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01/11/08 6:15 PM ET

Sox share trophies with Connecticut

Out-of-state fans rewarded for loyalty with State Capitol visit

HARTFORD, Conn. -- To many Red Sox fans, the 2004 World Series title has more symbolic meaning than the 2007 crown simply because of the 86-year championship drought it ended.

But the championship won by the Red Sox this past October will always have a more special place in the heart of Barry Kelleher.

The 46-year-old Coventry, Conn., resident braved torrential rains at the State Capitol in Hartford on Friday afternoon to have his picture taken with the two trophies he thought he may never live to see.

"This year is even a little more special because I went into the hospital two days before the first World Series game," said Kelleher, a survivor of a serious bout with pancreatitis. "So, I got to see the first two games and then I was out of it for 5 1/2 weeks, had a major operation and came out and didn't even know [who] won once I was out of a coma. So, this is really special. This is something. 2004 was great, but this is even more incredible for me."

"To have them win it in four straight again, you've got to be kidding me. It doesn't get any better than this," he added.

Friday's "Red Sox Day in Connecticut" event was originally scheduled for Dec. 13, but a snowstorm forced its postponement. An estimated 300 fans lined the floors of the State Capitol to have their pictures taken with the trophies and Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster.

"It's a national phenomena, a world phenomena at this point," said John Tuite, 50, of Storrs, Conn. "The Red Sox have become a brand name that no longer symbolizes the hopeless underdog. Now we're the overlords of baseball. Take that, Yankees fans."

Tuite is one of many in Connecticut who have not only enjoyed the success of the Red Sox but the New England Patriots as well as the University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball programs.

"It's unbelievable," Tuite added. "I never thought in my lifetime I'd see UConn win in men's and women's and the Patriots and Red Sox all do it in one year. I think a lot of us had the feeling, 'This will never happen again.' But here we are, three years later, the UConn women [14-0] are on their way to another championship, and let's hope this is the first of many more for the Red Sox."

Tuite was grateful that the Red Sox took the time to appreciate the support of the Connecticut fans who drive up to Fenway Park to see their team.

"We're on the battle lines," he said. "We're the ones who have to go to work and fight it out, and every morning, it's a battle at the water cooler with Red Sox and Yankees fans."

Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino was on hand, representing the team and gladly accepting the designation of "Red Sox Day in Connecticut" from Gov. Jodi Rell.

"We say wherever we got that loyalty is a two-way street," Lucchino said. "Our fans have been exceptionally loyal to the Red Sox, so we try to come back with the trophies and the Red Sox flag to say, 'Thank you, we appreciate it and we couldn't do it without you.'"

Rell, still a Yankees fan, had pictures taken with Lucchino and the two trophies.

"We thank her for her graciousness," Lucchino said. "She acknowledged she has been a Yankees fan, but she declared today "Red Sox Day" in Connecticut, and we suggested subtly to her that she should consider a conversion."

To Lucchino, the biggest statement of the day was made by the fans who showed up in nasty weather to show their appreciation.

"There are more cities and towns that have the games on NESN than there were then," he said. "There are more fans that make the trek up to our beloved Fenway Park. I was just talking to a set of judges and they think that Connecticut is at least two-thirds Red Sox in terms of its loyalty."

That verdict certainly had to be music to the ears of Lucchino, a lawyer by trade.

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