How We Roll
Fans Celebrate Another Spring
By Bob Ekstrom, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor Just as Yawkey Way flows into Brookline Avenue, so too does winter flow into spring, and the instance of time carved by their union has a name. For as long as I can remember, we’ve called it Truck Day.
To a New Englander, Truck Day is like Saint Peter waving our hopes through his pearly gates to a metaphoric journey from cold city streets to verdant pastures under a Florida sun. Within a mere three days, the boxes, bags, and sundry packages – I saw a red tricycle - crammed into the hold of the 18-wheeler resting on Van Ness Street will be spilled onto those pastures, the tools of another baseball season.
My job on this February morning was easy: don’t get in the way, and let my thoughts carry me to a better place. But the north and westerly winds whipping off the Charles that negated any benefits of the bright sun made for a surreal experience to any baseball fan. I see myself a world removed from those humid nights balancing a hot dog and a beer in my grandstands seat while wrestling with usurping neighbors for the prized armrests on either side. It still seems hard to leave winter behind.
Yet around me, a robust crowd approaching two hundred simply turned their collars to the bitter breeze and more bitter memories of a season past. Anthony Pleva and Vanessa Lee, both of Boston, were on Van Ness Street since nine o’clock this Friday morning.
“It is kind of cold,” acknowledged Pleva. “It takes a lot to come out here. But after October, you’ve put your life on hold until now.”
Pleva, originally from Tampa, has been a Sox fan for years, but Lee, a local college student playing hooky, is enjoying her first full season as a member of the Nation, and she likes what she sees.
“John Lackey is a strong pitcher, and I think he’s going to help out our rotation,” she said. Lee has also become an instant fan of Theo Epstein’s new-found mantra of pitching and defense. “I think we’ve got enough big bats,” she added.
All the way is Kelly Jefferson’s expectation for the upcoming season. The Shrewsbury resident took the day off from work, as did friend Karen Potter of Sutton. Both are long-time fans – Potter recalls listening to Red Sox broadcasts from a radio fastened to field hockey goalposts during her high school playing days – raised in Yankees households. Not surprisingly, they enjoy sticking it to the Empire.
“I think we beat them in pitching – at least, our top five,” assessed Potter, who is also relishing the anticipated departure of Johnny Damon to someplace far away.
“Damon not being anywhere near the Northeast helps the Sox,” she explained. “It’s not only what he brings to the table in terms of skill level. It’s also that psychological thing. It’s like . . . [he’s] polluting the Northeast.”
“Not that we’re bitter,” clarified Jefferson.
And for Kelly Oconor of Arlington, Truck Day is a reunion of sorts. She is part of a vibrant online community that embraces opportunities like this to put faces to screen names. To help her, she brought along a companion.
“Steve T. Ferret,” went the formal introduction of the stuffed companion attached to her waist garbed in Red Sox road grays. “It can be hard when you only know people online to figure out where you can find them when you all meet up somewhere, and you have a whole group of crazy Red Sox fans. We’re the only ones with ferrets.”
Unlike its distant cousin, Punxsutawney Phil, Steve T. does not run from his shadow, and that portends good things for Oconor today.
“It’s the first harbinger that it’s finally going to stop being cold and that baseball is back, especially when it’s in the middle of this sports lull.”
Just after noon, the engine of the day’s guest of honor cranked over, and the frigid air raking through the heat of twin exhaust stacks melted into a meadow breeze laced with diesel aftertaste. Spring - that damnedest of all liars, as proven in 89 of its last 91 incarnations - had begun.
On this early afternoon some eight and a-half months removed from a potential Game Seven of the next World Series, not a spirit in attendance could be stilled by the riches of a thousand shipbuilders, however soon they may be dashed by the wealth of one.
“This is like family,” proclaimed Anthony Pleva as he surveyed the fevered crowd. “You come here today for the family that can’t be here.”