The Boston Marathon won’t be until October if it’s held this year, but the Red Sox stayed with an 11:10 a.m. Patriots Day start time Monday to adhere to tradition.
That’s the crack of dawn for many baseball players, considering their schedule during the season and how often they return from games or road trips well after midnight.
Red Sox starter Nate Eovaldi actually practiced for a few days to get ready. He arrived at Fenway Park just after 8 a.m.
“I was waking up early, getting the body going, moving around a lot,” Eovaldi said. “I was prepared for it.
“I’m a morning person anyway. I love coffee. I wake up and enjoy it.”
The hitters were wide awake, too, scoring six runs in the first inning against White Sox ace Lucas Giolito. That led to an 11-4 victory.
The Red Sox opened the game with six consecutive hits, including a leadoff homer by Kiké Hernández. Bobby Dalbec also drew a 14-pitch walk off Giolito, who threw 46 pitches in the inning.
“Probably the best inning of this short season,” said manager Alex Cora, who as the father of 3-year-old twin boys usually has no choice but to get up early. “Line drive after line drive, quality at-bat after quality at-bat against a good pitcher.”
By the end, Chicago resorted to using position players to pitch the last two innings. Turns out infielder Danny Mendick, who played at UMass Lowell, can throw a decent knuckleball.
Monday was a victory in another sense, too, as Red Sox players, coaches, and staff members were among the 1.7 million Massachusetts residents who became eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccination. A group of players was vaccinated at Fenway Park after the game, with more scheduled for Wednesday. Some of their family members also were vaccinated.
The Sox have 100 people categorized as “Tier 1” by Major League Baseball, with roughly 65 of them players, as that includes the reserve group working out in Worcester. Once 85 percent of the group gets vaccinated, MLB will relax many of the restrictions on the team.
Cora said he’s confident the Sox will get to that point. The organization had head athletic trainer Brad Pearson explain the benefits to the players and have made doctors available to answer any other questions.
“It’s a personal decision,” said Cora, who is getting his second shot Wednesday.
Cora said he wanted to protect himself and those around him, especially his family. He hopes the majority of the players feel the same way.
“We’re doing it for the right reasons,” Cora said. “Sometimes people get caught up on the baseball side of it, but this is more than baseball. Hopefully the decision they make is the right one for them and their families.”
Cora is right, of course. Vaccines have the power to end the pandemic and save countless lives. As somebody who spends a lot of time at Fenway Park, hopefully a high percentage of the people who work there get vaccinated and we’re all safer.
But the baseball side can’t be ignored. The first-place Red Sox are 11-6 after their rout of the White Sox, and it doesn’t look like an April fluke. They have a good team.
But the Washington Nationals thought they had a good team before an outbreak of COVID-19 changed the look of the roster, and they lost five of six games to open the season.
The Minnesota Twins, another good team, have had their last three games postponed because of an outbreak. The virus is still very much a danger.
Cora said there were “a lot of good questions” from the players about the vaccines.
“We just provided them with people that are experts on this,” Cora said. “They had answers. It was very eye-opening; it was very instructive.”
The Sox are hopeful that state officials will soon approve Fenway Park for more than 12 percent capacity as more people get vaccinated. The 4,738 fans on hand Monday were into the game from the first pitch. Fenway was a dreary place to be last season. No longer.
Alex Verdugo, who homered as part of a three-hit day, said the Sox are one of the “funnest” teams he’s been on.
“It’s something special, really,” Verdugo said. “You can see how much the team cares about each other.”