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2002: Diary of a Season
Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 11
Opening Day is always special. After waiting six long months, baseball - and our Red Sox - are finally back! I had requested the day off from work as soon as I found out what day it was, and I purchased a "Value Pack" of games in February so I'd be sure to get a ticket. This year's home opener was made even more special because it was also the season opener. It had been several years since the Red Sox had opened at home, and usually by the time Fenway opened, we would end up seeing the third or fourth starter in the rotation. But this time, it would be Pedro Martinez, The Best Pitcher on the Planet.
It was a raw, overcast day, and I arrived well before the gates opened. As I waited outside Gate E, I listened to a band, watched the K-Men gather, and visited the Save Fenway Park table on Lansdowne St. to sign their petition and pick up a new bumper sticker. (I already had one for my car, so this one hangs in my cubicle at work.)
When the gates opened, we entered Fenway Park. There was a "Fenway Park 90th Anniversary" logo on the Green Monster to remind us of its history, but it also had a new feel. This was a new era in Boston sports (for surely the Patriots' magic Super Bowl Championship season had reversed The Curse) and a new era in Red Sox history (since the owners, general manager, and manager had all been replaced before the start of the season). And for the first time in a few years, Fenway opened the season with a fresh coat of paint.
The pre-game ceremony featured the World Champion New England Patriots throwing out the first pitch(es). I'm not a huge football fan, (I put all my sports energy into the Red Sox, and don't have a lot left for other sports) but I did get swept up in their Cinderella season in which they proved all the nay-sayers wrong. After all, I grew up as a Sox fan, so I always feel good when the underdogs win. I even had gone to City Hall Plaza for their parade (saying that I was representing Red Sox Nation, and calling it a dry run for the Sox' championship in October. Larry Izzo even led us in a "Yankees suck" chant!) The Red Sox picked up the Patriots' concept of "being introduced as a team." Normally on Opening Day the starting lineups are introduced first, with the reserves afterward. This year the whole team was announced in numerical order.
My seat was in the left field grandstand, and I had an excellent view of everything on the field... except the pitchers mound! After all the anticipation of being able to watch Pedro pitch the opener, I couldn't even see the mound! Maybe it was for the best, though, since this was, after all, April Fools' Day. It would turn out to be a very strange day.
It didn't take long for the game to get weird. Pedro walked the first batter, and went on to give up three runs in the first inning. He had gained weight over the winter in an attempt to be more durable, and had assured everyone the shoulder injury he had last season was gone, but we worried it was still there. The ball seemed to be taking strange bounces, too. One hit was straight up the middle, which would normally be out of the range of middle infielders. But this year the Red Sox had an excellent fielder, Rey Sanchez, at second base, and Nomar Garciaparra at short. Both players have such good range that they had no trouble getting to the ball as it went behind second base, but they got tangled up and the ball went through for an RBI double. "Oh great," I thought. "Our fielders are too good."
The rest of the game was just as strange. Jose Offerman opened the year at DH, and homered in the bottom of the first. Pedro gave up four more runs in the second inning, and another in the third. Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek homered, and so did Tony Clark, who went 3-5 in one of his few good games of the season. There was an unusual play in the bottom of the fourth, when a fly ball out looked like it had been trapped rather than caught. The result was baserunner Rey Sanchez and batter Johnny Damon both standing on second base at the same time. It was ruled a catch, so Damon was out, and he was given credit for a sacrifice fly, because Jason Varitek had scored. The Blue Jays appealed to third, saying Varitek had left early, and their third base coach Cookie Rojas was ejected for arguing when the appeal was denied.
Darren Oliver replaced Pedro in the fourth. He was followed to the mound by Rolando Arrojo, Casey Fossum, Rich Garces, and Ugueth Urbina. Six Toronto pitchers combined to allow 13 hits and 12 walks. The two errors of the day were committed by Nomar and Pedro. The Red Sox were down 7-1, then led 11-8, but wound up losing 12-11. When April Fools' Day ended, the Red Sox and Yankees were tied for last place, a game behind the first place Devil Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles.
The end result of the game was disappointing, but it was certainly a memorable afternoon. It was only April 1st, but the roller coaster ride that is the Red Sox was in full gear.
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