Sox aren't giving anything away before Opening Day
Oh what a day it will be. Not in 86 years has there been an Opening Day at Fenway like this one. An Opening Day when the world championship banner will be raised over Fenway Park.
But if you want to know what to expect of the pregame ceremonies, well ... don't ask the guy in charge. Dr. Charles Steinberg, Sox executive VP for public affairs, will be impresario of this once-in-a-lifetime event, and he's not talking. Actually, he's talking a lot. But he's not giving away any of the specifics of how things will go on the afternoon of April 11.
"It's not set yet," he said last Tuesday. "We're only in the third inning of the planning."
Pressed on details like how the rings are going to be delivered (there HAS to be some kind of grand entrance, doesn't there?), who's going to hand them out (is Babe Ruth's daughter Julia available? Bill Buckner?), who's going to raise the championship banner (how cool would it be if they could get the whole 2005 Sox team to do it, together with every Sox veteran they can round up?), whether groundskeeper Dave Mellor will mow another fabulous pattern in the new outfield grass ("2004 World Champs" would be nice, huh?) or even what kind of music will be played (think the Sox could get the Stones, live, to play "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha?) ... Sorry. Steinberg says he'd prefer all that to be a surprise. He explains his CIA-like shroud of secrecy this way: "We realize we've been given an honor of designing ceremonies that will affect a large population. We want it to be suspenseful."
He does say that there was never any question what would happen first: The bling-bling! The MC, probably one of the Sox TV or radio announcers, will call things to order and the championship rings will be brought out and handed to the players on last year's team. There will probably be tight shots of the rings on the center field screen so fans can see what they look like. How sweet it is! Remember, the Yankees will be sitting in the visitors' dugout watching.
"Some people thought we were thinking of doing it on a different day out of propriety," Steinberg said. "Some advocated doing it another day so you could raise money for charity. Some people said we should give the players a separate ceremony unencumbered by the stresses of an ensuing ballgame. And some said we should do it on another day so you could do so before raising curtain on the season April 5 in New York."
But Steinberg says there was never any doubt among Sox ownership and management that the first game at Fenway was the time and place to make the Sox lords of their rings.
"You can still do it tastefully, and on Opening Day. Its important to make taste an important element."
Yeah, sure. I'm guessing that most Sox fans won't feel it's too tasteless that the Yankees will have to watch.
Segue from the rings to some highlight videos and what Steinberg calls "appropriate" music. Some might even be written especially for the event. But most of it will be familiar, "music you're accustomed to, so you feel comfortable, like jumping onto a soft blanket," Steinberg says. ("Dirty Water is fine, but please, no "Sweet Caroline"!)
Then will come the sweetest moment of all, when the championship banner will be raised on the flag pole out in center field, which ought to generate a roar loud enough to hear all the way down in the Bronx. Again, Steinberg won't talk about just how this will be done. But he knows what he wants to accomplish.
"This is the third in a series of memorable moments," he says. "There was the winning of series, then the parade, and then there is this culmination. "We want to give fans a way to express their emotions and not just receive entertainment. We'll envelop them in music that carries their emotions to a height. They'll see images, people, or objects that inspire emotion. You do it artistically, poetically, musically like a symphony ... a choreography that taps into a reservoir of emotions."
A reservoir 86 years deep.
Then the Yankees will be introduced. Will the boos run as loud, louder, or maybe not as loud, as years past? Then the Sox will be introduced ... the national anthem will be played/sung (no hints on the performer) ... and some mystery person or persons will throw out the ceremonial first pitch(es).
In 30-35 minutes, the ceremonies for which Sox Nation has hungered for so long will be over, the 2005 Sox will trot out to their positions on a field that's been completely rebuilt for the first time since a certain Ruth fellow played here, and finally this most magical of offseasons, when Sox Nation no longer has had to "wait 'til next year", will be over, and it will just be baseball again. Except with a special glow, buffed up by Opening Day, that will probably last a good long while.