Sox set to kick off 95th Fenway season

Sox set to kick off 95th season at Fenway Park

The unofficial New England holiday known as the home opener is set for Tuesday afternoon, when the 5-1 Red Sox begin their 95th season at Fenway Park with a matchup against the much-improved Toronto Blue Jays.

This figures to be a special day for all the newcomers to the 2006 team, who are ready to experience the thrill of playing at Fenway Park 81 times a year.

Nobody figures to get a bigger adrenaline rush than Josh Beckett, the prized pitching acquisition who gets the honor of starting the home opener.

If Beckett's first start in a Boston uniform was any indication -- seven innings, one run in a 2-1 win over the Rangers -- he will be well equipped to handle the spotlight that comes with performing for the Red Sox.

"I think the interest that the Red Sox generate will make him pitch at [a higher level]," said manager Terry Francona. "I think he'll thrive on that."

The Fenway faithful will also get their first look at second baseman Mark Loretta, third baseman Mike Lowell and shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

There will also be plenty of familiar faces, many of whom figure to get rousing ovations during the pregame introductions. Tim Wakefield is back for his 12th season in Boston. Captain Jason Varitek remains a fixture behind the plate. The 3-4 combo of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez is back for more mashing. And Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke look primed to return to form after their struggles of a year ago.

"After opening the season on the road, it's great to go home with a 5-1 record," said Wakefield. "I'm sure the new guys are anxious to get home and play in front of our home crowd. We're going to be home for about 10 days, so I look forward to getting home and playing at Fenway Park."

Though much of the pregame festivities will center around the current edition of the Red Sox, there will also be a touch of the past, as the late, great broadcaster Curt Gowdy will be recognized with a moment of silence.

The pennant-winning team of 1946 will be celebrated for its 60th anniversary, with Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Boo Ferriss (among others) participating in a first-ball presentation.

The Canadian national anthem will be performed by the Boston Children's Chorus, accompanied to their post by Red Sox outfielder Adam Stern, who starred for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Jordan Leandre, a 5-year-old Jimmy Fund patient who has become a staple at Fenway Park in recent years, will sing the American national anthem.

In addition, there will be a flyover by A-10 jets from Bradley Air National Guard Base in Connecticut.

Then the focus will shift back to baseball, as the Red Sox will try to stay on the roll they started in Texas and Baltimore.

"This team is playing well, the pitching is doing great, and the hitters are going out there and getting us enough runs," said Foulke. "You can definitely call it momentum. This team is playing good baseball."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (1-0, 1.29 ERA)
This marks the first career start at Fenway for Beckett, who has never faced the Blue Jays. Because Beckett so frequently experienced blister problems during the Interleague month of June, his experience against American League competition is extremely limited. The Rangers, White Sox and Mariners are the only AL teams he's ever faced, and that experience consists of just one game against each foe.

TOR: RHP Josh Towers (0-1, 7.71 ERA)
Towers started strong but faded fast in his first start of the season -- a loss to the Twins on Wednesday. The right-hander retired eight of the first 10 batters he faced, then allowed four runs on five hits in the fourth frame and was chased from the game after 4 2/3 innings. He finished with five runs allowed -- four earned -- on 10 hits, including one home run. He is 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his career against Boston.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI-850 AM

Up next
• Wednesday: Red Sox (David Wells, 15-7, 4.45 ERA in 2005) vs. Blue Jays (Gustavo Chacin, 1-0, 4.05 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (Matt Clement, 1-0, 5.14 ERA) vs. Blue Jays (Ted Lilly, 0-0, 11.57 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 2-0, 1.93 ERA) vs. Mariners (Jamie Moyer, 0-1, 4.38 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.