Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Morning After The Red Sox Home Opener – Some Reflections From Red Sox Nation

I did not have the chance to attend yesterday’s Home Opener at Fenway Park, but I was there in spirit. It is much too early to come down with a case of Premature Pennant Fever, but I like the look of the team that Theo and his posse have put together. There are lots of new faces peering out from under those familiar Red Sox caps and a dozen strange new names that Terry Francona can pencil into his line-up cards, but the same old excitement and magic still emanates from the oldest, smallest and most beloved park in the Major Leagues.

Prior to the Home Opener, the Red Sox announced the signing of David Ortiz to a four- year extension. He is almost guaranteed to finish his career in a Red Sox uniform. Anyone who is a regular reader of The White Rhino Report knows how much I admire Big Papi. I have written about him in the past on several occasions. Some of David’s comments at Monday’s press conference were instructive and encouraging in this age of the “rent-a-player.”

Here is the gist of what Big Papi said in response to questions about why he would eschew free agency and lock himself into a long-term deal with the Red Sox:

“I love it here in Boston. This is my home, and this is my house and I need to protect my house. I spend time with fans here in town, and I know that it has been painful for the fans these past few years to see some of their favorite players leave town. I want to give some good news to Red Sox Nation. I think people around New England will take it as good news that I plan to play here for as long as possible. I like playing with these guys, and I am pretty sure they like playing with me. Mr. Henry and Mr. Lucchino and Mr. Warner and Theo have put together something special here, and I am very happy to be part of it.”

Dan Shaughnessy, in his column in this morning’s Boston Globe, described some of the pre-game activities that happened at Fenway on Tuesday afternoon:

“Then 5-year-old Jimmy Fund patient Jordan Leandre was wheeled onto the field by Ortiz, and melted the crowd (and both rows of ballplayers) with a stirring rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ -- punctuated by the customary flyover of A-10 jets from Bradley Air National Guard Base in Connecticut.”

There is a “back story” that needs to be told. Jordan Leandre suffers from bone cancer and has had a series of difficult surgeries and procedures over the past several years. He and Ortiz have developed a special friendship. Apparently, at the end of last season, Jordan was quite ill, and Big Papi made Jordan promise him that he would be well enough on Opening Day to sing the National Anthem. I don’t know if Ortiz’s part of the bargain was a promise to hit a homerun, but that was precisely the Hollywood scenario that unfolded yesterday. A couple of hours after Ortiz had wheeled Jordan onto the field, Vinnie Chulk, the Blue Jays’ relief pitcher, served up an offering in the slugger’s “wheelhouse,” and Ortiz quickly deposited the baseball in the Right Field Box Seats – in the general direction of the Jimmy Fund billboard that has graced Fenway Park since the days of Ted Williams and Tom Yawkey, and only a few blocks from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Ortiz’s partner in offering new life and hope to a young and courageous Red Sox fan.

This is going to be a fun season!

Papi, thanks for the memories, and for the promise and commitment to provide many more years of joy to your fellow citizens of Red Sox Nation. You weren't born here, but you are one of us to the very core of your being!

Go Sox!


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