BOSTON Although he grew up in Connecticut, Bobby Valentine never went to Fenway Park as a kid. But that didnt diminish his appreciation for the ancient ballpark, celebrating its 100th anniversary today.
The park has at least a life, Valentine said. It has a magic to it.Its the baseball Land of Oz. People dream of this place.
I would say that this ballpark has created as many memories for people in this area and around the world as any venue in the world. And today I think there will be a memory created for me and everybody else whos here today. Im looking forward to it.
Im not sure I remember the first time I became aware of it, probably too long ago. But it was always there. I had Little League mates and high school mates who were huge Red Sox fans and always talked about Fenway. My uncle John was a huge red sox fan. It was always in the conversation, I would think. I never got to come here. I only saw one major league game as a kid. But it was in the conversation for sure.
With the Yankees, the descendants of the Highlanders who played that game against the Red Sox in 1912, at Fenway for todays game, affects the ambience. But the scores of Red Sox alumni on hand for the game is what makes it special, Valentine said.
The schedule makers must have known. I dont believe in coincidence, he said. I think it adds to the day of course, or takes away from the day, Im not sure. What adds to the day is so many of the ex-players are here. I saw 50 guys yesterday that I havent seen in umpteen years, and Ill see another 100 or so this afternoon. I think thats amazingly special.
I didnt look at the list. I should just go in and look at the list because there are some guys that knew me but I didnt know them when I knew them, or however you say that. Didnt recognize them. Oh, you are? Holy geez. Yeah. And we played together. They have a little advantage on me because theyve been in the post office lately and seen the most wanted photo of me. So its a little easier for them.
The Sox will wear 1912 replica uniforms, with no names or numbers on the backs.
"Havent put in on yet. I think theyre cool. And Ill see calves of players that Ive never seen before," Valentine said. "The hats are interesting, they take a little getting used to."
Valentine was at Fenway for the free open house on Thursday. The Sox estimated more the 53,000 people attended.
It wasnt billed as come and get Dustins autograph, Valentine said. It was billed as come to the park and its open for you to feel. Thats what I took from it. People were buying souvenirs of the ballpark. Its just different, not getting the autograph or the photograph of the player or the cracked bat. And I stayed around a while. I was amazed. I know theres probably a better word to describe what it was but I dont know what it is.