David Ortiz’s speech on April 20, 2013 forever will be remembered for the Red Sox slugger’s bold declaration, “This is our (expletive) city.” But those five words piggybacked on another fitting gesture.
The Red Sox donned uniforms that day — the first game at Fenway Park after last April’s Boston Marathon bombing — with “Boston” written across the chest, a tweak made to honor the resilient city in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy. The Red Sox again wore the jerseys at Fenway Park on Monday — the first Patriots’ Day and Marathon Monday since last year’s attack — and it made perfect sense given the organization’s continued role in Boston’s ongoing healing process.
“Another emotional rollercoaster here at Fenway. Tear-jerker there for a minute,” outfielder Jonny Gomes said after Sunday’s game, which the Red Sox dramatically won 6-5 just hours after a moving pregame ceremony honoring the victims and first responders of last April’s attack. “I think it really sunk home how much healing there’s still to be done a year down the road and how important it is on our end as the Red Sox to help the healing. Seeing those people out there, you find out how much easier it is to help heal than it is to heal. With that being said, I think the Red Sox and the Red Sox Nation are doing a great job of their part.”
Ortiz and Gomes have been front and center for the “Boston Strong” movement, which the Red Sox embraced and elevated to another level last season. The Red Sox, a bearded bunch of underdogs suiting up for a team that finished in last place in 2012, gave Boston something else to cheer for, feel good about and rally around just months removed from disaster. It culminated with a World Series title that further helped turn heartbreak into euphoria.
“To be able to put somewhat of a Band-Aid and somewhat of a 360 mindset of that area was extremely important for the team and the city to where when you walk down to that finish line, you recognize that finish line as where the trophy was set, not where the bomb was set,” Gomes said last week while describing the Red Sox’s championship rolling rally, in which the team brought the World Series trophy to the Boston Marathon finish line.
Of course, a sports franchise — even one as revered as the Sox — can only do so much. And while the city certainly has come a long way over the past year, this weekend served as a reminder that some wounds still are fresh. But as Boston continues to move forward, the Red Sox will be there to help strengthen an already unbreakable bond with pride, passion and a unique fondness for the city the organization represents.
“I think the overriding thing is that we all feel a greater sense of pride having been part of a community that rallied around a tragic event,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Sunday’s game at Fenway. “And, on some small level, we were part of the healing process.”
The healing process continues, and so, too, does the love affair between a city and its baseball team.