BOSTON -- The Red Sox rolled another championship banner down Fenway Park's magnificent Green Monster on a Friday afternoon filled with celebration and remembrance.
It was a touching ceremony, touching and joyous and perfect on every level. The 2014 Red Sox don't want to make this season about the 2013 Red Sox. From the first hour of Spring Training, they've been reluctant to look back. As their T-shirts proclaim, "Turn the page."
They would not even speak of repeating as champions, because that was about last season.
"We're just thinking of being good today," manager John Farrell said during Spring Training.
Farrell meant that he had a smart, driven group of players, a group that trusts the process. That is, good work in the cages or the bullpens can translate to good things in September and October.
On this day, though, the Red Sox happily looked back. Once the banner was draped across the Monster, players, coaches and staff trotted out one by one to get their championship rings and gather in center field.
"As each player was shown on the video board, so many thoughts flashed back to a year ago," Farrell said.
Players felt it, too.
"Very emotional," third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "A lot of guys play baseball for a lot of years and don't get to experience anything like that."
David Ortiz was the final player to receive his ring and got the loudest cheers. He also got an extra ring, for being the World Series Most Valuable Player.
"It was beautiful," Ortiz said.
This was a special group, the 2013 Red Sox, widely picked to finish last in the American League East. General manager Ben Cherington brilliantly remade the club, not with superstars, but with tough-minded, team-first guys who embraced the idea of being in a place where scrutiny is intense and expectations high.
Still, it's one thing to have a close group determined to work hard and overachieve. It's another to turn all those dreams into winning a World Series. So even during a day that included a 6-2 loss to the Brewers, the Red Sox could appreciate 2013 one final time.
"It was awesome. I'll remember it forever," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "It happens so fast, you try to slow it down and take it all in. All of it was awesome."
It came at the end of a quick turnaround. After a late night victory in Baltimore, the Red Sox flew home, grabbed a few hours sleep and headed to Fenway Park. Still, they were ready.
"Everyone was fired up," Pedroia said.
One of the things that made the 2013 Red Sox special was how they changed the focus of an entire city, perhaps just a bit, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
"Today was a chance to go back and maybe think of some things that took place last year," Farrell said.
Players did hours of work in visiting hospitals and bringing people touched by the tragedy to Fenway Park. The Red Sox know they can only do so much to ease the pain of people who've suffered incomprehensible loss, but they saw their work as part of being a good citizen of a community.
The Red Sox honored the Boston Marathon bombing victims again on Friday afternoon. Among them were the parents and sibling of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the blast. Also at Fenway was Richard Donohue, the MBTA police officer who was shot and badly injured during a shootout with the suspects a few days after the bombing.
Red Sox players and staff greeted them one by one in front of the home dugout. And then the team held a moment of silence in remembrance of Boston firefighters Edward J. Walsh and Michael R. Kennedy, who died last week during a nine-alarm blaze near Fenway Park.
It was all a reminder that baseball teams are important to the fabric of a community. They bond us together and rally us, and in the toughest of times, they have the power to offer an opportunity to grieve and to honor those who've lost so much.
"All you can do is pray for the families and try to help support them," Ortiz said.
There'll be more normalcy as the season settles into its usual routines. The Red Sox are anxious for this. But they should also be proud of what 2013 meant. They did it right from start to finish.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.