Finally! It’s time to resume the baseball season! Is there anything longer than the All-Star break? You may have wondered if I was so wrapped up in my Boston Strong Quilt Project (see last slideshow post) that I forgot about my Red Sox. You know me better than that, don’t you? Did you notice I said “my” Red Sox? That is exactly how it feels this year. It’s my team. Okay, it can be yours also. I’m feeling generous.
This past winter we questioned Ben Cherington’s decisions. We wondered if the pitching staff could ever right the ship. We wondered if John Farrell was who we thought he was. We had doubts that David Ortiz could be Big Papi again. While I realize that the 2013 Red Sox are not perfect, I have a wonderful attachment to this team again. Ben Cherington was absolutely correct in bringing in those “good clubhouse guys”. Players like Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino have contributed in immeasurable ways to the goodness of this team — on the field and off. John Lackey has been the John Lackey of old and I am genuinely happy for him. Even with the up and down performance of Jon Lester and the physical ailments of Clay Buchholz, the pitching staff has been performing better than expected. John Farrell has brought back a feeling of security to Red Sox Nation. You may quarrel with him about when to remove a pitcher from a game or when not to attempt to steal a base, but you cannot complain about the atmosphere he has created around this team. David Ortiz has been nothing short of spectacular — both as a designated hitter and as a leader. I do not want to report player by player here — everyone can see what is happening with their own eyes — but I could not live with myself if I didn’t mention the superb season that Dustin Pedroia and Daniel Nava are having. There have been some swings and misses — the injury to Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Drew’s inability to stay on the field, Will Middlebrook’s struggles in his sophomore season, the depletion of the bullpen due to injuries and overuse — but, overall, I like what I see. Furthermore, I cannot wait to see the rest of it!
I am going out on a limb and predicting that this team will make the playoffs this year. Will they go further? Who knows. All I know is that I like what I see on the field. I genuinely like the players. I love the comradery that I see on the field and in the dugout — the Koji Uehara high-fives, the smiles and even the silly matching beards. What a difference a year makes.
I was never so proud of my team — and my city — as after the Boston Marathon bombings. Some people have complained that the term “Boston Strong” has nothing to do with sports. I would suggest that it does, at least in part. Sports are part of the life-blood of Boston. Our first responders, police, firefighters, EMT’s, are truly the heroes. The people that were injured, those who lost loved ones and who witnessed horrible, tragic scenes are my heroes. Many are my heroes because they have chosen to go on with their lives, to hold their heads up high and show the world that no terrorist can defeat the heart and soul of the city. They are Boston Strong. But, also, seeing my team — “MY” team — quietly visit the injured and embrace the city as a whole was heartwarming. I will never forget seeing the “Boston Strong 617” shirt hanging in the dugout — the shirt that Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia designed. The shirt that still hangs in the dugout at every game — both home and away.
Then there’s the custom bat that Jonny Gomes had made. He had the whole team sign one and put it up for auction to raise funds for One Fund Boston.
Seeing Will Middlebrooks promoting the sale of “B Strong” hats (proceeds going to One Fund Boston), and reading his Tweets of support for the city made me want to always be on his side. Now that he has been demoted to Triple A to work on a few things, I will always be on his side and hope he comes back to Boston soon. I always say that it takes so little to make a fan for life. Will Middlebrooks has done that for me. I’m a fan for life.
And then there’s David Ortiz. Who else could get away with his speech in front of thousands, on live television, stating, “This is our f&%@+#g city!” Even the FCC didn’t mind!
I will never forget the pre-game ceremony on the night that bombing survivor and hero, Jeff Bauman and his life saver, Carlos Arrendondo, threw out the first pitch together. Considering that I had just delivered a Boston Strong quilt to Jeff through a friend, it felt like incredible happenstance that I was at Fenway that night. It was wonderful to cry at Fenway from being so touched and moved — and not from being so disappointed and disillusioned.
Hang on to your hats, Red Sox Nation! We shall soon see how this season plays out. Meanwhile, we can be proud of OUR team and OUR city. We can know that, no matter what happens, we can handle it because we are Boston Strong.