Don’t let a grumpy groundhog tell you otherwise, spring is here Red Sox fans, and it officially got underway Saturday morning with the Red Sox’ annual Truck Day festivities at Fenway Park.
The tradition, which began in 2003, is an official send-off for the Red Sox equipment truck as it embarks on its 1,480-mile journey down to the Red Sox Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.
“I think there’s going to be more excitement [this year], if that’s possible,” said John Pope of Lynn. “It’s going to be more exciting.”
John and Tina Pope moved to Lynn from New Orleans last year and were experiencing their first Truck Day in person.
“The fans came back; [John] Farrell did a great job,” Tina said. “[He was] much better than the ‘Game Show Host’ from the year before.”
The Truck Day festivities were not exclusive to Bostonians, as West Warwick’s Courtney Wagaguman and Cranston’s Laurie Desmarais both made the trip up from Rhode Island to take part in the event that marks the unofficial start of Spring Training.
“I’m diehard: her and I have been to two spring trainings; we come to at least four or five games a year,” Wagugaman said. “We come up here all the time just because we’re huge Red Sox fans.”
“If we can’t get tickets, [we] go to the Yardhouse; have a good time,” Desmarais added. “It’s just so much fun. It’s a blast.”
Despite the subfreezing temperatures, nothing could dampen the spirits of the Fenway Faithful when the first sign of spring was right in front of them.
“We’re in New England; what better thing to get out of bed for?” said Jane Dionne of Peabody. “I’m not cold at all, I’m just happy.”
The truck, which left Fenway just after 10 a.m., is hauling an assortment of baseball equipment, including over 20,000 baseballs; over 1,000 bats; 20 cases of bubble gum; and 60 cases of sunflower seeds.
Milford native Al Hartz is piloting the truck down the east coast to its destination. This is the 16th straight year that Hartz will drive the 53-foot truck down to Fort Myers.
After the surprising worst-to-first World Series win last season, fans are understandably more optimistic about the Red Sox’ chances this year.
“[They’re going] all the way, all the way,” Dionne predicted. “They are going to be really awesome. We’re going to have a rookie of the year; Grady Sizemore will surprise everybody; and my buddy [Mike] Napoli will be awesome as always. They’re going to go all the way.”
“We’re going all the way again!” said Wagugaman. “2014 baby! Woooo! Going all the way! Number one baby!”
John Pope agreed with the predictions of Dionne and Wagugaman, but Tina wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know if I’m going to go that far,” she said. “Over 90 wins anyways, and they’re going to make the postseason.”
Follow Jeff Pini on Twitter at @JeffPini