Ringing In The New Year
Friday, April 4, 2014 – Fenway Park, Section 42
Brewers 6, Red Sox 2
I had good luck over the winter when the four-game Sox Pax went onsale, and I managed to get through the Virtual Waiting Room early enough to get a package that included Opening Day before they sold out. So while I didn’t need to wait in the day-of-game ticket line this year, I still went in to Fenway early. It was my 14th Fenway Park opener, but it was also the third World Series ring ceremony of my lifetime, something that just ten years ago I thought I’d go my whole life without seeing at all.
I bought a Media Guide in the souvenir store, and then headed around the corner onto Van Ness Street. I waited for a little while outside the players’ parking lot, but I figured most of the players were already inside, and any celebrities arriving for the ceremony would be pulling in later. So I continued down Van Ness and onto Lansdowne Street, then completed the lap around to the front of the park again.
At 11:00, I went to Gate C, where the Red Sox Nation line usually forms to go in a half hour early. Some Opening Days they do let us in early, but some they don’t. Today they didn’t, so I waited till 11:35 when all the gates opened and went in, picking up my annual schedule magnet on the way. There aren’t too many changes to the ballpark this year. Most of the updates involved adding 2013 to the list of World Series wins on displays throughout the park.
One of the things that supposedly has changed this year is the third base deck behind the grandstand. I couldn’t get in there to see it, because it was blocked off for a large private party. But I did glimpse an ice sculpture of the World Series logo, and Larry Lucchino hob-nobbing with the guests. I was glad to see that the pizza was still $5, and I got my coupon for a free soda at the Designated Driver booth inside Gate C, so even though they expanded their menu options with a lot of new expensive items, it’s still possible to grab something to eat without breaking the bank.
At 12:30, I went up to my seat in row 45 of the bleachers, five rows from the back wall. (For reference, the red seat that marks Ted Williams’ 502-foot home run was eight rows in front of me in row 37.) The ring ceremony started shortly after 1:00, and it lived up to the hype. From the highlight montage, to the marathon bombing survivors delivering the rings, to cheering the players as they were introduced, to the tribute to fallen firefighters, to Pedro, Tek, and Lowell carrying in the trophies, I was teary-eyed through the whole thing.
And then, after the emotional ceremony ended with Tim Wakefield, Kevin Millar, and a bunch of kids saying “Play ball,” there was a game to be played too. While the morning had started off sunny, it clouded over during the ceremony, and by the time the game started it was already feeling cold. The wind was whipping in from behind the bleachers steadily throughout the game. There’s a new video board on the right field facade, which I couldn’t see from my seat in the bleachers but I got a look at later on, that showed the temperature was 41°, and there was a definite wind chill factor going on in the back rows of the bleachers. After the Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the second, I put on my knit winter hat. The Red Sox answered with a run on a walk, a hit, and an error in the second, and tied it with a Will Middlebrooks homer in the third. In the fifth, I finally gave in and put on gloves, which made keeping score difficult and clapping impossible. With the game still tied at the seventh inning stretch, I made my move around to the infield grandstand to find an empty seat that wasn’t as windy, and wound up in Section 16.
It was a little better without the wind, and I pulled out the fleece blanket I brought in case the game went extra innings. Unfortunately a disastrous four-run ninth inning by Edward Mujica made that a moot point, and the Sox dropped the game. I hope they get less sloppy once it’s not freezing cold out, because I’d sure like to see another one of these ring ceremonies next year!