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Monday, April 13, 2015 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

This year’s home opener was my fifteenth Fenway Park Opening Day.  It’s always a welcome sight, but after a disappointing season last year and a record-setting snowfall all winter, plus the fact that we were already 13 days into April, I was definitely ready!  Topping it off, this was my warmest opener ever, a gorgeous, sunny day with a game-time temp of 69°.  I got to Fenway almost five hours before the game and waited outside the players’ parking lot for a while, where I saw Robbie Ross, Wade Miley, Koji Uehara, Ryan Hanigan, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz drive in (well technically Koji walked in).

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK".

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day. I chose this picture to post because it looks like it says, "FENWAY PAHK." (Three years ago the Red Sox also opened on the late date of April 13, but that year this tree was already full of leaves.)

After circling around the park, grabbing a slice of pizza from a vendor, and picking up a Media Guide in the souvenir store, I got in line at Gate C.  Red Sox Nation members and season ticket-holders get to enter 2½ hours before the game.  I went up on the Green Monster, but with this being a day game after a night game, the Red Sox weren’t taking batting practice on the field.  The pitchers were out in right field long-tossing, and Hanley Ramirez was in left working with coach Arnie Beyeler fielding caroms off the Wall.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster.

Hanley Ramirez takes fielding practice in front of the Green Monster. This is his first year as an outfielder after starting out as a shortstop.

One of the changes to the park this year is the removal of the center field camera well, which makes room for some new seats in Section 34.  To do this, the cameras were moved up to a new platform above that section, near where the K-Men post strikeouts on the walkway to the Green Monster seats.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

The new center field camera "pit" as seen from the Green Monster during batting practice.

Here’s what the area looks like from the stands, compared to the same view last year.  According to the numbers in the Media Guide, there are a grand total of 24 extra seats now (which along with the other seats in Sections 34 and 35 are covered up during day games to provide a dark batter’s eye background).

New center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

New look of the center field area (left) compared to what it looked like last year (right).

There’s another new seating area too, over in left field.  Section 33, the last section of left field grandstand before the Green Monster, never used to have a roof over it.  This year the roof deck was extended so that it covers that last little bit up to the Fisk Pole, adding 150 new seats and another suite.  That’s great for when I sit in that corner of the grandstand and it rains, but today it meant that our seats in Section 32 were shaded from the sun for the whole game.  It would have been a perfect beach day in the bleachers, but we actually needed jackets in the late innings when the breeze picked up.

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

View of the new section of upper deck seats (left) compared to what the area looked like last year (right).

As usual, the opening ceremony was beautifully done.  They hit all the right emotional highs.  The National Anthem was sung by the children’s choir of Jane Richard, who lost her brother in the Marathon bombings two years ago.  Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, along with Patriots owners Bob and Jonathan Kraft, brought the Lombardi trophies and Brady threw out the first pitch.  Then the Red Sox honored former Boston College player Pete Frates, who has ALS and was credited with creating the ice bucket challenge last summer to raise money to fight the disease.  Both the Red Sox and the B.C. Eagles had worn his number 3 during their annual Spring Training game, and today they presented him with the shirts.  And lastly, out came Hall of Fame electee and fan favorite Pedro Martinez.  He said the official “Play Ball” and then hugged everyone – Pete Frates, the whole Frates family, even Wally the Green Monster – on his way back in.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Jonthan Kraft, and Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots carry their four trophies onto the field.

The game itself more than lived up to the hype, and it didn’t take long to get exciting.  The second batter of the game singled off Rick Porcello, and then Bryce Harper launched what looked like a 2-run homer toward the Red Sox bullpen.  But Mookie Betts had it all the way, and he timed an impossible-looking leap perfectly to reach over the wall and rob Harper of the home run.  We were still cheering him for that as he walked to lead off the bottom of the first.  I kept my camera on him as he broke for second during Big Papi’s at-bat and captured him sliding in with a stolen base, but when he saw that the shift was on and no one was covering third, he popped right up and kept on going.  The shortstop and pitcher gave chase, but he was safe at third, prompting another ovation (and an unsuccessful review challenge).

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

Opening Day hero Mookie Betts slides safely into second, but he didn't stop there, continuing on to take third too on the same play.

We thought we couldn’t cheer any louder, but Mookie’s next at-bat came in the second with two runners aboard, and resulted in a three-run homer into the Monster seats.  Oh, and apparently yelling “Mooooooo” for Mookie (like “Looooou” for Lou Merloni and “Yooooou” for Kevin Youkilis) is now a thing.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me was ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Pablo Sandoval takes his first home at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, and the guy in the row in front of me is ready for the occasion. Panda had a good day, reaching base 3 times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch, and he also made a nice leaping play in the field to snare a grounder that took a ridiculously high bounce.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Rick Porcello had a good outing, going 8 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

Not to be outdone, Big Papi launched a homer of his own in the sixth inning.

The game really couldn’t have unfolded any better.  It ended up the perfect way to usher in a new season.  I can already tell that this is going to be a fun (and wild) season to watch, and I’m so happy it’s finally underway.

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