Govt. leaders open Fenway for Red Sox camp

Fans at games this season still considered 'far down the road'

July 2nd, 2020

BOSTON -- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker looked out at Fenway Park on a sun-splashed Thursday afternoon and expressed his excitement to Red Sox president Sam Kennedy over baseball finally returning.

"Sam, your yard looks pretty good," Baker said. "And we're looking forward to seeing people on it."

Those people -- Red Sox baseball players and uniformed staff -- will take the field in socially distant groups throughout Friday's opening day of Summer Camp at Fenway.

Considering that the Red Sox aren't just a baseball team but rather an institution to Boston and all six New England states, this was a day to rejoice over the return of the Old Towne Team.

"Like a lot of things that have changed in the wake of COVID-19, this season will look a lot different, but we're thrilled and excited and honored to welcome the Boston Red Sox back to the field," Baker said. "We know, as always, this team will make the city proud. We know that while we won't be here in person, we can all root and cheer with appropriate social distancing, and masks if you can't stay 6 feet apart, wherever they might be watching on TV.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh joined Baker and Kennedy at Thursday's news conference.

"We've been looking forward to this day for a long time," Walsh said. "Getting to this point where we can bring baseball back safely is a testament to how hard we've worked as a community. It's a credit to everybody who helped us confront this challenge."

Although there won't be the traditional fireworks celebration on Boston's esplanade this weekend, baseball will at least be on the docket in the form of Summer Camp.

"And as we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, I can't think of a better way to kick that off than by celebrating America's favorite pastime here at Fenway Park," Baker said. "We look forward to watching Opening Day later this month and we look forward to a great, short season."

Yes, it will be a short season, with the Red Sox and all MLB teams expected to play 60 games in 66 days, starting on July 23 or 24.

"The city supports the Red Sox as they plan to get the season underway as they make sure to keep their players healthy and safe during that time, and their coaches, the staff and the entire Boston community," Walsh said. "There is no doubt this will be a historic season. We're certainly not back to normal, but welcoming the Red Sox back to Fenway Park and being able to watch live sports again is a big win for Boston and a lot of us."

Red Sox players started trickling into Fenway Park on Wednesday for COVID-19 testing and to complete other health protocols.

Kennedy got a sense of excitement just from seeing familiar faces again -- even if those faces were covered with masks.

"The hardest part, I think for all of us and all of you, has been we can't be together in person," Kennedy said. "It's been painful. This has been amazing, to see Jackie Bradley Jr. and J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts coming back together and getting to be reunited. We haven't seen each other since March 12 down in Spring Training. It's been a bit of a homecoming week, and guys are really excited to get going."

Kennedy expressed hope last week that fans would be allowed to attend games at Fenway Park at some point this season, and Baker said the state will take a wait-and-see approach.

"When it comes to something like fans, especially when it comes to larger venues like this, I just hesitate to take a position one way or another, because I do know that for today, the answer, based on what we're hearing from the public-health folks and others, is no," Baker said.

"But if you were to ask me what the answer to that question would be three months from now, I think it would depend a lot on the facts on the ground, the experiences, the data collection and everything else. And it might mean the same answer, and it might not.

"But I hesitate to give an answer to a question that gets that far down the road, because there's been so much that we've learned, and frankly so much that has changed about what we would call the state of wisdom with respect to the coronavirus, in the last 100 days."

Just the fact the Red Sox are back in town is a mood-lifter in Boston.

"Like Big Papi said in 2013, this is our city. He said it in a more eloquent way," Walsh quipped. "Nothing can keep Boston down for long. When we get through this, and we will, we'll have a new appreciation for what makes this great city, including Fenway Park, something we'll never take for granted."