It may not feel like it, but spring is really here in Boston, as the Red Sox took the field for the home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.
A blustery wind blew and the temperature was down in the upper 30s as fans arrived at Fenway.
Dave Vieira stood next to a cart, selling sausages to hungry fans. “It's a rite of passage, you know. You figure, the winter is gone and now baseball,” he said. But even though the winter’s technically gone, Vieira was still bundled up in a heavy coat. “This isn’t my first rodeo, no. I’ve done this before," he said. "Early April you’ve got to be ready.”
Sox fan Jane Porcello, who believes she might be distantly related to starting pitcher Rick Porcello, started off her Fenway experience with a lobster roll. She couldn’t wait for the game start. “I’m right behind home plate. I'm so excited!" she said. Porcello wore a sparkly Red Sox hat made of sequins that once belonged to her mother, and seemed at risk of blinding pitchers from her seat behind home plate. "Oh I didn't think of that!" she said. "I'll have to make sure I take it off when the Sox pitchers are up. When Tampa Bay is up, I'll be shining it right in their eye.”
Will Casey played hooky from his Westport, Connecticut, high school with several friends for opening day. He was feeling good about the team’s chances this year. “I think they're going to be really good if they're able to stay healthy," he said. "I like the starting pitching a lot, and the lineup is pretty good.”
That positive attitude seemed to be shared by almost everyone at the ballpark, including Carson Laundry of Providence, who was excited about the team’s new manager, Alex Cora. “He's a young manager, he's a former player, and also he was the bench coach on the Astros, and they won the World Series, and they beat us in four games," Laundry said. "So I think he's definitely a huge addition.”
As he spoke, he and his father Patrick stood near a road sign that for now still says Yawkey Way. The Sox petitioned the city to change the name of the road because of the team’s troubled history under owner Tom Yawkey. The Sox were the last in the major league to integrate. A city commission is set to vote next week on whether to make the change. And Patrick Laundry said he’s not sure what he wants to see happen.
“You know, it’s hard to say, because it’s one of those things, I can see both sides of the argument,” Patrick said. He said he worries about people forgetting the hard parts of history. But, “Tom Yawkey’s always going to be part of the Red Sox whether we named a street after him or not. So I guess I can see why they would want to change the name, and I guess you know giving it some thought I can see maybe the name change might not necessarily be a bad thing."
Not far away vendor John Mahan yelled out, “Programs, two dollars! Get a free Red Sox pin with every purchase! Yawkey Way Report!” The publication he sells is called the Yawkey Way Report. “We're going to keep [the] name Yawkey Way, even if the Yawkey Way changes the name of the street,” Mahan said. But he said he hopes the city doesn’t make the change. “I think it's wrong. I think Tom Yawkey brought a lot to the community, and that's why they changed the name back in the 70s.”
Inside the ballpark, the game began with a rendition of the national anthem by Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters and a flyover by four F-16s. Four local Olympic medalists and three Paralympic medalists simultaneously threw out first pitch, and Sox great David Ortiz and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman announced the start of the game, yelling “Play ball!”
After a great start by left handed pitcher David Price, the Sox fell behind by two in the eighth inning, only to tie it back up in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. And then, in the bottom of the twelfth, Hanley Ramirez batted in the winning run, making it the sixth straight win for the Sox, in the first of what’s likely to be many exciting games at Fenway this season.