The Boston Red Sox and Lee County Commissioners held the grand opening of the newly built JetBlue Park this past Saturday afternoon and I have to say that it was an absolutely fabulous day.
The numbers being reported for attendance at the Red Sox/JetBlue Park open house state that more than 15,000 turned out. Being there personally for the majority of the day I would have to say (from what I took in visually), my estimate would be closer to possibly 30,000–due to the fact that turn styles were only activated by park entry and there were easily thousands of fans that chose to remain along the practice fields that ran a little later than a regular practice.
Next add the thousands who remained out on the public walk as their were great games for the kids, good food vendors out there and the team players showed up under a tent to sign autographs for over two full hours.
In all honesty, I have to say that the Boston Red Sox and Lee County did this day right and rather proud. This fan cannot recall seeing a ball park packed to the gills, like JetBlue was on Saturday afternoon, outside of a Pennant run–the majority of whom spent most of their time a top the ‘Green Monsta’ that calls left field home in Fenway South.
I also have to admit that venturing to the top of the ‘Monsta’ myself made me want to catch as many games as possible from that selected view–you truthfully cannot beat it for Sox baseball action! This is indeed one of the most beautiful ball parks I have been in for quite some years, so ‘well done’ to the city and the Sox for bringing this venture to life.
The day launched with the team’s first full roster workout and practice at 10:00 a.m.–with NESN broadcasting live from the fan fence at the team’s stretching grounds.
From the team’s first appearance and stretches to the end of the practice…it felt like the best Sox day in years.
Around 11:30 a.m., a ceremony was held with Lee County Commissioners and Sox Owner, John Henry, present. The procession’s lead music was provided by the Dunbar High School Marching Band.
Mr. Henry praised the commissioners for creating “the most beautiful spring training complex in baseball.” Henry said, “We would not have made this commitment without the partnership we have with Lee County,”
The ballpark replaces City of Palms Park in downtown Fort Myers as the Red Sox former spring training home.
Following the ceremony there was an official ribbon cutting to open the new JetBlue Park and the gates opened to the public around 12:35 p.m. The mad rush to the ‘Monsta’ was off!! It was the first stop for the majority of visitors, and rightly so. There is nothing like it and to have an actual piece of Fenway Park in my city was the best bookmark of the day. It brought back a lot of memories from my youth, spent in Boston and in that famed park marking it’s 100th year.
Sox Coach, Bobby Valentine appeared at home plate upon the initial opening for photo opportunities with Commissioners and other officials in attendance. He then spent quite some time in the Red Sox dug out, greeting fans and visitors that took the park tour–which ends with exiting the dug out.
Kids who attended the open house were kept busy by a machine that clocked their best fastballs, along with face painting and speed measuring pitching tents set along the outter
corridor and drive.
Free hotdogs and small sodas were a favorite at concession stands, where lines
occasionally snaked to the street.
Red Sox players Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Ryan Sweeney, Mike Aviles,
Ryan Lavarnway and Darnell McDonald signed autographs.
All in all, this was a great day all the way around; however, the season did not officially begin until Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” bellowed form the park’s speakers and all in attendance sang along and ‘reached out’ during the lyrical cue to join together once again in a southern version of Red Sox Nation.
A fresh season is upon this Sox Nation and they are indeed ready for all the action. The best to the Boston Red Sox in 2012 and PLAY BALL!!! Hope to see you out at the park!