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Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: Opening Day is always a day like no other

April 03. 2014 10:50PM
Former first baseman Bill Buckner got the call to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the last Fenway Park opener following a Red Sox World Series championship, in 2008. Sox events impresario Charles Steinberg is certain to have some surprises in store for today's pregame festivities. (FILE)

The weather isn't supposed to be all that nice today in Boston. Cooler than usual for this date and mostly cloudy, says the forecast, with the mercury likely to halt its climb at around 44 degrees before giving way to rain sometime around nightfall.

But today, sunny skies and warm breezes would just be mere bonuses because today we can forget the shivers and the shoveling. We can forget the snow. We can forget a winter that at times seemed interminably Arctic. Today, spring arrives in Boston. Because baseball is back.

And regardless of what the "RealFeel" might suggest, it should be a feel-good afternoon at Fenway Park.

As part of the iconic stadium's 103rd home opener, there will be performances from the Dropkick Murphys and members of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. There will be a flyover by a Coast Guard helicopter meant to represent all of the United States' armed forces. There will be a couple of somber moments, one to pause in memory of the two Boston firefighters killed battling a blaze last week, and another likely when the Boston Fire Department Quartet sings "God Bless America" during the middle of the seventh inning.

Of course, there will also be the presentation of sure-to-be-gaudy championship rings to members of the Red Sox team that in 2013 won the organization's third World Series title in the past decade.

But, most exciting of all, there will be baseball.

Not that the game itself is of great consequence. The Brewers are in town, from Milwaukee and the National League, and Jake Peavy against Marco Estrada is a pretty pedestrian pitching matchup. Aside from Ryan Braun — who can expect to be booed roundly in his first road game since serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs — the visitors bring with them a rather nondescript roster.

Though, on this particular day, that doesn't much matter. Just the fact that there will be players on the field for the first time since Matt Carpenter swung through the last pitch of Koji Uehara's brilliant 2013 gives us reason to remember and relive that moment and so many others last year — while also peeking ahead with an optimism about what could lie immediately ahead.

Seeing the Red Sox in their home whites again, in games that matter, the memories of Oct. 30 come flooding back to life. There's the crowd serenading Shane Victorino with the sounds of Bob Marley just before he clears the bases with a tone-setting triple. There's Mike Napoli's rocketed response to David Ortiz being walked intentionally three times.

There's the precision exhibited over 6 2/3 excellent innings from John Lackey. There's Uehara, predictably, touching off the dog pile with a perfect ninth, then the all-night party spilling into a raucous clubhouse while occasionally spilling back into the stadium so as to involve the fans in the celebration.

It brings to mind more than just that night, too. The ALCS grand slams from Victorino and Ortiz. The pounding of the Rays' pair of aces in the Divisional round. An AL East title celebrated on home turf, as Jonny Gomes punted beers into the stands and Jon Lester offered a preview of the ace he would become in the postseason.

The 11 walk-off wins. The six-run comeback that stunned the Mariners for one of those. Ortiz's well-placed curse word as his bleeping city regrouped from the marathon bombing. And the dramatic hits from Daniel Nava that delivered victory later that same day, and also on this same day a year ago.

It was then, even as early as the team's home opener, that some began to get the sense that team had a flair, and that it could be special. Maybe that same sense will surface today. Maybe it won't. In fact, maybe it won't ever come, given how hard it is to repeat in baseball.

But today isn't the day to deal with such realities. Its tone set by the ring ceremony at the start, it's a day to remember just how great last year was — and to blissfully, maybe even blindly, believe it's all possible again. Today is simply about celebrating, and reveling in baseball's return.

Pragmatism, concerns, and worrying about the weather can all wait until tomorrow.

Dave D'Onofrio covers the Red Sox for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is

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