By TERRY LYONS
BOSTON – Oh, what we’d do to be at Fenway Park today, this raw, overcast wintry April 2nd day.
I thought long and hard about this day on Tuesday, January 14th, the day the Boston Red Sox fired manager Alex Cora. That afternoon, as we entered the ballpark at the usual Gate D entrance and made our way to the club level in an elevator half-filled with sportswriters and TV reporters, I turned and said to no one, in particular, “This is the first time in my life, I didn’t want to be at Fenway Park.”
My thoughts ran that January day to dreams of better days ahead, and Opening Day at Fenway in the spring. As in today.
First pitch was originally scheduled for 2:05pm today when we’d have some Sox vs Sox with Chicago’s American League ballclub gracing the Fens. In preparation for the game, I had a brand new Bob Carpenter Scorebook, and a new box of No. 2 pencils and they’d be stored in one of the great and thoughtful Christmas gifts I received from my duo of (now adult college grad and college junior year) daughters, with that being a brand new pencil case for my stash.
Surely, there would’ve been some smiles and “good to see ya’s” on the way into the ballpark, as I usually enter via Jersey Street, via one of two walking routes from the Fenway T-Stop. Today, surely anxious to get to the park early and soak in the atmosphere and a full batting practice, I would’ve made a short cameo at “Fenway Johnnie’s” at 96 Brookline to say hello to proprietor John Caron and his right-hand man, Higor Trindade (GM) and renew old acquaintances with the staff, last seen on the final day of the 2019 season, a Sunday afternoon, September 29th when the Sox concluded the disappointing campaign with a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
After checking in and taking the royal and ancient Gate D elevators to the “Bresh Box,” named in honor of the late Dick Bresciani, we’d be treated to a “free brunch” in honor of opening day, with the fantastic Media (and Staff) Dining Room crew surely whipping up something special in honor of the new season. I’d blow right past the dining room entrance to head to the press box and my assigned media seat, a place I still treasure, and do not take for granted. (To gain a place in an MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA or NHL press box, you have to earn it, and prove your worth and professionalism).
I’ve long gone by the viewpoint, both during my many days at the NBA or for the past dozen years as a sports reporter, too, that the “next game is always my first game,” in terms of appreciation for the thrill and privilege of media access and the right to professional cover a ballgame.
Aside from my obvious anticipation for the game itself, the one other very special reunion on this day would be to see Fenway/Red Sox press box attendant and PR team assistant, Kevin Doyle.
Doyle has served the Red Sox franchise, his co-workers in the PR department and the media quite well over the past 22 years or so, if I’m counting correctly. (I remember seeing Kevin honored as a “20-Year” team veteran in September 2018). Kevin and I would’ve shared a laugh, a story or two but he’d be busy preparing for the game, distributing Game Notes, making Xerox copies of each team’s notes, and the official starting line-up sheets – a welcome piece of paper for those of us who take time to properly fill-out our scorebooks with everything from the starting batting order (complete with uniform numbers and positions) to the starting pitchers, the umpiring crew, and then, once the first pitch is thrown, recording the announcement of official time for first pitch and the game time temperature).
Three or four seasons ago, Doyle and I were quite peeved in the fact someone had “misappropriated” the electric pencil sharpener that graces the little beverage station behind the press box. Kevin looked high and low for the sharpener, searching every shelf and drawer, only to announce to me, an avid user, that it was no where to be found for that particular opening day.
For Game 2, I took it upon myself to stop at STAPLES by Fenway, and “spring” for a brand new pencil sharpener! When I gave it to Doyle in that pregame, his smile was as high and wide as the Green Monster and we shared a laugh. I just have to wonder today, if that simple item is still tucked in the press store room, awaiting the Red Sox next home game, whenever it might be?
Sadly, the toughest part of this terrible, global, dangerous, life-threatening pandemic is the uncertainty of the future.
When toiling through a cold, New England winter, I would often find myself outside our home, shoveling our walkways and digging-out our cars in frigid temperatures and brisk winds, muttering to myself, “I can’t wait to walk to Fenway on a nice spring day,” or a plea to God himself, “Please, please get us to Fenway!” As crazy as that might sound, it has been my rallying cry since moving to Boston a dozen years ago.
I knew I could count on Baseball.
While I truly enjoy and treasure the “winter sports,” such as NHL and college ice hockey, NBA, NCAA, ACC and Big East basketball, there’s something about the start of a new baseball season that brings joy, inspiration, anticipation, hope and comfort to the fans of the games. Baseball, indeed, has been there for us in good times and bad.
The Red Sox organization has excelled at providing a foundation of hope and celebration for better days ahead when their talented “game operations” staff orchestrates special events at the ballpark. While a giant American flag draped across the Green Monster is not exactly an astonishing idea, it does play well to the crowd and helps set a tone in Fenway Park to love and respect the situation and the game itself. Whether it was David “Big Papi” Ortiz addressing the Fenway Faithful after the Boston Marathon bombing or the opening home game of a recent World Series, the Sox dress-up the ballpark and do classy, well-scripted and professional tributes, earning “best-in-the-business” honors from this reporter.
Today, I simply look forward to that day. I look forward to seeing the NESN crew and all the media, the security guards, the ushers as we make our way to the field for batting practice. I look forward to giving Kevin Doyle a big hug, noting he’ll be the only one to be honored thusly.
I look forward to seeing official scorer Mike Shalin (or Chaz Scoggins, if he earned the assignment) and SABR/Red Sox historian Bill Nowlin, my colleague seated to my left for about 99% of the games I’ve ever attended. I look forward to bumping into Gordon Edes, a longtime sports reporter now representing the Red Sox as official team historian after a career with the likes of ESPN, a number of prominent national newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times.
I’ll keep those thoughts tucked inside today, as we shelter in place and dream and imagine what would’ve been happening at Fenway Park when the first pitch would’ve been thrown at 2:05pm today on Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season at Fenway Park.