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2007: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 9, BC Eagles 1
When the afternoon game was over, we left and grabbed a bite to eat, but we hurried back because we had tickets for the nightcap too. This was the team's annual game against Boston College, but it was the hottest ticket in town. That's because it would be Daisuke Matsuzaka's first game as a member of the Red Sox. Everyone was curious to see how he'd do after a whole winter of hype, and there was a buzz around the ballpark. At Matsuzaka's first press conference after signing with the Red Sox, he had said, "My first pitch will be a fastball, and I would like the batter to miss it." B.C.'s right fielder Johnny Ayers was ready, and lined the first pitch of the game down the left field line for a double. But Daisuke settled down after that. A bunt moved Ayers to third, but he struck out the next two batters. In the second, he got a groundout, another strikeout, and a popup to second base.
On the offensive side, the Red Sox had no difficulty. Jason Varitek, Wily Mo Pena, and Eric Hinske were the only players in the lineup with uniform numbers under 60, and by the end of the game there were guys with cool names like Bubba Bell, Iggy Suarez, and Mickey Hall. And everyone got into the act. First baseman Jeff Bailey hit a home run. Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury had an RBI triple. David Murphy drove in two runs. Bell had two hits, including a triple. Murphy, Hall, and Jed Lowrie all had bases-loaded walks that forced in a run. After the game, they let kids run the bases, and then had a fireworks display which we stayed around to watch. I had to fly back to Massachusetts the next day, so it was nice of the Red Sox to give me a good sendoff!
Red Sox 14, Mariners 3
Finally, after months of waiting, it was time for Opening Day! As usual, I got there early to make sure to get a parking space before the lots at all the T stations filled up with commuters. I went around to the players' parking lot on the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street to watch everyone drive in. I saw Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli arriving together in Tek's Escalade (with a Georgia Tech license plate in front), Big Papi speeding past us in his yellow Lamborghini to park inside a little further down the street, Curt Schilling in his Mazerati, Coco Crisp in his orange Hummer, plus Julian Tavarez, Jim Rice, J.D. Drew, and Johnny Pesky. It was cold and overcast, and as I waited, there were even a few flurries. When it looked like most of the players had arrived, I walked around the ballpark and went in through Gate A as soon as the gates opened.
Once inside, I checked out the new additions to Fenway Park for the 2007 season. There was a new staircase going from Yawkey Way near Gate A up to the back row of the grandstand, which would surely help get people out of the park after the game. Up on the right field roof were a set of metal bench bleachers, called Conigliaro's Corner. The Red Sox planned to put more permanent seats there for the following year, but for now those seats were being sold only on the day of the game, for $25 apiece; the price matched the uniform number of former right fielder Tony C. But the best improvement of the new year was the new third base deck. The third base grandstand used to have the standing room fans practically hanging over the people seated in the back row, with just enough room for people to squeeze past behind them. But now they had relocated whatever offices had been behind there, and moved the brick wall back. That left plenty of space for concessions, including several tables to stand at while eating. Then there are counters for the standing room people to lean on, and a wide aisle behind the last row of seats. Best yet was the huge new ladies' room. There used to be just one small ladies' room downstairs in the concourse for everyone on the whole third base side of the ballpark, but now there was a nice large one, and it was close to my seat.
The opening ceremonies paid tribute to the 1967 "Impossible Dream" team who had captured the hearts of New Englanders 40 years ago. Over 20 of the American League champions returned, including Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Andrews, Rico Petrocelli, Reggie Smith, and manager Dick Williams. I wasn't even alive in 1967, but all I could think was how in 37 years when they trot out all the guys from my 2004 team, I'm going to be really emotional. The players emerged from behind the giant flag hanging from the Green Monster and took their places in their positions on the field. Robert Goulet sang "The Impossible Dream", then the '67 team members all threw a ceremonial first pitch.
When the game started, Josh Beckett was dominant, striking out Ichiro Suzuki to open the game, and retiring the side on 16 pitches in the first. To be fair, the Mariners had had a long layoff, since they had spent the weekend in Cleveland where their entire four-game series had been snowed out. Jeff Weaver, today's starter, hadn't even pitched yet this year. I had always liked facing him when he had been with the Yankees, because the Red Sox always seemed to do well against him. I rolled my eyes the previous October when Weaver, who had struggled in New York, and Jeff Suppan, who had struggled in his time in Boston, went to the National League and led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Championship. But now back in the American League, he morphed back into the Jeff Weaver I knew and loved. Julio Lugo walked on four pitches, then Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez singled. J.D. Drew's sac fly was the first out, but it drove in the second run of the inning. After Mike Lowell reached on a fielder's choice, Jason Varitek walked, and Coco Crisp's double drove in two more. The four-run lead was more than enough for Beckett, but the Sox didn't stop there. They got three more off Weaver in the second, including Drew's long home run to straightaway center, then proceeded to pound the Mariners' relievers for one run in the third, two in the fourth, two in the fifth, and one more in the seventh.
Brendan Donnelly came in for the eighth and struck out Jose Guillen on three pitches. Guillen, who had been teammates with Donnelly on the Angels a few years back, started shouting and headed toward the mound after the strikeout. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied as Guillen had to be restrained by his teammates. Apparently the two had had a couple of run-ins in the past, and this had more to do with that than anything that had happened today. Guillen was ejected, and when Donnelly hit the next batter, he was thrown out too. The other big excitement for the day came in the bottom of the seventh. It had been cold and overcast all afternoon, but the sun finally came out, prompting a big cheer from the frozen masses. But that's the kind of thing that happens in a festive 14-3 Opening Day win!
The Red Sox lost Daisuke Matsuzaka's Fenway Park debut the next night, and then I was back for a 4:00 game the following afternoon. The 4:00 start was the worst possible time in my opinion, but this was one of the games in my Tenth Man Plan, so I didn't have a choice. I had to take a vacation day off from work, and then I was worried about getting a spot at the T station on a weekday, so I left early and got there just before the gates opened. It was raining steadily and I was already freezing from walking up from Kenmore Square in the rain and wind. I was wearing long johns, plus a fleece pullover, my winter Red Sox coat, a Red Sox knit hat, gloves, and even a Red Sox scarf. I signed up for the Red Sox MasterCard so I could get the promotional fleece Red Sox blanket. I joked that if there are Red Sox fan Eskimos, this is what they would look like! Since I got there when the gates opened, I had to wait two hours before the start of the game. I stayed under cover on the first base side. There were banners hanging over the Green Monster for all of the Celtics' championships. The Red Sox were going to pay tribute to the late Red Auerbach and his team, by wearing the green uniforms they normally only don for St. Patrick's Day. The wind kept whipping the banners around, and they were eventually taken down before 4:00. That wasn't a good sign, and sure enough it wasn't much longer until the game was officially rained out. It was a waste of a vacation day, but at least the good news was that it would be made up as a 7:00 night game in May, so I wouldn't have to take another day off from work just to see the makeup.
The Red Sox beat the Angels on Friday and Saturday, and my next game was Sunday. I left early, because I wanted to try to find a parking spot near the park, since meters are free in Boston on Sundays. It was also scheduled to be On-Field Photo Day, where fans could go on the field and have pictures taken with the players, like the ones I had been to in 2004 and 2006. Despite being mid-April, it was snowing big, fluffy flakes when I left the house, which didn't bode well. And sure enough, I was only half-way in to Boston when we heard on the radio that the game had been postponed. I was driving in with my brother and his girlfriend, who had driven down from Maine for the occasion, and I told them that I was determined to take them to Fenway, so we decided to continue on. At least I was able to call the other friends we were going to be meeting up with and tell them not to bother. The snow had changed to sleet by the time we parked on Boylston Street. We ate lunch at the Boston Beerworks across from the park and checked out the souvenir store before heading back home.
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