Before the fourth game of the 2014 season could begin, the Red Sox devoted more than an hour to look back at a triumphant, emotional, and unforgettable 2013.
The last time the Red Sox had been at Fenway Park, they were celebrating into the early-morning hours of Oct. 31 after beating the St. Louis Cardinals in six games and winning the World Series. Friday’s home opener was the team’s first time back on the home field, and it carried with it all the pomp and pageantry one might expect.
Not long after the Milwaukee Brewers completed batting practice, the field began to be transformed: grounds crew spraying, raking, and primping, white folding chairs being set up in front of the tarp along the first-base line, members of the Boston Pops arriving in white jackets and black pants.
Boston Strong, the theme of the 2013 Red Sox — the entire city, really, after the Marathon bombings — was still being felt and seen. Pops conductor Keith Lockhart wore a Red Sox jersey with “617” as the number, signs outside the park honored the victims and survivors, and team staff added a single red rose to their outfits.
Then it began, with most of the Brewers looking on from the visitors dugout. Banners nearly covering the length of the Green Monster in left field were unfurled, first for 2004, then 2007, and finally 2013.
Those standing along the Wall at the bottom of the banners, wearing white Red Sox jerseys also with “617” on the back, were some of those who were affected most by the Marathon tragedy. There were family members of Martin Richard, Krystal Campbell, and Sean Collier, who lost their lives. There also were people who survived, and those who helped the victims.
They held in their hands the World Series rings that would soon be given to the members of the 2013 Red Sox, and handed them to team owner John Henry, team president Larry Lucchino, and team chairman Tom Werner. General manager Ben Cherington popped out of the dugout first, followed by manager John Farrell, who brought home a title in his first season as Red Sox skipper.
Cherington joined Henry, Lucchino, and Werner at first base, standing near a square table draped in blue, lined with ring boxes, and centered by the World Series trophy.
The Sox brass had a little hardware to hand out.
Instead of players being called by name, short video clips of individual player highlights were shown on the video board, bringing the players out in a steady stream, one by one.
“Done very well, from the previous World Series championships to the tribute to what took place last year,’’ Farrell said. “Just a well-done play.
“As each player was shown on the video board to the rings given, so many thoughts flashed back to a year ago. Today was a chance to go back and think of some things that took place last year.”
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was one of the first, to loud applause.
“It was pretty special, one I’ll definitely remember forever,’’ Pedroia said. “All of it.
“When you go through something like that, it happens so fast. All of it was awesome. I think at the end, shaking everyone’s hand [from the Fire Department], that was probably my favorite part of everything.”
Pitcher John Lackey, back in fans’ good graces after a brilliant bounce-back season, soon followed Pedroia. Then Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz.
They all came out, even pitcher Ryan Dempster, who isn’t playing this year but brought his son, also in uniform.
Shane Victorino, with the slightest of limps (he’s on the disabled list with a hamstring injury), drew loud cheers, the Fenway crowd singing the Bob Marley lyrics (“Every little thing . . .”) that Victorino turned into a personal victory number during last year’s postseason.
World Series hero David Ortiz, author of so many magical moments at Fenway, especially in the postseason, was the final player to emerge from the dugout. He came out to a chorus of “Papi! Papi!” cheers, had a few words with Henry, Lucchino, Werner, and Cherington, was given a second ring for being named World Series MVP, then ran toward left-center field, down the long line of teammates and additional team members. As Ortiz reached the end of the line, the “2013 World Series Champions” flag was raised, along with the American flag.
It went all the way up initially, but then the flags were lowered to half-staff. As Ortiz was reaching the end of his teammate line, a long line of uniformed Boston police, fire, and first response personnel walked out from center field, hugging and shaking hands with the players.
Following player introductions for both teams, a moment of silence was held for Edward Walsh Jr. and Michael Kennedy, the Boston firefighters who died battling a Back Bay blaze on March 26. Scoreboards went dark, the stands went silent.
The Sox had a few more treats planned before the game started. Backed by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, the Dropkick Murphys sang the national anthem, then a brief version of their “I’m Shippin’ Up To Boston” hit.
Emerging from under the banners still flying from the Wall were trophy-carrying representatives of Boston’s recent decade of athletic dominance. Former Sox Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, and Mike Lowell carried the three most recent World Series trophies. The Patriots’ three Super Bowl trophies were carried by Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, and Troy Brown. Leon Powe had his hands on the 2008 NBA championship trophy won by the Celtics, and Mark Recchi wore his Bruins jersey from 2011 (the Stanley Cup apparently not available).
Flanked by Thomas Menino, the man he replaced after 21 years, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh threw the ceremonial first pitch to Ortiz not long after the trophy parade.
More than an hour after the pregame ceremony started, Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez settled in and awaited the first pitch from Jake Peavy, which came at 2:12.
Baseball was back at Fenway.