Red Sox fans gather for ceremonial sendoff

Red Sox fans gather for ceremonial sendoff

BOSTON -- A light midday snow marked the start of spring for Red Sox fans who voyaged to Fenway Park on Saturday, when the team's equipment truck made its annual departure for Florida.

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino talked with fans and handed out snacks as Wally the Green Monster and music provided entertainment along Van Ness Street.

"Another traditional ceremonial kickoff to the season, if you can pardon the football expression, as we start the baseball season with the truck going to Spring Training," Lucchino said. "It's great -- it's inspirational, actually. I come to this every year because of the fans who come up. Some fans [are here] who drove from Pennsylvania for the truck departure, people that came up from New York for the truck departure, and a lots of folks locally who came over."

About 100 fans attended the yearly rite, with most wearing a combination of Red Sox and warm-weather apparel.

Al Hartz, a moving professional from Milford, Mass., is driving the truck about 1,480 miles to Fort Myers, Fla. The route Hartz is taking is almost the same as the one he's driven every year since 1998, when he first took over the job, but this time he's headed for a different destination within Fort Myers: JetBlue Park at Fenway South, the team's new training complex.

Hartz isn't due to arrive until Tuesday, and said this trip is probably his easiest -- and favorite -- job of the year.

"Besides baseball equipment, I have an X-ray machine, I've got an awful lot of personal items," Hartz said of his load. "They send a small army down there, they all have their luggage. If [the players] have kids, they have little bicycles and playpens. A lot of golf equipment because they're going down south. It's an awful lot of everything, it really is. Maybe a third of the truck is baseball equipment."

"I'm regulated how many hours I can drive. I'll run down to probably southern [New] Jersey, Delaware, Maryland tonight."

Michael Keohane of Newton, Mass., brought his daughters Sophia, 7, and Emma, 5, to give good wishes at the sendoff. As the equipment truck pulled out, it was led briefly by another truck carrying standing Red Sox staffers, who tossed soft toy baseballs to fans.

"We've got to come, we've got to get ready for Spring Training, get ready to start the Red Sox's 100th anniversary of Fenway Park," Keohane said. "We're excited, we got to come back from a pretty bad September. New manager, see if the pitching staff can hold up."

Peter Briggs of Bloomington, Mass., was at his first Truck Day, and was happy that it was held on a weekend as opposed to a regular workday. He got a picture with Lucchino and some souvenirs.

"Everyone's so excited, you can really feel the energy," Briggs said. "I'm definitely looking forward even more to this season than I was before this. ... I got a really good friend who's a Mets fan, and if he can survive the couple years they had, [Boston's] last year was nothing."

Lucchino talked about the newness to this season, with manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington both in their first years on the job. Lucchino was also firm about what will cause the most excitement around the team in 2012: winning.

Some of the fans Saturday believe they might play a part in that.

"They're here because there's a tradition and a symbolism to it that they just want to be a part of," Lucchino said. "And some people are here because they think they're good luck. Some people here said, 'I came in 2007 when the truck went off, and look what happened,' and they're hoping to replicate that."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.