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Sox equipment bound for Florida
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02/10/2003 6:20 pm ET 
Sox equipment bound for Florida
By Ian Browne / MLB.com

Boston Red Sox employees (from left) Ed Curtin, Meghan McClure, and John Carter throw souvenir squishy baseballs to fans on the Boston streets during a parade for the Red Sox equipment truck which left Boston Monday for Spring Training. (Brita Meng Outzen/ MLB.com)
BOSTON -- As yet another helping of snow was projected to come down in the Boston area on Monday, the surest sign of the imminence of spring occurred shortly after 1 p.m. just outside of Fenway Park.

That was when the Red Sox equipment van, loaded with roughly 30,000 pounds of goods, departed for the team's Spring Training home of Fort Myers, Fla.

The day the truck leaves Fenway is always a day of symbolism for the baseball-crazed fans of New England. And this time, the Sox brought more of a sense of celebration to the event.

There was a banner on the truck that proudly proclaimed, "The Boston Red Sox are heading to Spring Training ... only 50 days to Opening Day."

The banner was also decorated by several palm trees.

Behind the equipment truck were a couple of flatbed trucks filled with Red Sox ambassadors who threw gifts -- squishy baseballs, pocket schedules etc. -- to fans on the street as the team's gear made its way toward the highway, and ultimately, a 1,500-mile haul to Fort Myers.

"The season is officially under way now," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, who emerged from his office to bid adieu to the truck. "It's perfectly fitting for the capital city of baseball, Boston, that we should celebrate events like this."

The man choreographing this celebration was Charles Steinberg, the executive vice president/public affairs for the Sox.

Though in past years the public was always aware of when the truck was leaving, there was never the parade-like setup.

"Call it a procession, not a parade," said Steinberg. "We hope to have a parade in October."

Why did Steinberg make it a point for the team to outwardly celebrate the departure of the truck?

"In any baseball city, the truck's departure for Spring Training connects with a lot of fans. In Boston and in New England, that is magnified so many times over," said Steinberg. "Instead of just making it our little private fireplace of warmth, you want to connect with the fans, resonate with the fans, share it with the fans. Give them a chance to celebrate spring as well.

"When you see the images of snow at one end and sunshine at the other ... this trip is a metaphor. Winter is going to end. Spring is going to come. And baseball is the robin. Baseball heralds spring. You want to celebrate that."

Once the celebration was over, it was down to business for Al Hartz, the driver entrusted with getting all of the equipment to Spring Training. Hartz said that the truck will be unloaded on Thursday, a day before pitchers and catchers are due to report.

"I'll pull over and get a couple of naps here and there," said Hartz, the Atlas Van Lines employee who is taking the Sox equipment for the sixth consecutive winter. "It's a nice easy run. No big rush on this one. This is a lot of fun. Ordinarily I'm moving people and carrying furniture all day so this is a nice break."

A native of Milford, Mass., Hartz admits to taking special pleasure in this delivery.

"This is the one I wait for every year," Hartz said.

It's a day New Englanders wait for with equal eagerness.

"Fifty days until Opening Day," said Steinberg. "Start counting down and getting ready."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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