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Ring it in: Sox celebrate title in elaborate ceremony

After getting championship jewelry, Red Sox pay tribute to fallen firefighters

BOSTON -- In a stirring pregame ceremony that recognized the triumph of the Red Sox and the recent tragedies in the community they play for, spines tingled on a bone-chilling Friday afternoon at Fenway Park.

It started with a montage on the video board that put nearly every memorable moment from last season back in living color.

And the players got their World Series championship rings, which will serve as a permanent symbol of all they accomplished in the surreal season of 2013.

There was joyous applause when Koji Uehara, who closed out all three rounds of last October's postseason with strikeouts, collected his ring from ownership and general manager Ben Cherington.

And more roars when David Ortiz, the only Sox player with three rings, came out to get his. Ortiz was the only player who collected two boxed rings on Friday -- the second of which recognized the Most Valuable Player Award he won in the World Series.

"I thought they were giving me somebody else's ring," said Ortiz. "I was like, 'Hey, you're giving me two.' They were like, 'No, that's the MVP one.' I was like, 'Whoa, whoa.' Yeah, it was very kind coming from them, and I thanked them very much."

Though manager John Farrell suspected earlier in the day that Shane Victorino wouldn't be able to make it to the park, the right fielder did arrive in time to get his new piece of jewelry while Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" played in the background.

Ryan Dempster, who is on the restricted list this season and is likely to retire, came back to town for the ceremony. In fact, Dempster was in full uniform and accompanied by his young son when he went out to get his ring.

The first pitch ceremony was a celebration of all the recent champions of Boston sports. Pedro Martinez, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek emerged from a giant flag adorning the Green Monster carrying World Series trophies. Retired hockey player Mark Recchi drove former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino on to the field in a golf cart. The Patriots were represented by the retired trio of Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law and Troy Brown. Leon Powe was there from the 2008 Celtics.

The only downer was that the Red Sox took a 6-2 loss to the Brewers, but even that couldn't dampen the spirit of an unforgettable day.

"I think every Opening Day ceremony that I can remember has been unbelievable, especially when you're getting the ring from winning the World Series the year before," said Ortiz. "It's amazing the way they put it together."

Poignantly, the Red Sox had family members and victims who were impacted most by the Boston Marathon bombings deliver the rings from the Green Monster, and place them on a table on the first-base line before they were presented the team.

The family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who lost his life last April, was on hand. So, too, was Richard Donohue, the MBTA police officer who was wounded by gunfire in the hunt for the bombers.

There was more recent tragedy to recognize as well. Just last week, Lt. Edward J. Walsh and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy died roughly a mile from Fenway Park in the line of duty.

Firefighters of Engine 33 and Ladder 15 -- the house Walsh and Kennedy worked at -- were saluted and helped pull both the American flag and the 2013 World Series flag to half staff.

"There was one point where everything went from happiness to sadness, just seeing those firefighters last week losing their life trying to save the others," said Ortiz. "I got to meet their family. It was kind of sad to see people going away like that just trying to do good things. All you can do is just pray for the family and support them."

The anthem was a dual effort, performed by the Dropkick Murphys while Keith Lockhart conducted members of The Boston Pops.

Before long, it was time to play ball, as Jake Peavy started against the Brewers. It was a hotly contested game until the ninth, when the Brewers scored four runs to snap a tie.

"It was emotional on a lot of levels," said outfielder Jonny Gomes. "Sympathy for the marathon runners. They had firefighters and families. Then you bring out the people that have won here before. So it was definitely an emotional roller-coaster and something that jumps right to the top of most exciting days as a baseball player."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
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