Surprises planned for ring ceremony
Red Sox to turn up the 'chill' factor at Fenway for home opener
BOSTON -- When Fenway Park, all 96 years old of it, opens its doors Tuesday afternoon, the temperature will be in the 40s and the wind will be swirling enough to make it feel even a little colder. But you can be sure that there will be a different kind of chill in the air, the type that puts goose bumps on the skin of players past and present, as well as ownership and front-office members, the coaching staff and the ravenous fans who will pack the fabled yard.
For the second time in four years, the Red Sox will be commemorating the start of a new season by celebrating the one that just went by. That's what happens when you win the World Series.
"That's going to be special," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Last year was an unbelievable time. We were the best team all year and we proved it there at the end. I'm excited. I don't know what it's going to be like. I was talking to a couple of guys about it yesterday on the plane and they said, 'It's just going to be an unbelievable experience for you and not a lot of people get to go through that,' so that's going to be real fun for us."
The ceremonies should kick off about an hour before the 2:05 p.m. ET first pitch against the Tigers. In other words, the Red Sox are strongly advising fans to come to the game early. Gates open at 11:35 a.m.
Some of the events have been made public, such as the fact that all the returning players from last year's team -- and also former catcher Doug Mirabelli and retired utility infielder Royce Clayton -- will collect their rings as part of the poignant pregame ceremony.
But the Red Sox also have a couple of surprises up their sleeve. Who will throw out the first pitch?
"It will be a great day," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "We have a lot of surprises -- [including a] very exciting surprise about who is throwing out the first pitch so I'm going to tease everybody about it -- but it will be a great experience. We've got a lot of great plans. Opening Days are great, but to combine it with the ring ceremony will be terrific."
Any more hints on who will throw out that first pitch?
"All I can say is," said Werner, "I think everyone will get goosebumps."
In the 2005 opener, the Red Sox managed to get Celtics legend Bill Russell, Bruins great Bobby Orr and Super Bowl champion Patriots players Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi to throw out simultaneous first pitches.
One can only guess what the Sox might have in store this time. While the Boston Symphony Orchestra will play the national anthem and contribute music throughout the pregame ceremony, Werner also said the club will have another secret guest singing "God Bless America."
"There will really be some treats tomorrow, and I know we'll all have a great memory of it when it's finished," said Werner.
The 2005 occasion was one for the ages in that the Sox were celebrating a championship for the first time in 86 years. This one is likely to be quite special in its own way.
Who will get the loudest roar when collecting his ring? It could be anyone from Josh Beckett to David Ortiz to Jonathan Papelbon to Manny Ramirez to Mike Lowell to Curt Schilling to Red Sox lifer Johnny Pesky.
For players like Pedroia and Ellsbury -- who starred on the World Series stage as rookies -- this will be an amazing experience.
"It's exciting and especially the way things went last year, winning the World Series and how I came up [as a September call-up], I'm definitely proud and happy to be part of a world championship team," said Ellsbury.
The eight players who saw action for the Red Sox of 2004 and 2007 -- Ortiz, Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Schilling, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Kevin Youkilis and Mirabelli -- will have a different ring than the others. There will be some type of inscription regarding both seasons on those eight rings.
For players like Beckett and World Series MVP Lowell, who collected World Series rings with the Marlins but never in Boston, this should be a moment that will stand out.
"With the Marlins, we didn't really bring everybody back. So it didn't feel like we had that same team defending the title," said Lowell. "This team's as much intact as can be expected, so that's a good feeling because we can share it together. I think we're just going to look forward to the day and celebrate something we did very well as a team together last year."
The fans who watched the team on television as it opened the season in Tokyo, Oakland and finally Toronto, will finally get to welcome the Red Sox back to Boston.
"They'll be loud," said Ellsbury. "They'll be great. They're with us from Game 1. It means as much to them as it does to us."
Back when he was a student at Harvard, Werner filmed a documentary for one of his classes on the 1970 Opening Day at Fenway Park. Thirty-eight years later, he looks forward to watching his seventh opener since the new ownership took control of the team in 2002.
"Opening Day, if you're a baseball fan, is a thrill and I know the players are looking forward to it," Werner said. "It's been a long road trip and I'm sure that they will be happy to see the fans at home here. We haven't played a game here since the second game of the World Series, so it will be nice to see baseball in Fenway again."
Before baseball, there will be a bit of a party.
The ceremonies will begin with a parade of flags belonging to 62 different nations on the warning track by the Green Monster. The nations represented by these flags either count Red Sox Nation members as its residents or have citizens who have been in touch with the club's front office via letters and e-mails professing their love for the team.
In addition to the ring ceremony, championship banners will be unfurled from the Green Monster and the 2007 World Series pennant will be hoisted by members of the team on the center-field flag pole.
Then, it will be time to play baseball.
"You can't force the emotions," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I think I'll enjoy watching our players. For me, you get more wrapped up into what you're doing as a team now, but I do want the players to be able to take a deep breath and to realize, 'Hey, we earned this.' They have the right to enjoy this. I think for me, living through it was probably the best part."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.