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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Red Sox react to Boston bombings

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

CLEVELAND -- Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli lives in an apartment complex in Copley Square, the same place in which former manager Bobby Valentine lived last season, and a short walk from the site of Monday's explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

On Patriots Day last year, when he was still playing for the Texas Rangers, Napoli had an off day in Boston.

Red Sox banner
Red Sox players pose with a banner for the people of the Boston area in the wake of Monday's bombings.

"I walked by the race last year, checking it out," Napoli said Tuesday. "I walked around the city.

"Just a weird feeling, you know? Helpless feeling, too. Nothing we can do about it. You know what I'm saying? Innocent people get killed doing something they love. Evil people out there who don't value life."

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino's routine on Patriots Day? "Go from the ballpark to the finish line," said Lucchino, whose wife, Stacey, has run in the race. "To soak up the atmosphere, excitement of it."

The only reason he hadn't left to do so Monday afternoon is that he was meeting with some fans on the suite level of Fenway Park, less than a mile from the finish line.

"We were looking down at the kids running the bases on the field," he said. He was just about to leave when he got a phone call from his senior advisor, Dr. Charles Steinberg, informing him of what had happened.

The Red Sox returned to action Tuesday night with a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, where the flag was lowered to half staff. Both teams lined up on the baselines before the game to observe a moment of silence, and players on both sides wore thin black armbands.

In the Red Sox dugout, players hung a uniform jersey that featured the words "Boston Strong," with the number 617, which is Boston's area code. And on the stadium PA system, "Sweet Caroline" blared during warmups prior to the game's first pitch. Following the game, the song that signifies a Sox win at Fenway Park, "Dirty Water," was played.

"Given the events and tragedy of yesterday, this was a good way to maybe send some positive energy back toward Boston," manager John Farrell said after the game.

After three games in Cleveland, the Sox are scheduled to begin a 10-game homestand Friday night with a game against the Kansas City Royals.

"Both in terms of enhanced security and a ballpark ceremony, it's too soon" to discuss the team's plans, Lucchino said. Under discussion with MLB officials are plans to wear a uniform patch honoring the bombing victims, a ceremony before the game Friday and fundraising activities.

Earlier in the day, the Sox had cancelled an open house scheduled for Fenway Park on Wednesday. The idea was to give families a chance during school vacation week to have the run of the ballpark, but that plan was scotched.

"In the coming days, we will join with others to find ways to show the victims of this heartless, cowardly act our sincere support, and to demonstrate to all, our community's unity, strength and resilience," Lucchino said in a statement.

"I just want to believe something positive will come from this tragedy," Lucchino said late Tuesday afternoon. "I heard someone say something earlier today I thought inspiring: Wait till next year's Boston Marathon. It will be the biggest ever."

There was no conversation, Lucchino said, about not playing Tuesday night in Cleveland. Obviously, that would not have been the case if the game had been scheduled for Boston.

Boston Red Sox jersey
A Red Sox jersey featuring Boston's 617 area code hung in the dugout for Tuesday's game.

"Part of the urging we have received from the public," he said, "has been to get back to normality as quickly as possible."

The Red Sox were just minutes away from boarding their bus to Logan Airport on Monday afternoon when security chief Charles Cellucci, who among other duties in a 34-year career with the Boston Police Department served as the department's liaison with Homeland Security, called traveling secretary Jack McCormick. There had been two explosions on Boylston Street.

Moments later, the police escort assigned to accompany the team bus sped off.

"That's when we started asking questions from the front of the bus to the back of the bus," pitcher Jon Lester said.

The bus driver was having trouble closing the baggage compartment on the bus, but McCormick, concerned that air space might be shut down over the city, told him not to worry about it and head for the airport.

"We're driving this way and police cars, ambulances, fire trucks are driving the other way," outfielder Jonny Gomes said.

Throughout their flight to Cleveland, Red Sox players were glued to their televisions, watching the news reports from a tragic scene less than a mile from Fenway Park.

Lester is among the players whose in-season home is in the city.

"Obviously, it hit real hard," Lester said. "Boston is my home, just like everybody else in this clubhouse. Obviously, it's not a good situation. Hopefully just like 9/11, we come together, not only as a city again but as a nation. Whoever did this is going to realize we don't take kindly to things like this.

"I know a lot of guys live fairly close to the ballpark. Obviously, that's the first thing that goes through your mind -- people's families. Luckily nobody [from their immediate families] was down there. Everybody was safe."

Gomes was reminded of the dramatic impact felt by New York City in the aftermath of 9/11, when baseball resumed after a brief interruption and Mike Piazza of the New York Mets hit a game-winning home run.

For that moment, at least, joy, an emotion rarely felt in the days immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center, was allowed to be given full rein.

"It was not a win-lose situation, more like getting everybody back on track," Gomes said. "This situation is a lifer. You're not putting this behind you. At the same time, if we can get some people's hopes up, give people a breath of fresh air, we're in entertainment business. That's what we can do to help the area."

That can only go so far, though, he added.

"We're not getting anyone out of surgery with a win or a loss,'" he said. "This is a lifer here, you know? Just the main thing is to show the Boston Red Sox aren't laying down to this. We're going to keep trucking, and hopefully set that character, that attitude throughout the city."

Earlier this afternoon, players posed with a banner that pictured the Red Sox's "B" logo with the word "strong" underneath.

It was a pointed response to what Dustin Pedroia repeatedly called "the worst, the worst, the worst."

Will Middlebrooks lives in the South End, less than a half mile from the bombings. Yes, he said, there was purpose in playing.

"Boston lives and breathes Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Pats," he said. "A couple of games have been cancelled in town, which is understandable. But I think it's a good thing we're out of town, and we're able to play, give them something to watch on TV other than this."

Earlier in the day, Middlebrooks had tweeted he could hardly wait to put on a Boston uniform and play for his city.

"It means a lot to me, beyond what happened yesterday," he said. "Being able to live my dream and play baseball and play for such a city that is so supportive and passionate about us. But it multiplied by 100 when something like this happens. You see the support on TV of the average person living in Boston, pulling the guard rails off, people not running from it, but to it to help.

"That showed me a lot about this city, the love they have for the people here."

Reliever Andrew Bailey lives with his wife and baby daughter just a couple of blocks from the ballpark.

"Obviously shocked and stunned, like everybody else," he said. "Such a beautiful day, a celebration day. When you hear something like that, you really feel vulnerable and obviously sad for the families and everyone else who was down there. My wife and daughter and I were just down there the other day, walking around."

"It doesn't seem real."

But it is.

"Crazy, you know," said Bob Tewksbury, the former pitcher who now serves as the team's mental skills coach. "The precarious existence that we all have. You just hope to God you make it through it."

The city will, catcher David Ross said.

"Still a great world, just some bad people in it, is the way I look at it," he said. "I don't look at life negatively. There's obviously some bad people in this world, and you can't live your life planning around those bad people. You've just got to cherish the days you have, live life to the fullest and do the best you can. When it's your time to go, it's your time to go."