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Richard Justice

Emotional Fenway Park ceremony was pitch-perfect

Victims remembered, heroes celebrated as Boston continues healing process

Emotional Fenway Park ceremony was pitch-perfect play video for Emotional Fenway Park ceremony was pitch-perfect

The Red Sox connect generations -- that, we understand.

They connect a community, too. They do this in ways outsiders sometimes can't comprehend. After all, aren't they just a silly little baseball team?

Actually, they're not. They're memories that bind a father to his son or daughter. Their moments become the touchstones of lives, and they are passed from one generation to the next. They bind neighbor to neighbor in the dog days of summer, and in the bitterness of a New England winter alike.

They are embedded in the hearts and minds of a region, daily and constant. Let's be clear that other places love their baseball team. New York and Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco, on and on. Baseball does that to people. It gets into your bones and your brain and becomes part of your daily routine.

It does that because it's constant, not just in the rituals of a regular season, but in the rhythms of an offseason, when fans are alternately filled with hope or disappointment.

The point is that it's there with us every single day. Doesn't a tough victory, a tense, come-from-behind game send you to bed feeling good? Those tough losses? Hey, let's check tomorrow's pitching matchup.

Baseball has the power to torment us and thrill us, sometimes on the same day. But the point of baseball is that it's intrinsically part of our loves.

And so that's why it seemed appropriate that Boston would hold a day of healing at Fenway Park. There's magic in the brick and steel of that beautiful old park. It's where New England goes to escape from everyday life. Yet, it also matters. Always has. Always will.

So the Red Sox used it on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon to mourn and to honor and to reaffirm Boston's greatness and its strength. As usual, the Red Sox did it perfectly.

Fans alternately wept and cheered for the victims and the heroes, for the incomprehensible suffering, for the remarkable acts of courage and selflessness.

The Red Sox were not just a baseball team on this day, any more than the Yankees were just a baseball team in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

The Red Sox stepped forward and spoke for a community. The first responders were bathed in cheers. The victims were remembered and honored.

Was there real release after five days of tension and evil? Who knows? It happened so quickly on Patriot's Day, so much horror, so much pain. It then ended so quickly on Friday that it all had a dreamlike quality. It may be months or years before a community can fully tally up all that has been lost.

Can Boston ever really heal? Sure, it can. It has no choice. Even as lives were ripped apart, a great American city carries on. There's comfort in routine. The Red Sox understood what this day meant. They understood that Boston needed a day like this. It was a day to gather together to smile and to weep, to reflect on the week that just passed, and to vow that Boston would remain strong.

Players and coaches got it, too. They understand their city has been bruised and saddened and scared. They also understand that Boston is going to get back on its feet and continue.

There was pain and there was resolve in this hellish week. The Red Sox also acknowledged the victims of the explosion in Texas and the earthquake in China. There were heroes in those places, too.

Finally, it was time to move on. After the last cheers for the police officers and the community leaders and volunteers, the Red Sox did something completely normal and perfectly American.

They played a baseball game, which they've been doing for 101 years at Fenway Park. They cheered and they laughed, and at various points along the way, they were probably reminded how lucky they are to live in this country.

It was perfect. It was release. It was normal. At least it was a step back toward normalcy. There'll be more tears and more fear in the days ahead. New England won't really be normal for a long time.

This was the beginning of that journey, and it was perfect. Boston stood tall and proud. Forever strong and tough and inspiring. Forever Boston.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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