Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opening Day!

There’s just something about Opening Day. The seats are clean. The field is green. The air is crisp, and the centerfielder isn’t. Opening Day isn’t just the first game of the season. It’s more than 1 of 162. It’s an event. It’s a production. It’s a joy to behold.

As usual, the Sox didn’t pull out any stops during the ceremony. Why settle for simple introductions when you can have people appearing from out of nowhere? They once had members of the NE Patriots appear out from under a flag in left. This year, they had the Red Sox themselves appear from out of the crowd. It was a great touch. Each Red Sox starter, instead of coming out of the dugout, came down from the stands. The image of the players walking down the aisles towards the field, slapping hands with the fans as they went was great. I wonder what Jason Bay was thinking after spending so many Opening Days in Pittsburgh. While I’m sure it wasn’t the player’s first choice, they all looked to be having a good time with it.

The National Anthem was a little bit of a letdown. Not, that I’m a huge Seal fan…or any kind of Seal fan really. But, I like to see different people do the singing. The Boston Pops show up enough that I like to see someone else out there. But, one advantage to the Pops is that they can read music and lyrics. Whenever they do it, it’s a nice proper, short, rendition. No holding one note for three years, or changing the tune to show off specific vocal talents. It’s simply the anthem as it should be. I’m also always impressed by a flyover. I can’t get over how lout and close those jets can get.

The ceremonial first pitch is another place the Red Sox like to have a little fun. Last Year it was Bill Buckner. In previous years they’ve had Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, former Sox, and any number of important people. This year, the Sox selected Senator Ted Kennedy. It was an apt choice, given all he has meant to Massachusetts over the years. Catching the first pitch was Jim Rice. I expect to see a lot of Jim Ed this year. With his election to the baseball Hall of Fame this year, he’ll be a popular player. Not only will the Sox retire his number sometime this year, I’m sure he’ll be the face of the franchise for a while. It’s nice to see Rice finally get a well deserved “victory tour.”

Once the game starts, all the ceremony in the world can’t cover up for a drubbing. Thankfully, Beckett made sure that didn’t happen. He had one bad inning, but was otherwise dominant. Striking out 10 batters over seven innings is a pretty impressive start to the season. Dustin Pedroia kept chugging along with a crowd-pleasing home run in the bottom of the first. He has one of the fastest home run trots around. He must have realized that the faster his trot, the sooner he can get back to the dugout and tell everyone he just hit a homer. The captain added one of his own as yet another treat for the crowd. It’ll be great if Jason Andrew Varitek is even most of his old self. Obviously, his 162 home run pace is a tad unrealistic. But, it’s better than seeing him go 0-4 with three pop outs.

I was glad that Papelbon apparently dropped the “wild thing” portion of his entrance song. I still say that “I’m Shipping up to Boston” is the best closer entrance I can imagine. It’s like the WWE out there. If you haven’t been in Fenway for the opening notes, you need to be. The electricity in the stands is measurable.

All in all, what more can you ask for out of a game? The ceremony at the start. Great starting pitching. A couple homers. Papelbon to close it out. Fenway Perfection.

If only it were 10 degrees warmer.

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