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ON BASEBALL

With one swing, holiday experience becomes a blast for Dad

Mark Loretta watches as his home run lands in the Monster seats, giving the Sox a 7-6 win.
Mark Loretta watches as his home run lands in the Monster seats, giving the Sox a 7-6 win. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

This was all new to him, the visitor from Southern California said, this quirky regional holiday known as Patriots Day (''Got to have something to do with the Revolution, right?"), a ballgame that started before lunchtime and a walkoff home run by his son, Mark Loretta, who in nearly three decades of playing baseball -- Little League, high school, Northwestern, the big leagues -- never had ended a game like this.

''I just asked him right now," Dave Loretta said, moments after his son etched an unforgettable day in the family scrapbook, and one that should have some legs in Sox lore as well, by hitting a two-out, two-run home run off closer Eddie Guardado in the bottom of the ninth inning that lifted the Sox to a 7-6 win over the Seattle Mariners yesterday afternoon. ''He said it's the first walkoff he'd ever hit at any level."

Mark Loretta thought he had one last season, when he was with the San Diego Padres and playing in Petco Park. ''I made the mistake of starting to raise my arm as I rounded first base," he said, ''and it was caught on the warning track. I learned my lesson on that one."

Dave Loretta wasn't sure this one was going out, either. He had left his seat in the family section after the Mariners hit in the ninth, leading by a run. ''I'd gotten up from my seat to go to the bathroom," he said. ''I didn't think it'd be so crowded that late in the game. I decided it was too big a line, so I stood up there and watched from the top, instead of from my seat.

''I saw Mark hit the ball, I saw the left fielder [Raul Ibanez] go towards the Green Monster then back off, like he was going to play it off the wall. I actually didn't see the ball go over the fence. But then everybody started jumping up and down, yelling and screaming, everybody's hugging, and I got involved in all of it.

''Oh my God, this was one of the greatest events of my life. Oh, man, it almost brings a tear to your eye. Hard to say that, but it's an emotional deal."

There would be no Papi-like helmet flip by his son as he circled the bases, although Mark Loretta said he thought about replicating what David Ortiz, who hit two home runs yesterday, has described as an act of self-preservation, having learned that leaving your helmet on is an invitation to getting your brains scrambled.

''But [this being] the first time, I felt like I wanted the entire experience," Loretta said, ''and [Jason] Varitek certainly gave it to me. He was right there waiting for me. My lips are sore, who knows who got me where."

Dave Loretta, an international banker who retired three years ago because he'd grown tired of missing family occasions, has been here nearly a week, accompanied by his wife, Ellen, and their other two children, Chris, 28, and Kelly, 18. Because Kelly, a high school senior, had to be back for school today, the rest of the family missed yesterday's game preparing for the return trip. ''I'm sure my wife is mortified," he said.

It had been tough on the whole family, he said, when they learned last December that Mark had been traded to the Red Sox. Playing with the Padres, Mark, his wife Hilary, and their kids were just down the freeway, instead of clear across the country.

''For six months that part of our family is away," he said. ''He's got two lovely children, our grandchildren. It's hard for us to be away from all our family, but especially little Frankie and Lucy.

''But then you start to look at it and say to yourself, Mark's probably got another three, four good years in him left. Why not play on the biggest stage of the world? Really nothing against Milwaukee [Loretta's first team] or the Padres, but that's not the same stage as this is.

''I've been here six games now, I gotta tell you this is a totally different feel. This is really the major, major leagues. Red Sox Nation, you can't describe it. It's one thing to say 'Red Sox Nation' as a term, but it's another thing to just feel the vibrancy, the energy this whole thing has."

Yesterday, Dave Loretta took the ''T" in from Newton. Because he was alone, he wandered through some of Fenway's tunnels, sampled the different foods.

No, he admitted, he didn't know that this was the day that Paul Revere's ride and the battles of Concord and Lexington are commemorated, but not because he didn't know the history.

''My daughter said to me the other day, 'Does California have any historical stuff like this?' We took the Duck Tour, so the guy pointed out the Old North Church, the lanterns, 'one if by land, two if by sea.' She said, 'Anything like that in California?'

''I said, 'Kelly, California was colonized by the Spanish. No major battles. A lot of Franciscan monks going up and down, establishing missions. That's the history of California. There were no wars, no revolutions for independence, no Bunker Hill, no Boston Massacre, no Boston Tea Party. All that stuff happened here.'

She said, 'That's funny, Dad. I was wondering whether California had anything at all.'

And I said, 'Frankly, no. There really isn't. It's a nice place to live, but it doesn't have the tradition, history, any of that stuff.' "

And now he knows the baseball is different here, too. Mark Loretta's first at-bat in the big leagues, 11 years ago, came against Guardado. ''He struck me out," Loretta said.

You never forget your first at-bat. But yesterday's walkoff will give the Loretta clan a reason to give Patriots Day a permanent place on its calendar.

''It's not easy to break into a new situation," Dave Loretta said. ''Mark has great character and he's extremely well-liked by everyone, so it's not going to be tough for him, I don't think. But you know, fans are a different story. They expect you to produce, and they want you to produce soon, and they want you to produce consistently.

''This should give him a couple of points for a couple of days, anyway."

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