Red Sox's emotional Fenway homecoming on hold
Club's first home game since tragedy postponed due to city-wide lockdown
CLEVELAND -- The raw emotion that might be at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon when the Red Sox come home will likely be different than any other occasion in the history of the 101-year-old venue.
When the Red Sox found out about the bombs that went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, they were in the midst of leaving town for a three-game road trip to Cleveland.
Now they come back to Boston with the idea of providing some sort of comfort to the fans and the community which has provided them with so much support over the years.
With the city and its surrounding areas in lockdown while law-enforcement officials pursued a second suspected bomber in nearby Watertown, Friday's game against the Royals was postponed "to support the efforts of law enforcement officers." No makeup date was announced.
When the Sox left Cleveland, they were looking forward to being home, back with the people of Boston.
"I'm glad it was only a three-day series [on the road] so we could get back and be there and be a part of the healing process," said right-hander Clay Buchholz. "I think everybody's looking forward to getting back being there tomorrow and trying to make the day as special as we can."
During their three days in Cleveland, the Red Sox put a symbolic jersey in their dugout that had "BOSTON 617 STRONG" on the back.
There will be a home white jersey to that effect in the dugout at Fenway, assured Jonny Gomes. And he is hoping it will stay there all season long.
"We'll get a white one for home and hopefully do it all year," Gomes said. "This isn't something that us or the community is going to throw under the rug. This is going to last until this whole generation is no longer with us."
There will be another touch at Fenway as well in the form of a sign on the Green Monster that has the Red Sox logo "B" with the word Strong under it.
For his entire time with the Red Sox, vice president Charles Steinberg has always been the maestro behind pregame tributes. This will be different than anything he's planned in his career, given the profound impact that comes from three people dying and 176 others injured at a public place that is just a mile from Fenway Park.
"If anything, you want to be understated. You want to resonate," said Steinberg. "It's not really a day where you launch surprises. It's a day that you hope is higher on sentiment then pageantry. The point is to appreciate how Fenway Park serves as a community gathering place, and there are so many emotions that are swirling through us that if people can be together and come together, they may find comfort just in being together as one."
Steinberg was moved when he watched what the Boston Bruins did on Wednesday night before their game against the Buffalo Sabres. During the national anthem, singer Rene Rancourt turned down his microphone and let the crowd do the bulk of the singing in one of the most stirring tributes in the history of Boston sports.
"Yeah, and we had the same instinct where the fans would sing the anthem and their magnificent performance last night at the Bruins' game affirms that instinct," said Steinberg.
In truth, the Red Sox don't truly know what they will feel with their fans. They just look forward to being there for them.
"We all want to be there," said right-hander Andrew Bailey. "We want to help our own out and do whatever we can to ease some pain and to be there. We'll have that opportunity coming up. We're all looking forward to getting home and doing what we can to play a game for a couple of hours and kind of get back some normalcy to the city of Boston. A lot of fans come out to our games. I think they're looking forward to us being home as well."
Whatever happens in terms of ceremonial first pitches or the like will be subtle yet poignant.
"I'm sure there will be some kind of low-key tribute to those who have responded first to the situation," said manager John Farrell. "I think based on -- or by example of the jersey being hung in the dugout -- I think we feel a sense that we can contribute to a communal spirit. Hopefully we can create a little bit of a diversion for those affected directly, but we're certainly not going to replace what happened. But I think maybe we have a way of helping get back to some sense of normalcy."
Buchholz has started in the postseason. As recently as 10 days ago, he pitched the Fenway Park season opener. But he knows this is different.
"There's going to be a lot of emotions going around the clubhouse and with the fans," Buchholz said. "It's going to be a special game -- definitely one to remember. I'm sort of at a loss for words for it. I'm going to try to keep my emotions under wraps as much as possible. Given the circumstances, it's going to be a day that's in pursuit of recovery for everyone who had to face losses."
The Red Sox will do their best to make sure the atmosphere is one that befits the magnitude of the event.
"This is not a time to be solely entertained," Steinberg said. "It's a time to express your emotions because we're all filled with emotions and you want healthy, positive vehicles to express your emotions, to express your compassion and to express your sorrow and to express your appreciation that this city does come together as one."