It took 35 years, but I finally attended my first ever opening day at Fenway Park on Monday. I had a lot of thoughts during and immediately following the game but decided to wait until everything fully sunk in before writing about them.
There’s very little I haven’t seen or experienced at the ol’ ball yard on Yawkey Way. I’ve been there over 70 times since my first game in 1978, but had never experienced the two “bucket list” games on the schedule- Opening Day and Patriot’s Day.
This year the opportunity to attend the opener arose and I took it. I’m so glad I did because it was everything I expected.
The fact that it came against the Orioles was ironic because the O’s were also the opponent back in June of ’78 at my very first game, a 4-1 complete game win for Mike Torrez!
Opening Day is the one game on the schedule where it’s a bonus if the Red Sox win but the game result is really secondary to everything else. For one thing, it marks, for me, the official start of spring.
The Sox often open on the road first but the season (both baseball’s and the weather) doesn’t really start until the team and fans see the Green Monster for the first time.
Watching the fans milling around the outside of the park just before the game and feeling the buzz they give off let’s you know that the special relationship between team and fans is about to be cultivated for yet another season.
For me, the home opener is about celebrating the pageantry and majesty of both the Red Sox franchise and the game of baseball itself. When you see the red, white and blue bunting you know the day is special.
It’s a time for renewal- a time to wash away the stench of a bad season like the disappointment of 2012 and remember the overwhelming joy of seasons like 2004 and 2007.
It’s a time to speculate how good an exciting rookie like Jackie Bradley, Jr. can be for the team.
Watching the player introductions reminds everyone of the possibilities the fresh start to a new season brings. For it is on this day that fans give all the players a big reset in hopes that this will be the year their favorite player has that career year.
On opening day, everyone in the stands and on the field is happy. Everyone shows their appreciation for each other. The fans gave the loudest cheers on Monday for Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Lester, Bradley and new manager John Farrell.
The fans know. They can feel the history of the game and of Fenway on opening day. They cheer because they know how lucky they are to be there and that they may just see a small piece of history.
And that’s how I felt standing there during the introductions as the Sox celebrated their 60-year relationship with the Jimmy Fund and during the game itself.
Not everyone gets to attend an opener. I did and I’ll always remember it fondly.
Oh, and I got the bonus too.
After a quiet game for six innings by the Red Sox bats, journeyman Daniel Nava changed everything with one swing of the bat in the seventh. His three-run homer made a winner of a dominant Clay Buchholz as the Sox prevailed 3-1.
This was the first time Nava ever started a season on a major league opening day roster and he’s already made it one he’ll never forget.
See, that’s what it’s about on opening day- the possibility of seeing something that you’ve never seen before. It was fitting Nava won the game. And I can say I was there for his unique piece of Red Sox opening day history.