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Red Sox Nation pumped for '04
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04/02/2004  8:00 AM ET
Red Sox Nation pumped for '04
The Red Sox are adding right-field roof seats that will give fans a unique view of Fenway Park. (Stanley Hu/AP)

BOSTON -- The setting around Fenway Park a week before Opening Day couldn't be more misleading. Gray skies and cold drizzle hover over construction vehicles that run the perimeter of the oldest home field in the Majors.

In this case, looks are deceiving. An offseason that included the acquisition of pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke and the return of outfielder Ellis Burks has baseball forecasters calling for one of the best and brightest campaigns in the storied 104-year existence of the Red Sox. Simply put, this is the most anticipated season in team history.

Whether it's the souvenir vendors on Yawkey Way doubling as fans, transplanted college students or construction workers putting the finishing touches on massive renovations inside and outside the park, cold air is met with great expectation in Boston.

Rich Waterman and Mike Sanchez are project supervisors with Shawmut Design and Construction, the firm hired by the Red Sox to lay the foundation for and erect the new seats on the right field roof and along the right field foul line.

"We're very anxious to see Mr. Schilling throw out his first pitch of the 2004 (home) season," said Waterman, standing on the right field warning track, next to a giant neon Budweiser sign to be placed above the new section. "We turned the (field) lights on for the first time in 2004 this week. We were very happy to see the lights go on for this wonderful season coming up for the Red Sox."

"What we're really excited about is the opportunity to build something in such a nostalgic park and it's really a showpiece for us," added Sanchez, who is confident all of the work will be done in time for Boston's home opener April 9th. "We do a lot of work in the city. There's nothing like this job going on right now. And for the rest of our lives, we can look at this and say we built this. We're excited for the season and excited for the fans."

The fever pitch has reached well beyond native Bostonians and New Englanders.

"You can't spend a single day in this city without becoming a Red Sox fan unless you're a Yankees fan to begin with," said Noah Coslov, a 22-year-old Boston University senior who hails from Philadelphia. "You get completely swept up in Red Sox mania and the anticipation every single year.

"With (Red Sox general manager) Theo Epstein, you look at his age, his attitude and his enthusiasm as a fan and a general manager has brought something to this city that it hasn't seen in a long time. (He brought) in Curt Schilling and not as many people have been talking about Keith Foulke as I think they should be. They now have a legitimate closer on this team and they now have the best pitching rotation, not just in the American League but in baseball. With the moves he's made, this city and every fan has every reason to think the Yankees don't have anything on them this year," added Coslov.

The college student was sold on the region's supreme love affair with the Red Sox at the peak of football season in New England.

"Any time you see someone in a Red Sox hat, whether it's in December or the middle of April, you know it's Red Sox fever," said Coslov. "Even two days after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you would've never known that the Pats won their second Super Bowl in three years because everyone was talking about Spring Training was just around the corner."

Joshua Cordeiro works for the Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way, across from Fenway Park. He is a lifelong Sox fan from Cranston, R.I., whose passion for the Sox eases his long commute.

"I watched Spring Training and Theo Epstein talk about the team and it seems they are still together," said Cordeiro. "They're not skipping a beat from last year. I'm really psyched about it. Their batting lineup hasn't changed that much. It seems like a lot of players either want to play for the Red Sox or the Yankees. That's just the historic part of baseball (in New England)."

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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