You have to hand it to the Red Sox ownership triumvirate of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino. Who else could have so perfectly utilized the branding and marketing strategy that draws hundreds of Red Sox fans to the chilly and snow-lined streets around Fenway Park just to see a moving van pull away en route to the team’s Spring Training home in Fort Myers, FL?
With the hellish winter we New Englanders have endured, even hearing the words “Spring Training” provides some level of artificial relief. We close our eyes and conjure images of the boys of summer, replete in crisp new uniforms, hitting fungoes, playing pepper, enduring monotonous fielding drills. The sights and sounds of a promising new baseball season take place just 1,500 miles away, but it might as well be happening on Venus. One look outside and you can’t help but wonder if you’ll be walking around snow piles to get to the gate on Opening Day.
But the New England Sports Group has managed to extend the baseball season well beyond the usual parameters. Red Sox fans are a unique animal, and the day the equipment truck heads for Florida has always been an unofficial benchmark for the onset of baseball. But when you can convince grown men to take a day off from work, keep their kids out of school, and stand alongside Fenway Park and watch a truck — a TRUCK! — pull away from the curb, you, my friends, are on to something.
And it’ll be tough explaining how you blew out your knee lunging for a foam baseball thrown by Wally the Green Monster from a flatbed truck. No badge of courage there.
This phenomenon is exclusive to New England, where even winning two World Series titles has done little to quell the hardcore fan’s demand for all things Red Sox. You think anybody in Pittsburgh is camping out on the sidewalks around PNC Park to watch the Pirates’ truck head off to Bradenton?
Of course, Pirates management would probably settle for getting fans into the stadium in the middle of July.