I went to Opening Day at Fenway Park today with Bismo and The Hey. It was a heck of a day, on pretty much all levels.
First, I want to give some kudos to Red Sox management for calling the game so early yesterday. They made the call by 10 AM, which enabled me to stay at work and get some stuff done so that I could take off early for today's 4:06 start (yes, that was on purpose).
And second, thanks to Bismo for getting the tickets in the first place! As The Hey and Bis pointed out, next year is my turn to get my hands on some Opening Day tickets.
After getting out of the office a bit later than I would have liked, I arrived at Fenway a few minutes before the pre-game ceremonies. Needless to say, it wasn't nearly as dramatic as last year's ring ceremony, but it was nice all the same. Senator Ted Kennedy threw out the first pitch to new Hall of Famer Jim Rice. This was followed by color guards from all five branches of the service, the national anthem played by the Boston Pops, and a flyover by F-15 fighters that seemed like they were about 10 feet above the ballpark.
Two of the three seats that Bis got were marked "obstructed view" and they weren't kidding. A big green pole was blocking the view of either home plate or the pitcher. No complaints, though. I was just happy to be in the ballpark. However, I would like to suggest that maybe the Red Sox could build the poles out of transparent aluminum during the next Fenway renovation project.
Once all the pomp was over it was down to baseball. This year's opener was a rematch of the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Josh Beckett opened up 2009 in great form, going 7 innings, giving up just one run, two hits, and striking out 10. If this healthy version of Josh Beckett had been available in last year's playoffs, we might have had two parades in Boston last year.
MVP Dustin Pedroia started off great as well, hitting a James Shields pitch into the Monster Seats in the first inning. The Sox added three more in the third and a final run in the 6th on a Jason Varitek home run. The Captain got a great ovation during the pre-game introductions and an even bigger cheer when the ball went over the fence. If we could get a .250/15/75 year out of Tek, I think everyone would be very happy.
Joe Maddon may want to consider shuffling his rotation so that James Shields no longer has to pitch at Fenway. He had a 10+ career ERA at Fenway going into the game and gave up 5 runs in 5.1 innings today.
Probably the only significant negative today was a shaky outing from Hideki Okajima, who came in to relieve Beckett in the 8th. He hit a batter and walked a batter, then got a strikeout before giving way to Justin Masterson. Masterson allowed both inherited runners to score, but avoided further damage. The 9th was another episode of The Jonathan Papelbon Show, with the usual happy ending (death stare, strikout, Dirty Water by the Standells). The Sox let the Fenway faithful go home happy with a 5-3 win.
It was a great day, even with the cold weather. And hey, we're a game up on the Rays and the Yankees!