What was important was the first at-bat by Orlando Cabrera, stepping to the plate in his Angels uniform, while the shortstop who wore St. Louis red (all red teams...) last year crouched in Sox home whites in his old spot on the diamond.
In his press about it today, the image Cabrera keeps offering is of himself on the plane before the game, looking down at Boston and feeling strange:
"It was a really weird feeling when I was on the plane and the guy said we were almost landing and I saw the city. I got a weird feeling in my stomach," Cabrera said. "I didn't know it was going to be like that"
When he got up to the plate, his uniform grey as if he is physically fading from us, the red of it just a hint of candied-apple kitsch rather than the classical vermillion, the Fenway crowd was on its feet. Of course, it helped that "seconds before his first at-bat Friday night, a replay of Cabrera's walk-off homer for the Sox last September against the Orioles was played on the scoreboard in center field." (Redsox.com)
But it's probable that the Fenway crowd would have stood and cheered for Cabrera without prompting.
"I couldn't even swing the bat. (Jason) Varitek was laughing. He felt it too. It was amazing.'' (Herald)
Cabrera's reaction reminded me of something else:
It was impossible for him not to acknowledge the full-bore screaming all around him, and so, as he approached the batters' box, he touched the bill of his batting helmet, and tried to settle in.
Not enough. The roar intensified as he drew closer to the plate. Finally he stood back, looked up into the crowd, and put his right hand over his heart. (C2F, 6/9/04)
Cabrera, in fairness, was more extroverted, doffing and waving his batting helmet walking from the on-deck circle, doing the chest-pat several times, grinning like an idiot.
In these moments, echo upon echo, the Red Sox have their own kind of profound significance.
Cabrera--shades of Nomar in the reception--ended the play with a ground-out to Edgar Renteria. Edgar made a lovely spinning backhand play in the hole, whirling and crisply air-mailing the relay to first.
And really, could it have been any other way?
"The word 'love' -- that's what everybody keeps telling me -- that they love me and everything, which is nice, especially from this town. Because they're tough, they know about baseball," said Cabrera. "I appreciate that. I love them back." (Redsox.com)