As Boston exhales, routine will help healing
BOSTON -- The enduring routine that distinguishes big league baseball from other sports and comforts the game's participants will return to Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon following a one-day absence. The Red Sox fully expect to engage the Royals as scheduled and restore a degree of normalcy lacking in this city and its satellite communities since the attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon.
Apprehension of Suspect No. 2 in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Mass., at dusk Friday relieved a tension that had gripped this metropolis since the premature end of the internationally famous race. The return of routine within the game here will allow the baseball's remedial qualities to begin their work.
"We stood together! Amazing work by all involved. #BostonStrong," Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino tweeted.
"To the JTTF and all the law enforcement officials who have worked day and night to ensure our safety. Thank you! #BostonStrong," tweeted Boston ace Jon Lester.
When Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured -- he was hiding in a boat in a backyard -- following some 20-hours of intense search in Watertown, all of Boston proper exhaled. The city could resume its focus on the more uplifting aspects of New England living, of which the Red Sox are a central part. Their games, particularly those at Fenway, help maintain the rhythm of the city and this region.
The rhythm of those games picks up with a pregame tribute at 1 p.m. on Saturday that can be seen live on MLB.com and redsox.com. The game itself will be shown for free on MLB.TV and carried by MLB Network.
The big league game is wonderfully habit-forming. The structure and routine of it often provide degrees of comfort for players and folks linked to the game. When the routine is disturbed, or worse, eliminated, even for 24 hours, it's unsettling. It's a morning without coffee for a caffeine freak, an hour without service for a cellphone abuser, pregame sustenance without chicken for Wade Boggs. For the Red Sox and Royals on Friday, it was an evening without batting practice, clubhouse kibitzing and without a game and also without a full sense of security that has been routine for most of their careers.
So, the diversion baseball offers, one that could have been so remedial for this scared and scarred city, became another victim Friday. Routine at and away from the park was among the dominoes that fell. At the same time, a sense of relief was achieved.
"I appreciate what Boston is doing by [postponing] the game," the Royals' Elliot Johnson said in a tweet. "You would much rather play, but there are bigger things at stake here than baseball."
Shortly before 3 p.m. ET, a Boston police officer, standing in the shadow of the Citgo sign near Fenway's Green Monster said, "No game? ... It could have helped. We need to get back to normal as soon as we can."
Even though no one can say for certain what normal will be.
I appreciate what Boston is doing by canceling the game. You would much rather play, but there are bigger things at stake here than baseball- Elliot Johnson (@ElliotJohnson9) April 19, 2013
Normal was out of town Friday. Pigeons outnumbered pedestrians. The traffic, if the few cars and trucks even qualified as traffic, was akin to what exists here early on Sunday mornings. Neither the Fenway neighborhood nor the area around the Gahden were parts of the lockdown; they were quite accessible. But at 3:17 p.m. and 3:23 p.m., respectively, they were without sound or sightseers, as if a November chill and stiff breeze had swept through and whisked the citizenry indoors.
The Bruins were to have played at home as well Friday. Another diversion denied.
Boston has been terrorized, that we understand. Whether it is terrified, no one could say Friday afternoon; no quorum existed on any street corner. Folks had been urged to lock themselves in. Federal buildings, universities, schools and businesses were closed. Many restaurants were dark. Hospitals thought better of releasing patients.
"There's no way to describe it," Royals vice president of communications Mike Swanson said Friday morning from the team's hotel. "Usually you see some kind of foot traffic or car traffic and horns honking, but all you've got here is a periodic police siren. That's about it."
Baseball people throughout the country, including former Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, had their eyes fixed on Boston.
"It's crazy for that to be anywhere," Arroyo said to MLB.com. "But I am familiar with where these guys are roaming around and having shootouts. It's definitely weird to see a Google Earth image of where these guys are blowing things up and having shootouts and that I have lived within blocks of that. I've traveled those roads a good bit. And I still have a lot friends living up there that are in lockdown at their houses.
"It's a strange vibe. I think the type of people who live in New England and the way they view the world, they will be as resilient as anyone in America. I think they will bounce back from this pretty quick."
Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan, from the Boston suburb Andover, said, "It's intense. I have a lot of buddies up there who live in Boston and towns around there. It's hard to imagine that populated of town is deserted. Everyone is inside. I've never ever seen anything but bustling on the streets.
"It was my backyard. I spent a lot of time in that city and the different towns around Boston. It's unfortunate. I'm happy they have a lock on who these guys are, and they're doing a great job to try and end the situation. That will give people peace of mind. Maybe it will give a little bit of closure to some of the families. The people of Boston are resilient. They're the type of people that can push through adversity. I'm sure they will in this case and unite together even more."
The "stay inside" order was lifted in Boston, though not in nearby Watertown, where 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev died early Friday morning after a shootout with police merely five miles from Fenway. The door-to-door search for his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was far more urgent in Watertown.
Public transportation had been shut down in Boston while hundreds of uniform personnel hunted in Watertown for the brother who escaped into the dark early Friday. But trains were tracking again after 6 p.m. And all day long, a choice of cabs existed.
News radio provided almost continual updates without commercials, reminiscent of what evolved New York City a dozen years earlier. The network TV affiliates chose news over scheduled programming. The visiting Royals seemingly had few options.
"We're locked in," Swanson said. "They've told us not to leave the hotel and every place is closed."
Royals reliever Tim Collins, from nearby Worcester, Mass., described the feeling among the players holed up at the hotel.
"I think this is probably the safest place you can be, because there are so many officers, FBI and stuff like that," he said. "Until they catch the guy, this is a pretty safe place to be. You really couldn't tell anything outside when we flew in, but once we got closer to the hotel, you could really see what was going on."
The Red Sox were still trying to process all that has gone on in their home city since Monday afternoon. The Sox returned to Boston early Friday morning, following their three-game sweep of the Indians in Cleveland. The mood in their clubhouse had been unsettled all week. Team personnel were relieved that none of their family members or friends had been injured on Monday. Nonetheless, they anticipated their returns to their residences would be emotional.
The team was expecting an emotional experience Friday night at Fenway. Now that will come Saturday afternoon. The city awaits the return of routine. Then baseball will assume its position as a diversion and a healing force.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.