out yet when we first came in.)  With the major changes to the ballpark complete after a 10-year plan of renovations, the only difference I noticed this year (other than the ads over the Green Monster) was that the ladies’ rooms have automatic hand dryers instead of paper towels.  (At least they’re the high-speed “Xlerator” ones, but while they may be easier and greener, how am I going to wipe down my seat after rain delays if there are no more paper towels?)

Poles in the grandstand make a nice place to stick your schedule magnet during the game.

Poles in the grandstand make a nice place to stick your schedule magnet during the game.

As I’ve done for the past few years, I stopped at the Designated Driver booth inside Gate A to get a coupon for a free soda.  I also took advantage of the Sox’ April promotion of two hotdogs for $5 (though of course the only one who hadn’t heard of this deal that was heavily advertised on TV, in newspapers, and online was the guy at the hotdog stand – luckily he consulted with  someone else who showed him how to ring it up.  As for me, I predictably spilled mustard down my shirt, which I took to be good luck since the last time I did that was a playoff game in 1999 when the Red Sox scored 23 runs – and may also be the last time I had a Fenway Frank.)

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your 2013 Boston Red Sox.

My seat was 26 rows back in center field, and I was delighted to be sitting in the sun.  This was my 13th consecutive Fenway Park opener, and it was easily the warmest.  Because the starting lineups were read as part of the ceremony, they never announced the gametime temp, but it was in the 60s in the shade.  With the sun shining down from a cloudless sky, I was comfortable in a short-sleeve t-shirt – the first time I’ve watched an Opening Day game without being bundled up in multiple layers since I went to the Braves’ home opener in Atlanta in 1999.  The vendors were even coming through the stands with summer items like lemonade and sports bars, instead of the usual April fare of chowder and hot chocolate.

The opening ceremony was toned down compared to some of the previous years, but it was still nice.  It was like the focus was back on baseball again instead of the hyperbolic pageantry of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary season last year.  (Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ceremonies last year, but they overshadowed the actual games, which often ended up being awful.)  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Red Sox’ partnership with the Jimmy Fund; they adopted the cancer treatment and research foundation as their team charity when the Braves moved out of Boston in 1953.  To celebrate, the National Anthem was sung by the “Jimmy Fund Chorus”, made up of patients and volunteers.  For the first pitch, they had a Jimmy Fund patient, doctor, and Red Sox player from each decade.  My only gripe is that they didn’t announce who the players were, and my seat was too far away to tell.  It wasn’t until I got home and looked at my pictures that I saw they were Jason Varitek (2000s), Tim Wakefield (’90s), Bob Stanley (’80s), Jim Rice (’70s), Mike Andrews (’60s), and Bill Monbouquette (’50s), along with the son of a Braves player from the ’50s.  They did announce a special guest to say “Play ball” (an honor performed in previous years by the late Johnny Pesky) – it was Pedro Martinez, who got an enthusiastic ovation.

Daniel Nava is congratulated after his huge home run.

Daniel Nava is congratulated after his huge home run.

The game itself did not disappoint.  Clay Buchholz and Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen traded goose-eggs for the first six innings.  Dustin Pedroia reached on an infield hit to start the seventh, and Mike Napoli followed with a double.  After Will Middlebrooks struck out, Daniel Nava came up.  Originally put on the roster as the fourth outfielder, the switch-hitter was in the lineup today in place of rookie phenom Jackie Bradley Jr., because there was a lefty on the mound for the Orioles, even though Nava’s numbers aren’t as good from the right side of the plate.  John Farrell must have known what he was doing, because Nava absolutely crushed the ball over everything in left to give the Sox a 3-0 lead.  (With the bright sky, I lost track of the ball as it sailed over The Wall, but I read later that it had landed in a dumpster in the alley between the Cask ‘n Flagon and the parking garage.)

All that was left was to close it out.  Andrew Bailey pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Joel Hanrahan came on for the ninth.  As he left the bullpen, the first few notes of “Shipping Up to Boston” played, and there was a collective “ooh” from the fans as we thought he had chosen Jonathan Papelbon’s old entrance song (which I thought would have been cool).  Instead, it switched a few seconds later to a loud cacophany which apparently is Slipknot’s “Before I Forget”.  (That may be a you-kids-get-off-my-lawn statement, but let’s just say his song is never going to become a ringtone of mine like Pap’s was… although who knows, maybe if Hanrahan dances an Irish jig in his underwear I’ll reconsider.  But I digress.)  Hanrahan gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, but held on and closed out the 3-1 win.

Bonus pic: Before the game I was on Yawkey Way while Tom Caron and Dennis Eckersley were filming NESN’s pre-game show.  Here’s a look at T.C.’s end table behind the desk:

T.C. runs on Dunkin... and water, media guides, and a whole lot of hairspray.

T.C. runs on Dunkin - plus water, media guides... and a whole lot of hairspray.

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