Due to a forecast of heavy rain in the Boston area, today's Red Sox-Rays season opener at Fenway Park has been postponed to tomorrow at 4:05 p.m.
"All of the festivities surrounding Opening Day will take place tomorrow," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino confirmed a little before 10 a.m. on sports radio WEEI. "And instead of the game being played today it will be played at 4:05 p.m. tomorrow, and the gates will open at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow."
The decision to postpone the game so soon -- more than four hours before the scheduled first pitch -- was somewhat surprising, but Lucchino said the club saw little hope in the weather forecast, which indicates that downpours, strong winds and possible thunderstorms will begin during the early afternoon hours and continue throughout the evening.
"It's unusual for us to postpone a game when there isn't hard evidence, that is rain or immediate weather present at Fenway Park given the volatility of weather around here, but we have two factors here," Lucchino said. "There's a consistency among all the weather people, private weather services as well as the six network and media weather services we consult as well, and the probabilities of rain are nearly 100 percent and we're talking about some severe weather with possible thundershowers and heavy gusts."
Lucchino noted that Tuesday's scheduled open date was by design in case of circumstances like today's. He added that the 4:05 p.m. start tomorrow is designed to give fans who had tickets for today a little bit of flexibility in rescheduling.
"A lot of people planned to take the day off and maybe they can come tomorrow as well if the game's a little later in the day, school kids can watch it tomorrow, if they were planning on coming today and taking the day off at least they can watch it on television tomorrow," Lucchino said. "So we tried to make some accommodations based on this open date that we preserve for such an occasion."
It marks the first Red Sox' first postponement of a home opener since 2003, when the game was called because of rain. Lucchino was asked why this year's opener was scheduled to be played in Boston rather than Tampa Bay.
"That's a very good question," Lucchino replied. "We prefer to open on the road for a couple of reasons. One, of course, is the weather. The other is we're annually engaged in offseason renovations and having the extra week or 10 days or so is helpful to us.
"But baseball generally accommodates us on this. This is the first time in several years [since 2002] where we have opened at home, but I can assure you the request will be put in even more strenuously that we should open on the road."
Seal was to sing the National Anthem today, but will not be able to do so tomorrow because of a previous commitment. Maestro Keith Lockhart and members of the Boston Pops along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus will instead perform the Anthem, as well as "God Bless America" and "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was reportedly going to be on hand to deliver the ceremonial first pitch today. It is uncertain whether he will be able to attend tomorrow.
"We just made the decision at 9:30 a.m., so it's a little hard to tell if everyone can reschedule to be here," Lucchino said regarding the Opening Day festivities. "But we're hoping that we have essentially the same lineup intact, but we won't know that for a couple of hours at least."
The Red Sox players haven't let the postponement deter them from getting in some work -- they were taking batting practice on the field shortly after the announcement.
Both of today's scheduled pitchers will start tomorrow, Josh Beckett for the Sox and James Shields for the Rays.