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Monday, April 11, 2016

Opening Day Brings Hope at Fenway Park

BOSTON, April 11, 2016 -- Another Arctic front dropped three or four inches of a wet, cement-like snowfall on the front walks of New England homes and the plow operators earned time and a half last Monday night just as the Villanova kids were whooping it up in Houston or out on the Main Line. Shoveling snow in April is not what Abner Doubleday or Rob Manfred had in mind, as chilly winds, wintry mixes and outright cold weather was the cause of seven games being postponed in the season of the year 2016 in Major League Baseball.

It took eight days on the road for the Boston Red Sox to compile a 3-2 record to start a season which has lofty expectations. Today, two games back in the American League East standings, the Sox will crack the bats in their 2:05pm home opener against the division-leading Baltimore Orioles as the Massachusetts faithful crack open a few Sam Adams and school kids cut-out early, citing an appointment with Dr. Lansdowne. Suffice to say, Cold Snap has yet to yield to Summer Ale, but that is quite okay today because hope can go down pretty nicely with a lager.

Opening Day brings life to Boston. It brings hope of brighter days to come this year. Opening Day in Boston is better than New Year’s Day because the resolutions today are only promises of a pennant or, at least, a wild card. Opening Day at Fenway Park brings light.

It starts with planning your day around the 2:05pm start time. The Sox home opener requires careful planning. Securing tickets is a part of that, yes. But, more importantly, it is planning to weave the Red Sox into the fabric of your life. That is what this baseball team requires if you live in Massachusetts. Like no other team in the land, the Red Sox are Boston.

Yes, the Cubs have their friendly confines and their own long-suffering fans who love the ivy of Wrigley Field more than anyone could imagine. Yes, the Cardinals capture the mind and spirit of St, Louis and some of southern Illinois. Yes, the Dodgers have Vin Scully and Chavez Ravine and even the Blue Jays sell some tickets in an igloo in Toronto, but the Sox have Fenway.

Fenway Park! Say no more. It is the chapel of all-time, well, aside from the Sistine version, I guess?

At 4:45am on Opening Day, Fenway Park is alive. It’s lights are on and its motor is running.

New crews are setting up shop for the day, all scouring the renewed Fenway neighborhood looking for the perfect place to do dozens of live-shots for the eye-opening broadcasts right up until the Noon news. On Landsdowne, fans who camped out for tickets are playing wiffel ball in the brisk dawn sunshine. Bar-owners are rejoicing because the boys are back in town.

The Celtics will be hosting some NBA Playoff games over by North Station while the Bruins clean out their lockers after a disappointing season of more downs than ups. But the fabric of life in New England revolves around the Sox and baseball, not any other sport, including that American Football game that does pretty well in the tv ratings game.

Baseball has its place. It has its tradition and New Englanders love that fact.

Contrary to the death-knoll forecast by thought leaders of the Millennial generation, Red Sox baseball holds up. Generation after generation after generation have flocked to Fenway Park, oldsters and youngsters hand-in-hand. High school friends still meet in the same places. Families take the day off and trek in to Kenmore Square on the Green Line. Yawkey Way is closed down for a money-making festival of summer. And, it’s all good.

It’s good as long as the Sox starting rotation can step up. It’s good as long as Hanley Ramirez performs up to his high capabilities at first base. It’s all good if David Ortiz can continue his “Big Papi” role while knocking in runs and doubling about 35 or 40 times. It’s good if the Price is Right and free agent ace David Price wins 20 games and contends for the Cy Young Award. It’s good if Sox captain Dustin Pedroia stays health and bats .300 or better and if Brock Holt plays nealry every day of the year at a different position than the day before.

You see, the hopes of Opening Day come with expectations in Boston. Fans expect to win and they’ll still turn-out if those expectations aren’t met. After all, bagging tickets to see the Sox is a challenging sport in itself. Sox tix come with very hefty price tags, limited availability, and a secondary ticket mark-up scheme if you’re heading to the guys at Ace Ticket or the Sox new season-ticket holder recycling plant, called Reply, to grab a pair behind the plate or up on the famed Green Monster. But, if the Sox aren’t about 10 games over .500 by June, those faithful citizens of Yawkey might be calling for Hanley’s bat or Manager John Farrell’s job.

The cold fact of life on Opening Day is that Major League Baseball whacks up the wins and losses and gives each team one after every single game. Half win and half lose in the cold, cruel world of professional sports. Rising up, way over .500, is what it takes to win titles. Avoiding injury and getting some good, old-fashioned luck doesn’t hurt. But, on Opening Day at Fenway, cold beer will be served as hope springs eternal, at least until Clay Buchholz takes his next turn in the rotation.

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