Memorable Moments from the Boston Red Sox's Emotional Return to Fenway Park
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When does a baseball game become more than just a sporting event?
For the city of Boston, the opportunity to watch its beloved Red Sox take the field at Fenway Park five days after the Boston Marathon bombings is the respite needed.
No one will ever forget everything that has gone on in the city throughout the week—from the bombings on Monday to the eventual finding of the second suspect late Friday night. For this strong community to unite as one at an event that might bring it some joy, even for just a few hours, can't be understated.
We have already seen a glimpse of the strength and pride that unites Boston during this most sensitive time at the Bruins game against Buffalo on Wednesday night.
Now, it was the Red Sox's turn to offer a little hope and happiness as they returned to Fenway Park for the first time since Monday to host the Kansas City Royals. We want to bring you all the best sights and moments from what was a memorable and emotional day for all of Massachusetts.
Pregame Video Introduction
Before the start of the game, a video package aired in the ballpark and on the telecast of images from the city of Boston throughout the week. It started with the joy and celebration of the Boston Marathon.
Then, the images turned to the darkness of the bombings and the fear in the eyes of the citizens, unsure of what was going on. But it grew into something more.
There were images of the law enforcement officials and citizens helping their fellow men and women to safety.
Then there were shots of Red Sox players taking the field for their games in Cleveland, President Obama addressing the city, the TD Garden during the Bruins game on Wednesday, police officers, etc.
It was set to the song "Hallelujah" and captured the moment of the week and the city of Boston both in devastation and pulling itself back up in powerful fashion.
It was an amazing, emotional start to an emotional day.
Matt Patterson, Steve Byrne and Team Hoyt throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park prior to Saturday's game.
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Athletes are revered in this country, but we are reminded of who the true heroes are in times of crisis.
Boston honored its citizens by giving individual introductions to the people who sacrificed to help others during all the chaos and turmoil after the bombs went off.
Matt Patterson, Steven Byrne and Dick and Rick Hoyt were brought out to handle the ceremonial first pitch. Patterson is a firefighter who was off-duty on Monday when he saved a young boy who lost a leg during the explosions.
Byrne has a BB imbedded in his neck, as he was waiting at the finish line of the Boston Marathon for two of his friends to cross when the explosions happened.
Dick and Rick Hoyt—better known as Team Hoyt—are a father-son duo who participate in the Boston Marathon every year. Dick pushes his son, who is confined to a wheelchair as a result of cerebral palsy and a lack of oxygen to his brain when he was born, in marathons around the country every year.
Team Hoyt was competing in its 31st Boston Marathon this year, and the duo plan on participating in the event against next year.
Fenway Park National Anthem
Boston unites to sing the national anthem prior to Saturday's game. Courtesy of NESN
The sound of more than 30,000 fans in Fenway Park joining in unison to sing the national anthem on Saturday needs no introduction.
Just enjoy the magic of this moment and the emotion from the fans, players, police officers, etc. as they prove why they are Boston Strong.
David Ortiz Brings the Passion (and Some NSFW Language)
It is very fitting that the player who symbolizes everything the Boston Red Sox have been for the last decade made his triumphant return Saturday.
David Ortiz has been the most popular and beloved player by any athlete in Boston since...I don't know, Larry Bird? Ted Williams? Regardless, he is the face of this team right now.
It was symbolic for Ortiz to have taken the microphone after the first pitch to address the crowd. He didn't say much, but he made his words count.
The Red Sox changed their home uniforms for Saturday, wearing ones that said "Boston" on the front instead of the traditional "Red Sox" for the home white jerseys. Ortiz said they did it because "this is our (bleeping) city."
The colorful language got a huge ovation from the crowd in attendance, unsurprisingly.
Oh Yeah, David Ortiz Can Still Play
David Ortiz didn't waste any time getting back into the hitting groove.
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When he isn't using colorful language in emotional pregame speeches, David Ortiz continues to do what he does best.
With the Red Sox trailing Kansas City 1-0 in the sixth inning and Jacoby Ellsbury on third base—thanks to some terrific base-running on a groundout by Dustin Pedroia—Ortiz stepped up to the plate with a chance to tie the game.
There wasn't anyone at Fenway Park who didn't think Ortiz would at least tie the game. The only question was how long in the at-bat it would take for the magic to happen. On the 101st pitch from James Shields, Ortiz stuck it to the shift by hitting a high changeup just to the left side of the second base bag and into center field.
Kansas City would come right back to take the lead 2-1 in the top of the seventh thanks to an RBI triple from Salvador Perez—who had a terrific game at the plate and behind the dish for the Royals—but on a day where Ortiz wanted to give the fans something to smile about, both with his words and actions, his RBI single was more than enough for the adoring crowd in attendance.
Neil Diamond walks on the grass at Fenway to sing
Despite being born in New York, Neil Diamond has found a long shelf life upon entering his 70s in the city of Boston, thanks to the Red Sox's use of his song "Sweet Caroline" as a rallying cry late in games.
Of course, with the song being about Caroline Kennedy, and the whole state of Massachusetts basically belonging to the Kennedy family, it makes sense that the song would be as popular as it is with the city.
It was especially different on Saturday, though, since Diamond was at Fenway Park to watch the game and actually sang the song live after the top of the eighth inning.
It was a little disjointed, as he was singing along with the track the PA system plays, which has his lyrics going, so keeping everything synced was difficult—but who cares about style points?
This was a moment for the city to get back to some semblance of normalcy in the midst of everything it had endured over the last five days. Kudos to Diamond, the Red Sox and everyone in attendance for making this moment what it was.
"Boston, This Is for You."—Don Orsillo, NESN Announcer
Daniel Nava provided the fireworks in the eighth inning for the Red Sox.
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Of course, the day would not be complete without a Red Sox victory. It wasn't easy, as the Royals put forth a tremendous effort and were just six outs away from a 2-1 victory. But the eighth inning is when the drama unfolded.
Jonny Gomes started the inning with a pinch-hit double off the green monster. Dustin Pedroia walked to bring up David Ortiz with two on and nobody out. Big Papi couldn't deliver this time, as he grounded into a double play.
Royals manager Ned Yost made a pitching change, bringing in Kelvin Herrera to get the last out of the eighth. Mike Napoli was first up, and he drew a walk. That set the stage for Daniel Nava to provide some late-inning heroics.
With Gomes on third and Napoli on first, Nava drilled a ball deep into the Boston sky that found its way into the bullpen in right-center field to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth inning.
Boston closer Andrew Bailey struggled in the top of the ninth. He gave up a home run to Lorenzo Cain, a base hit to Jeff Francoeur and walk to George Kottaras, but he settled down to lock down a 4-3 win for the Red Sox.
The Healing Power of Sports
Just a few of the many guests at Fenway Park on Saturday who made it a day no one will ever forget.
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We all know that sports is just a distraction from the hardships of everyday life. It is a way to sit back, relax and become part of a much larger community of people you have never met before and may never see again.
But for just a few hours everyday, you can become part of something bigger than yourself. What happened in Boston won't be forgotten just because the Red Sox played a game at Fenway Park. Life started once again for the people in that stadium or watching on TV, as soon as the final out was recorded.
Yet none of that mattered on this particular afternoon, as a city and nation joined together to provide reflection on those who lost their lives on Monday and praise those who sacrificed themselves to do something, anything, to help out their fallen brothers and sisters.
Through the magic of social media, everyone was able to be a part of this memorable day. You could look to Twitter for reaction to everything, from the pregame video ceremony to Daniel Nava's go-ahead home run.
Amanda Rykoff, formerly of ESPNW.com, had this to say about the pregame video (a sentiment that anyone who was watching can agree with):
Oh man the Boston Marathon montage set to Hallelujah. So not fair.— Amanda Rykoff (@amandarykoff) April 20, 2013
Jenny Dell of NESN talked about why David Ortiz's speech—and colorful language—before the game was such a quintessential Ortiz moment:
Bostonian Mark Stevens just wanted to let Boston and the Red Sox know what this moment on Saturday afternoon meant to him:
The point is, it doesn't matter where you were in the country on Saturday or if you root for the Red Sox on a daily basis, you knew watching this that there was something much bigger happening. And because the tragedy affected so many people, we had an outlet to join together and discuss something that could make us feel good.
Sometimes, that's all anyone needs in a moment of crisis.