Emotional Boston ceremony: Ortiz lifts fans' spirits in first Fenway game since bombings

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Emotional Boston ceremony: Ortiz lifts fans' spirits in first Fenway game since bombingsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

BOSTON - A defiant David Ortiz stood on the Fenway Park infield and told the crowd to "stay strong," bringing a rousing cheer from Bostonians weary from a week of bombings, stay-at-home orders and a manhunt that locked down the city for a day.

Playing at home for the first time since two explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and wounded more than 180 others, the Red Sox honored the victims and the survivors with a pregame ceremony and an emotional video of scenes from Monday's race.

"This past week, I don't think there's one human being who wasn't affected by what was going on down here," Ortiz said after the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3. "I was emotional, very angry about the whole situation. ... Everybody was hurting. I know it's going to take some time to heal up, but the one thing everybody's got to remember is that everybody supports each other."

Ortiz, who hadn't played since last summer with heel problems, came off the disabled list and went 2 for 4. "Big Papi" tied the score at 1 with a sixth-inning RBI single.

Starting with a video, alternating between celebratory and somber and accompanied by Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," the tributes continued with a first-pitch ceremony that honored a first responder, a victim of the blast, and a marathon institution: Dick and Rick Hoyt, who have participated in the race for more than 20 years.

Then Ortiz took the microphone and, in what he later said was an unplanned outburst, let loose with an expletive that drew a cheer from the 35,152 who managed to make it through the beefed-up security and into their seats.

"This is our (expletive) city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom," he said. "Stay strong."

Neil Diamond, who flew into town on his own and asked if he could sing, performed "Sweet Caroline," the Fenway staple adopted by opposing ballclubs to show their support for the city, in the eighth inning.

As Diamond, a New York native who wore a Red Sox cap, left the field, fans chanted "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" In the bottom half of the inning, Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer to give the Red Sox the lead for good.

"You give people hope," Ortiz said. "We wanted to let them know we're here for them."

Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, along with other authorities, circled the mound for the ceremonial first pitches from firefighter Matt Patterson, who rushed to the site of the bombings; from Steven Byrne, who was injured in the explosions; and from the Hoyts.

Ortiz took the microphone and showed fans the specially designed uniforms saying "Boston" on the front instead of the "Red Sox" they have worn for decades. Both teams wore patches with the "B Strong" logo. The Red Sox said their uniforms would be autographed and auctioned off to raise money for the One Fund Boston, the charity to help the victims.

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