In what promises to be a season unlike any other, the Boston Red Sox kicked things off Friday at Fenway Park, focusing their pregame ceremony on the coronavirus pandemic and the continued push for social justice in the wake of George Floyd's death.
"Welcome at long, long last to Opening Day 2020," the team's public address announcer said. "Who could have imagined that a microscopic virus would bring the world to a halt and so sadly take the lives of so many...today, finally, baseball is back in Boston!"
Each member of Boston's 2020 team was introduced, but it wasn't Red Sox Nation cheering them on. It was fake crowd noise being used to cheer each player on as they made their way down the first base line, complete with card board cutouts in the Green Monster.
With both the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles on the field, everyone was asked to take a moment to recognize the heroes who have shown up everyday amid the COVID-19 outbreak: the doctors, nurses, ENTs, and frontline workers.
A moment of silence was also held for everyone we've lost to the virus.
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The focus of the ceremony then shifted from the coronavirus to the Black Lives Matter movement, as the announcer referenced Floyd's death, saying, "Yet while we were united against this microscopic virus, forces sought to divide us again. On the streets of Minneapolis, we watched for eight minutes and 46 seconds in graphic, horrifying detail the wrongs that still haunt our society."
The announcer next introduced a video that was put together by a group of Black baseball players who have "united to use their collective voice."
"Today, more than 100 current and former Black baseball players are galvanized and united in pursuit of what is right," the announcer said of Major League Baseball's Players' Alliance.
In a show of collective support, both the Red Sox and Orioles, lined up down the first and third base lines respectively, grabbed hold of a unity ribbon.
"The Red Sox echo the players' alliance and raise our voices in harmony and unity to proclaim that Black Lives Matter and systemic racism must end," the announcer said.
The words “Black Lives Matter” were displayed throughout the ballpark, most notably in Fenway's center field bleachers, and Red Sox players also wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts during pregame warmups.
Orioles players were also wearing "Black Lives Matters" T-shirts, and the entire Baltimore organization took a knee while holding the unity ribbon prior to the signing of the national anthem.
The anthem was performed by Springfield native Michelle Brooks-Thompson, an Indie gospel artist who was a previous finalist on NBC's 'The Voice.'
For the Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Verdugo were the only Boston players to kneel down for both the unity ribbon and the national anthem, while Michael Chavis rested his hand on Bradley’s back to show support.
The Orioles stood together with their arms locked during the singing of the anthem.
To end the Opening Day ceremony, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Robert Lewis, Jr., a passionate advocate for Urban youth and a COVID-19 survivor. Lewis Jr., who created and launched The Base in 2013, was called a civic and community hero and an extraordinary leader.
The trio threw out pitches from the center field bleachers, not far from the “Black Lives Matter” banner. Boston's starting outfield of Bradley, Andrew Benintendi and Kevin Pillar caught the pitches.
Both teams then went to their respective dugouts, and the first pitch was thrown at 7:30 p.m., finally starting the 2020 season.