PAWTUCKET — A tip for those with plans to turn out at McCoy Stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox’ home opener on Thursday night: Make every effort to get comfortably seated by around 6:15.
An elaborate pre-game ceremony laced with pageantry will directly lead into the 7:05 first pitch between Pawtucket and Rochester. The festivities commence with a tribute to neighboring police and fire units. The jubilant spirit inside the ballpark’s walls will undoubtedly remain at a fever pitch when the 2012 Governors’ Cup champion PawSox are recognized as part of a special ring ceremony.
“It’s going to be a special night, one we’ve been looking forward to since we got soaked in champagne last September,” noted PawSox Team President Mike Tamburro.
Added Jeff Bradley, the team’s director of community relations and chief organizer of the pre-game, on-field ceremonies, “For many of our fans, this is their first opportunity to congratulate the team.”
Once baseball becomes the business at hand, all eyes will shift to David Ortiz. The sheer presence of the Red Sox slugger to what’s already a jam-packed opening night itinerary will only enhance the expected electricity. Ortiz is no stranger to McCoy, having spent three memorable days rehabbing in Pawtucket in July 2008, all of which saw him go deep.
Below is the breakdown of festivities in chronological order. When done reading, patrons will realize quite clearly why they should make it a point to arrive at Ben Mondor Way with plenty of time to spare.
-- Since the 9/11 attacks, the first PawSox game at McCoy has served as a soothing acknowledgement for the unflappable courage and braveness displayed by the region’s first responders. Over 40 police and fire departments from Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts are expected to participate Thursday and will march single file in a procession along the outfield’s outskirts behind the infield surface.
“We’ll probably two or three rows deep with that many Color Guards,” points out Bradley.
The first groups will come to a complete halt along the third-base line with the rest occupying space around the diamond. The ceremonial band R.I. Professional Firefighters Pipes & Drums will provide musical accompaniment as “Amazing Grace” plays.
To Tamburro, “it’s a moving and touching ceremony.”
-- A video montage featuring highlights and audio clips from the run to the Cup will set the stage for the distribution of rings by Tamburro and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer. The rings will be neatly arranged on a table that also includes the Governors’ Cup trophy.
With the addition of shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Triple-A roster coupled with reliever Alex Wilson’s first-ever big-league promotion, 13 PawSox players and several returning field staff members with ties to last year’s memorable campaign will be on hand to receive shiny reminders of what was accomplished.
“It’s a tremendous way to congratulate, thank and reward those who participated in an amazing run that no one will forget,” states Tamburro.
(The head of the franchise noted that arrangements are in the process of being ironed out so that former PawSox manger Arnie Beyeler and players on this year’s Red Sox team with connections to the 2012 PawSox can come to McCoy in order to receive their rings in front of the fans. Common dates when the Red Sox are idle and the PawSox are home include April 29, June 3, July 29 and August 26.)
-- After a brief cooling-off period designed to provide all parties with a chance to catch their breath and reflect on what has unfolded, the focus will shift to the ceremonial first pitch. Doing the honor is Officer Michael Cleary of the Providence Police Department, a 2012 recipient of the Rhode Island Lifesaving Medal, the state’s highest honor for rescuing a person from death. The introduction of the 2013 Red Wings and PawSox will follow with players, coaches and training staff from both sides lining up along their respective base lines.
Performing the national anthem is Rhode Island State Trooper Amanda Brezniak. Cannons positioned just in front of the visitors’ bullpen in right field will go off while Brezniak sings. After a youngster yells, “play ball,” the action between the white lines takes center stage.
A friendly reminder that we’re just a little over a week away from Connecticut’s Newtown High coming to McCoy Stadium to face Tolman High in a “friendly” exhibition game. The seven-inning affair will take place beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 20.
Tickets will cost $5 with all proceeds raised directly going to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Families Fund. The atmosphere will be similar to a PawSox game as the scoreboards and concession stands will be up and running. Afterwards, the players and coaches from Newtown and Tolman will gather for a barbecue.
“I know that the Pawtucket School Department has been promoting the game internally and we’ll be promoting it [throughout Pawtucket’s eight-game homestand that runs through next Thursday]. We’re also encouraging the community to come out and show support,” said Tamburro. “It’s wonderful that we can all come together over the game of baseball to celebrate and remember. We’re just thrilled to have Newtown High School here to play a game.”