Opening Day at Fenway Park

I might have taken more photos of the video boards than the field on Friday!

The Red Sox fans who showed up on Friday at Fenway Park weren’t there to boo their team or remind them of how poorly they’ve been playing.  They were there to have fun and encourage their team to victory and got to do both.  In spite of the preceding games, Friday was full of happiness and excitement tinged with a little sentimental sadness.

I walked around Fenway before the game as if I had never seen the park before.  By the time gates opened and we got inside, the Red Sox weren’t taking batting practice any more and nothing compelled me to sit in the stands and watch the Yankees take theirs so we took our own tour of Fenway to see what was new.

The first thing we noticed was that the walkways (on the perimeter not actually IN the park) are wider.  This will come in handy for folks getting to the game late who previously would have had to walk practically single file through thousands of people to get to their seats.  It also makes walking form one side of Fenway to the other much easier, faster and with less chance of smashing into someone and knocking their beer out of their hands.

One of the places the wide walkways helped me avoid is the new fish shack (or whatever they’re calling it).  In case I haven’t mentioned it here:  I am extremely allergic to fish and shellfish.  So much so that I carry an Epi-pen, need to take a Benadryl or Claritin before I go anywhere there might be fish and have been sent to the emergency room just because I came into contact with someone who had eaten shellfish before they came to visit me.  After being chastised by one emergency room doctor too many (“If you know you’re allergic you shouldn’t eat it.  NO ONE is so allergic that someone ELSE eating it would cause an allergic reaction.”) I was tested and told by my allergist that in his many years of treating patients he had never seen such severe allergies to seafood as mine.  I mention all of this so you understand when I heard they were going to sell much more than clam chowder at Fenway Park I was devastated because I thought this meant I would no longer be able to go to Fenway.  More on this later down the entry.

We turned a corner and ran smack into Gordon Edes.  Ironic because we had just been talking about him and how he was only one of less than a handful of writers who seemed to really try and make sure the fans didn’t panic after the Cleveland sweep (and who tried to curb the fan desire to be hostile on Friday by sharing the feelings of the players on that issue).  So we got to thank him for that and chat for a few moments.  It was a great interaction and only solidified the decision for me to start unfollowing most of the writers on Twitter and only sticking with the ones I think care about getting a story not sensationalizing.  (My list:  Gordon Edes, Brian MacPherson and Alex Speier.  Rob Bradford is on the fence…he was one of the writers sharing the quotes about the fans on Thursday but he sometimes does his fair share of fan-baiting as well.)  One other thing about Gordon, the man can dress.  Typically, most of the sports writers at Fenway look like they just fell out of bed.  Gordon was dressed quite nattily…it was impressive.

I will admit to being relatively “meh” about Yaz throwing out the first pitch.  But the other aspects of the opening ceremonies were wonderful.  The presentation of the new video boards (which I’m in love with and will probably have to dedicate a sole post to just them) and the moment of silence for Lou Gorman being my favorites.  Of course, Red Sox fans booing every Yankee (including the massage therapist) except for Mariano Rivera is always fun and Johnny Pesky being introduced as part of the lineup never fails to bring a few tears to my eyes.  I was thrilled to see the Navy band out there doing the National Anthem instead of having to listen to some local celebrity screech through it.  Might have been my favorite version of the Anthem from any Opening Day.

A highlight of the game unrelated to the actual game was getting to finally meet fellow blogger Beth from Cursed to First.  I always enjoy meeting people as crazy passionate as I am and meeting Beth didn’t feel like we were meeting for the first time at all.  It’s nice when you can first meet someone and just start talking like you were continuing a conversation from earlier on.  Red Sox Nation has a way of making me feel like there are less strangers in the world.  If you haven’t yet, check out Beth’s blog.  You won’t be disappointed in the least.

At one point during the game, when Lackey was pitching in a particularly frustrating way, I said to myself, “We’re trying, John.  We are.  But you have to help us out here!”.  It didn’t work but the bullpen must have heard me.  At one point, for more than an inning, the Red Sox had a one run lead and I actually had to check the scoreboard because it didn’t FEEL like they were winning.  Typical of a Yankees game, I suppose, but in the end the final score was all that mattered.

I wanted two things out of Friday’s game:  A win for the Red Sox and a Jonathan Papelbon sighting.  Say what you will about him but when he comes into a game at Fenway it’s an event and I love it.  I got both…and the new video board only amplifies Paps’ entrance into the game.  The folks who put together all the video montages for the Red Sox must be in Heaven now with these three new boards because it gives them such beautiful canvases to work with.  They took on the challenge wonderfully because at least two of their montages (including a tribute to Lou Gorman with the Dan Fogelberg song “Leader of the Band” playing over it) made me cry.  That’s high praise from me.

About the fish.  I did have a reaction.  Not a big one.  Just enough to make me uncomfortable (it involved no hives, which is a very good thing) and to wipe me out yesterday (long story short, the day after I have an allergic reaction is almost worse than the actual reaction.  I feel like I’ve been hit by a car and can’t do much…which is why the Opening Day entries weren’t done yesterday).  When I first walked by the fish shack I thought that it was positioned great…far enough back that I would never have to go near it and as long as I walked quickly past it I’d be good.  What I didn’t consider was that people buying fish there would be bringing it back to their seats.  This is where the problem will be for me when I go to Fenway.  This morning, two days later, I still have some lingering effects.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have tickets to that many games this year.

If you have not ever been to Fenway Park or if the last time you were there was prior to 2002, you really need to get your behind there even if just for the Fenway tour.  It might be small but it’s fantastic.

And leaving there with a win on Friday?  The first win of the season coming against the Yankees on Opening Day?  Nothing could be more perfect than that.  (Special thanks to Kelly O’Connor who generously shared her Opening Day pair of tickets in loge box seats behind first base.  Sweet seats with a good friend on a beautiful day of baseball can NOT be beat!)

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