Fenway holds marathon tribute on eve of race

Fenway holds marathon tribute on eve of race
April 20, 2014, 8:15 pm
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BOSTON -- On the eve of the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, Fenway Park held a tribute ceremony in order to honor the victims and first responders to the attacks that took place during and after last year's race.

The ceremony was another emotional and heartfelt remembrance of that devastating day in Boston, , well-orchestrated by the Red Sox and senior advisor to President Larry Lucchino, Dr. Charles Steinberg. But it was also a proclamation that those effected had support from across the nation, and that the city will run again.

"It was unbelievable," Dustin Pedroia said. "To see everybody out there is pretty special. Special place."

Bruce Springsteen's song "The Rising" played over the park's public address system while photos of the victims making their recoveries, and images of how the city responded -- including a snapshot of David Ortiz's "This is our [expletive] city!" moment -- were displayed on the video screen above the center field bleachers.

On the field, banners from all 30 MLB teams and all 50 states lined the warning track in show of support for the City of Boston. Banners from basketball, hockey, and football teams, politicians, local schools, and towns along the marathon route -- like Hopkinton and Ashland -- were also present.

Fenway's PA announcer Henry Mahegan served as emcee for the 30-minute ceremony before the third game of a four-game series with the Orioles. The tribute aired live on ESPN, which carried the game as its Sunday Night Baseball matchup for this week.

The ceremony was part tribute, and part "thank you" as well. Mahegan explained that Boston has received countless expressions of love after the marathon attacks. The 92 countries represented at last year's starting line expressed their support as well as people from all 50 states.

"We thank you, America," Mahegan said.

Then -- with the University of Massachusetts Amherst Marching Band, the Boston Pipers Society and the pipes and drums of the State Police playing "Highland Cathedral" -- victims, first responders, marathon volunteers and runners from One Run for Boston met in the outfield.

Members of both the Boston Police Department and the State Police stood in shallow right field alongside doctors who wore their white coats and scrubs.

"We thank those who help us heal everyday," the video board read. "World class doctors, nurses, EMTs, rehabilitation therapists."

Victims of the attack were led onto the field by Jeff Bauman and his fiancee Erin Hurley. Carlos Arredondo also walked in from left field as did Pat Downes and his wife Jessica Kensky, Marc Fucarile, the Corcoran family and others.

"Another emotional roller coaster here at Fenway," said Jonny Gomes after the Red Sox got a walk-off 6-5 win in the bottom of the ninth. "Tear-jerker there for a minute. I think it really sunk home how much healing is still going on a year down the road and how important it is on our end as Red Sox to help the healing.

"Seeing those people out there you find out how much more 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 pretty good job with their part."

From the center field wall, led by the Hoyts -- a legendary father-son marathon tandem -- came the One Run for Boston participants. They raised money for the One Fund by running with others in relay fashion from Los Angeles to the marathon finish line in Boston, a distance of 3,328 miles.

Former Boston police chief Ed Davis and current chief William Evans were present as were the former mayor of Boston Thomas Menino and the current mayor Marty Walsh. Govenor Deval Patrick was also there behind the mound with president of the One Fund Jim Gallagher, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

After the UMass band played the national anthem came the tradition of making the announcement that it was time to "play ball."

Family members and friends of Lingzi Lu, the Boston University student killed in the bombings near the finish line, wore Red Sox jerseys with the numbers "617" on the back and enthusiastically gave the call.

"There's certainly a recognition of what this weekend represents in Boston and what we experienced a year ago," John Farrell said. "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. On some small level we were part of the healing process. Hopefully [Monday]'s anniversary -- not by date but by event, the anniversary -- is another day of healing for those who've been a victim."