Red Sox Opening Day ceremony celebrates frontline workers, Black Lives Matter movement

Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Verdugo knelt during the national anthem.

Alex Verdugo (far left) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (center) kneel during the national anthem.
Alex Verdugo (far left) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (center) kneel during the national anthem. –(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Opening Day at Fenway Park has usually been filled with pomp and circumstance along with major fanfare over the years.

Friday’s Opening Day celebration still had the pomp and circumstance but due to the coronavirus pandemic lacked the fanfare of past years.

The celebration began as it usually does, with the public address announcer introducing each member of the Red Sox, from the players and coaching staff all the way through the equipment staffers. However, the Fenway Faithful were not on-hand to cheer members of the ballclub. Instead, fake crowd noise was used to cheer each person as they were introduced, with many wearing masks, and made their way along the right-field foul line.

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After the 2020 Red Sox were introduced, the ceremony turned to take time to thank the frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. A moment of silence was held for those who lost their lives due to the virus. The team also held a moment of silence for former Red Sox players Eddie Kasko and Mike Ryan as well as John Altobelli, who was one of the nine people killed in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant in January and was the father of Red Sox scout J.J. Altobelli, and Pete Frates, who passed away after his noteworthy battle from ALS in December 2019.

The ceremony also took time to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd. In addition to placing a Black Lives Matter billboard outside of Fenway, the Red Sox also placed a Black Lives Matter sign in the center field bleachers. They also played a video from the MLB Players’ Alliance, which included narration from actor Morgan Freeman.

All members of the Red Sox and Orioles held a unity ribbon while the video was played, with every member of the Orioles taking a knee and several members of the Red Sox doing the same while holding the ribbon.

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Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Verdugo were the only Red Sox players that stayed kneeling during the national anthem, which was sung by Springfield native Michelle Brooks-Thompson. Michael Chavis placed his hand on Bradley Jr.’s back during the anthem.

Like every other year, the ceremony ended with the throwing of the first pitch. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Robert Lewis Jr., who is the founder of a Roxbury-based club that serves inner-city youth called The BASE, received that honor this year. In order to practice social distancing, the three throwers tossed the first pitch from the first row of the center-field bleachers.

After that, both teams went to their respective dugouts — or into the first few rows of the stands for players that weren’t in the starting lineup — and the 2020 season finally began.

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