How We Roll
It's Truck Day. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
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With Truck Day, Life Rolls On
Republished from Feb. 10, 2008: A Red Sox season used to be something that you ran away from. With the final heart-breaking out, fans would turn to the Patriots - and, before them, the Celtics – as antidote for the pain of another Fenway collapse. Now, in the wake of back-to-back gut-wrenching Patriots finishes, the baseball season has become Boston’s salvation.
That was no more evident than on Yawkey Way Saturday morning. It was Truck Day, cause for several television crews, Dirt Dogs staff, and a hundred fans to celebrate this distinctly Boston tradition so unique in all of professional sports. For all, it was the precursor to spring and hope. And for many, it was also an occasion for healing after Sunday’s Super Bowl. I know. I was one.
My son and I started last week bent on attending a parade. Although Truck Day was not what we originally had in mind, we hopped in the car just the same, I maneuvering traffic on the Southeast Expressway, my son doing likewise on the radio whenever the first chords of Runnin’ Down A Dream or Breakdown could be made out. After only six days, we weren’t about to let Tom Petty back into our lives yet. When we arrived at Fenway Park, we found our parade. Not one with confetti guns and rolling rock bands and a day free of school and work. Not one with conquering warriors riding duck-billed chariots among the liberated masses lining Boylston Street. Not one of triumph; but rather, of consolation. And among the intimate crowd awaiting the 10 a.m. send-off, consolation was working its mission.
“I had nothing else to do on a Saturday morning so I figured, why not ease the pain after the Patriots,” said Jonathan Flanagan of Canton, who also persuaded his father, Larry, to join him. Like many assembled under the gray skies outside Gate D, it was a first for both.
“I saw it on NESN, and figured it would be a fun thing to do,” said the senior Flanagan. “It doesn’t help the undefeated season thing, but life goes on.”
Indeed it does. Banners draped on either side of the Atlas Van Lines trailer parked on Yawkey Way proclaimed as much. Only 59 Days To Opening Day.
“Bring on the spring,” echoed Jonathan.
Aft of the 18-wheeler, a small flatbed sat curbside, hitched to a Ford Super Duty. Within its plywood sides, a group of Fenway Ambassadors led by Wally the Green Monster lobbed sponge baseballs out to passers-by.
“It was a letdown with the Patriots,” acknowledged Declan Power of Milton, who brought his son, daughter, and a Pug puppy named Wally into town for the send-off and some souvenirs. “We read about it in the paper and we said, what a great idea to come see [the original] Wally and start off the next run.”
For Cheryl Giuliotti, an East Boston resident who grew up in Wisconsin a Packers fan, her motive was not as therapeutic.
“I was going to B.U. to get a Valentine’s Day present,” she explained. “I’m not a Belichick fan, so I’m not a Patriots fan. I was kind of glad the Giants won because they’re NFC.”
Shortly, a buzz started through the crowd as aluminum ladders were pulled away from the trailer and its rear doors swung shut, sealing the efforts of three and a-half months.
“It’s almost an off-season-long process - ordering the equipment, packing it,” explained Red Sox VP of Media Relations John Blake. “Our equipment people work all winter. They’ve been packing boxes for several weeks, getting everything ready. They packed all day yesterday and finished this morning.”
With a burp of air, the tractor’s parking brake released and puffs of heated exhaust lifted from the twin chrome stacks, melting the leaden sky that had enveloped The Hub in a week of wintry melancholy. The first Florida-bound roll of wheels brought the assemblage to spontaneous clapping and whistling. Under police escort, the procession headed down Yawkey Way and onto Brookline Avenue for the first leg of a two and a-half day journey to Fort Myers. The 2008 season was officially underway.
“We’ll get into Fort Myers Monday night, and we’ll start unpacking Tuesday morning,” said Blake. “There is kind of a science to the way they pack the truck, because they do have to unload in two places.”
The first destination is City of Palms, which hosts Grapefruit season games beginning February 28. After that, it’s on to the Minor League complex, where pitchers and catchers report Thursday. But on this Saturday morning, it was comfort enough for a city reeling with disappointment to watch a new chapter roll in as the convoy disappeared around the corner.
And to the glee of all, the truck did not see its shadow. That can mean only one thing. Just 59 days left until spring. -- 2.10.08, Bob Ekstrom, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor