Will Middlebrooks took a call from his father just as the Boston Red Sox team bus was pulling out of Fenway Park on Monday afternoon. It came about about five minutes after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. That was how, Boston Herald reporter Scott Lauber wrote, most of the players first became informed of the horrific events at Copley Square. It left them in shock as many tried to get in touch with family.
Lauber writes that Middlebrooks started to tear up as he talked about speaking with his dad and the moments afterward.
“It took us about 20 minutes to get to the airport. Before we got there, guys were looking at videos online, on the news. Guys couldn’t call their families. It was a pretty intense 20-30 minutes until people could get in touch with people.”
And it didn’t take long before the Red Sox realized the gravity of the situation. As the bus chugged to Logan, outfielder Jonny Gomes noticed a caravan of police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances zooming in the opposite direction toward Copley Square. The police escort that accompanies the Red Sox to help minimize traffic? This time, they were on their own.
Ordinarily, the bus ride would be a rollicking good time, especially after a walkoff win to finish a sweep of the division rival Tampa Bay Rays. But second baseman Dustin Pedroia described the mood as “silent.”
Once the Red Sox reached Cleveland for the start of their next series, Gomes put an idea involving the "No. 617 Boston Strong" jersey, pictured above, into play. He had a clubhouse worker create a jersey with Boston's primary area code, and added a phrase that is helping to galvanize the community going forward.
From Fox Sports:
Gomes, who keeps the area code of his California hometown on his glove and cleats, suggested including “617” – the first digits of many Boston phone numbers.
“Just something to let the people know,” Gomes said. “They’re out of sight right now, but definitely not out of mind. How far is that jersey going to stretch? I don’t know. Just the fact of letting those people know we’ve got a heavy heart over here.
“Today, we had ‘BOSTON’ across our chest. We didn’t have our own individual names. We’re representing the whole community and the area.”
Gomes said the jersey is “pretty fitting, as a community, versus an individual or an event. It’s everyone.”
Small tributes are what people do best in situations like this. Most of us feel powerless to stop the acts of madness in our world. But we're all responsible for carrying on with our lives. Touchstones like the 617 jersey, and hand-written messages on the Red Sox dugout wall, can help. Even if just a little bit.