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Red Sox eager for first look at Stadium

Red Sox eager for first look at Stadium

After gathering generations of memories at Yankee Stadium -- both good and bad -- the Boston Red Sox are finally ready to play their rivals at a new venue.

It is still Yankee Stadium by name, but the Red Sox know that the new place will be different, and that countless more scrapbook moments will unfold, perhaps starting with Monday night's opener of a two-game series.

Mention Yankee Stadium, and one Sox fan might instantly flash back to 1967, when Billy Rohr came one pitch away from a no-hitter in his first Major League start. Another might recall that Roger Maris belted home run No. 61 there against the Red Sox.

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The most crushing defeat the Red Sox ever had at Yankee Stadium was probably Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when a 5-2 lead was squandered with five outs to go and Aaron Boone sent the Yankees to the World Series with a home run in the bottom of the 11th.

But that loss was avenged a year later -- and then some -- by the joy of rallying back to win the ALCS with an historic comeback from down 3-0, aided by two homers in Game 7 from Johnny Damon, who now plays for the Yankees.

Now, for the new place. The first thing manager Terry Francona needs to figure out is how to get to his office, which figures to be far more spacious than the one he had at the old place.

"I've got to get up and do something in the morning and I told [bench coach Brad Mills], 'I'll meet you there.' Then I was thinking, 'I don't know where to go,'" Francona said. "I'm going to have to figure out how to get in the ballpark. It will be a little different."

Told that the visitors' clubhouse is palatial, Francona said, "Everyone says everything there is."

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the Red Sox are looking forward to forming their own first impressions.

Could it be the site of David "Big Papi" Ortiz's first home run of 2009? The left-handed masher did well at the previous Yankee Stadium, hitting .316 with 16 homers and 35 RBIs.

"I can't wait to get there," Ortiz said. "I've heard everyone talk about that, you know what I'm saying? But it seems like it's going to be another hitting park, from what I see. I'm not mad about that."

Yes, there have been some early slugfests at the new haunt.

"I know," said Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen. "Got to keep the ball down."

Francona, who prides himself on preparation, knows he can only do so much to align his team in the right places until he sees how the park plays from the dugout instead of on television.

"I haven't even been to the ballpark," Francona said. "We'll see for ourselves."

Count Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo among those who won't miss the former Yankee Stadium. Lugo hit .247 there for his career, with one homer and 14 RBIs.

"I didn't like the old one very much," Lugo said. "I didn't see the ball there very well. I'm looking forward to going there and playing and seeing the new Yankee Stadium. It's just another series, just another team. We're going to try to have success."

In truth, however, there's no such thing as "just another series" when it comes to Red Sox-Yankees.

"I loved the games there," Francona said. "They were great, the atmosphere was great. You knew when you went there, the game meant something. That's how you felt. I'm sure it's the same way now. I'm looking forward to the new one but I enjoyed the old one."

With a high volume of media always circling around, some players are looking forward to the more spacious clubhouse.

"I heard it's like a resort," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It will be nice to check that out. I've heard good things about it."

Third baseman Mike Lowell saw the old Yankee Stadium from all perspectives. He was a September callup for the Yankees in 1998. He won a World Series playing there for the Marlins in 2003. And the past three seasons, he has experienced the unique passion that only comes with Red Sox-Yankees.

"I'm kind of excited to see the place," Lowell said. "I've just basically seen it from the outside, but I've heard there is super state-of-the-art stuff. They didn't spare any expense making it, so it's got to be pretty good."

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

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