April 15, 2013 was Patriot’s Day in Boston.
The Red Sox were trying to put a long 2012 season behind them after finishing in last place in their division. The 2103 team was remade with new faces, a new manager and a collection of veterans and newcomers from the farm system.
From the beginning, there was a new energy with this team. That day, Patriot’s Day, one of their newly signed veteran players, Mike Napoli, hit a walk-off double to win the game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The mood at Fenway Park was jubilant. The Sox were 8-4 and fans were starting to see the difference between this team and last year’s.
Since then, the 2013 team has become famous for their beards. By the 12th game of the young season, Napoli had already started growing his. Little did he know what his beard and those of his teammates would come to symbolize.
Hours after the Red Sox victory, everything changed. Less than two miles from Fenway Park, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed. More than 260 others were injured.
Terrorism had struck Boston.
Terrorists hope their acts cause friction and create division. The truth is they do the opposite. They bring us closer together. After 9/11 so many people said, “We’re all New Yorkers.” After the Boston Marathon Bombings, people said the same about being Bostonians.
The bombings saw the city unite. And the city, as they often do, rallied around the Boston Red Sox. They became the symbol of Boston Strong, a symbol of defiance and a symbol of perseverance. The players wore the Boston Strong logo on their uniforms for the rest of the season. It was the logo the groundskeepers mowed into the outfield at Fenway Park during the MLB playoffs. The logo which was there in center field during Game 6 of the World Series.
After 86 years between titles, the modern day Boston Red Sox have enjoyed relative success over the past decade, capturing two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. But this one was special. Not only because it was yet another World Series, but because the Sox had a chance to clinch this one at home, in Boston, just six months after two terrorists tried to strike fear into the heart of the city.
That’s why the energy coming from Fenway Park on Oct. 30, 2013 was so intense. It seemed to ooze out of the television. It gave me goose bumps as I watched the pre-game ceremonies because this wasn’t just a baseball game. This was the heart of an entire city beating through Fenway, willing the Red Sox to victory.
Truth be told, Boston has always rallied around the Sox. More often than not, it ended in heart break (1967, 1975, 1986, 2003). But not this year. 2013 was about triumph.
Red Sox leftfielder (and in my opinion, the team’s good luck charm) Jonny Gomes said this after the Red Sox won Game 6 and the World Series, “I don’t think the win-loss record sums up how we care about this city and what we rallied around. I don’t think we put Boston on our back, I think we jumped on their back. They wouldn’t let us quit.”
Gomes added, “This World Series isn’t icing on the cake, I just think it turned into a lifestyle.” Boston Strong.
Gomes, like Napoli and former Sun Devil Dustin Pedroia, was an early adopter of the beard. By the time the playoffs rolled around, almost every member of the Red Sox had grown one. Some were neat and trimmed. Others, like Gomes and Napoli’s, were messy and untidy. Some of the younger guy’s beards were spotty. No matter the shape and size, they all had something in common. The beards had become a symbol of the team’s and the city’s coming together to play as that: one team.
2013 will always be remembered as the year terrorism struck the Boston Marathon. But it will also be remembered as the year the Red Sox helped a city triumph.
And that’s why this isn’t just a baseball game or just another win.