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Sox fans skip work, flock to Fenway Park

With his brother flying in from Romania for the game, Chris Schmidt said he had no choice.

The lifelong Red Sox fan called his boss with a line that surely echoed in offices throughout the region.

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“I have the sniffles,” said Schmidt, 43, a marketing manager at a company in New Jersey.

His boss was not buying the transparent fib and responded with a chipper expletive.

“I know you’re a Red Sox fan,” he said.

C.J. Olivolo, 9, of Hilton Head, S.C., chose a favorite player’s face to hold for a photographic “portrait.”

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

C.J. Olivolo, 9, of Hilton Head, S.C., chose a favorite player’s face to hold for a photographic “portrait.”

Schmidt, who already had bought several tickets for $250 apiece, paused for a few long seconds. “Thanks for understanding,” he said.

Sporadic rain and middle-of-the-day timing could not deter thousands of fans from descending on Fenway Park Friday for the heavily anticipated first game of the playoffs.

Cecile Smith, 52, felt a smidgen of guilt for sneaking out of the office early while her colleagues stuck it out. But the legal assistant from Billerica had a better excuse than most: Her boss gave her and her husband their tickets.

“That definitely made it easier,” she said.

And there were many other forgiving executives.

When Mike Conte got the surprise gift of tickets from his sister, he went to his boss and urged him to let him have the afternoon off.

“Awesome” was the response, said Conte, 40, an engineer from Brookline, N.H.

When Pam Ruffo went to her boss, he told the 47-year-old from Milton: “Have a blast.”

Others had compelling excuses to be out of the office, too. Nate Rose and a colleague were in the area for a business conference and felt little urgency to return to their jobs in Washington, D.C.

“We’re government subcontractors,” said Rose, 25, who grew up rooting for the Red Sox. “Not much to do there with the government shut down.”

If he were not sipping a beer at Fenway, he would be sitting at a desk, making calls, he said.

His boss told him not to hurry back, advising: “That’s the right way to take advantage of the shutdown.”

As she waited in a long line to enter the park, Jennifer Syria, 33, of Leominster, said she had expected to be in Maine Friday, explaining the new healthcare law for her job with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Instead, she was on her fourth day of furlough, with nearly a million other employees of the federal government.

When a friend called to offer her an extra ticket, she didn’t have a boss to beg for the day off.

“I would much rather be working,” she said, “but this isn’t a bad alternative.”

Paul, 60, a surgeon from Weston, was one of many people on his way into the game reluctant to give their full names because they were skipping out on work.

He could not miss the game, he said, so he kept the afternoon free of patients.

Peter Schmidt (left) flew into Boston from Bucharest to see the game with his brother, Chris, a marketing manager who called in sick from his job in Lincoln Park, N.J., and poured a drink Friday for Peter’s son, Geoffrey Schmidt.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

Peter Schmidt (left) flew into Boston from Bucharest to see the game with his brother, Chris, a marketing manager who called in sick from his job in Lincoln Park, N.J., and poured a drink Friday for Peter’s son, Geoffrey Schmidt.

“I should say that I didn’t have to cancel any appointments,” he said. “But there’s no shortage of sick people. I could have had a full schedule.”

Ann Marie, 26, a social worker from Newton, also manipulated her schedule for her benefit.

“I have flex hours,” she said. “I’ll work the extra hours tomorrow.”

Some benefited from previously planned vacations.

Eli Hedstrom, a restaurant manager, flew up from Florida to watch the game with his brother.

“I was lucky I had the time off,” said Hedstrom, 23, of Lakeland, Fla. “I had to be here for this.”

Drinking beers with his brother and son at Cask ‘n Flagon before the game, Peter Schmidt said the two flights and 9½ hours in the sky to get from Bucharest to Boston never gave him pause.

Their father was from Lynn, and though they grew up in New Jersey, they had no choice but to join Red Sox Nation. They are proud, lifelong members and said distance could not keep them from watching the Sox compete in the playoffs.

“We had to be here,” said Schmidt, 53, who markets cigarettes in Romania.

As he looked deep into his Blue Moon, Chris Schmidt, his brother, began to consider additional excuses if the Red Sox advance.

“I came up here for a little medicine,” he joked as he guzzled his beer.

“If they keep winning, I might get the sniffles again,” he said. “Either that or I’ll have to invent some sort of disease.”

Once they win the World Series, he knows what he will tell his boss.

“I’m cured,” he said.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@davabel.
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