Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Scenes from 2013 Boston Marathon bombing

What the team witnessed

Being guests for Boston Marathon weekend usually just means dealing with the hassles of crowded hotels and restaurants, the annoying reality of seeing so many people in such better shape, and the novelty of/early alarm for Monday's 11:05 a.m. first pitch.

But for some Rays this year, there are also the vivid — and scary — memories of their last such visit, when they were an incidental party to the 2013 terrorist bombing.

After their second walkoff loss in three days, the Rays were packing up in the clubhouse and heading to their buses when the first reports surfaced of the explosions just more than a mile from Fenway Park.

"It was kind of surreal," veteran 3B Evan Longoria recalled. "We didn't really know what was happening."

Hearing the wailing sirens and seeing helicopters filling the sky, they started to get the uncomfortable sense that it was something big and something very bad.

Then-Rays LHP David Price was one of the first to get details, a texted photo Red Sox INF Will Middlebrooks had forwarded showing blood-stained sidewalks near where the bombs went off. TV analyst Brian Anderson got a call from a buddy near the site describing similar scenes.

Players and team personnel scrolled for more info. Phones started buzzing with texts and ringing as worried relatives checked in. Some Rays reached out to check on friends and family who had been in town, even along the Marathon route.

"Everything was moving really fast, and you're like, 'Man, I can't believe how close this is,' " said RHP Alex Cobb, whose now-wife Kelly had been at the finish line earlier that day. "You see stuff on the news all the time, but that's right down the street. That easily could have been here at the stadium or outside the stadium. So, yeah, it hit home."

With the source and scope of the explosions still being determined, the Rays didn't know if they would be allowed to get to the airport, or leave. The motorcycle cops who usually provided police escort peeled off as they were summoned for more important duty, but the Rays were delayed only slightly and able to fly out before air space was shut down, getting to Baltimore as planned.

"It was pretty wild to think we were so close to it," Longoria said. "I'll always remember we were there on that day. It's something I can never forget."

What the Times witnessed

I had just gotten back to the Fenway Park press box, thinking that writing creatively about the Rays' latest loss and navigating the postrace partyers to get a cab to the airport would be my biggest issues of the day.

That all changed suddenly as one of the Boston writers blurted out news of the explosions. Initial details were obviously sketchy, but the steady wail of sirens suddenly became a haunting soundtrack to the afternoon.

To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to do.

Without knowing exactly what had happened, who did it and if there could be more attacks, my priority was to find out via phone and texts if the Rays personnel had safely left the area (they had), get my story written, then assess options.

Talk that Fenway might be evacuated was worrisome, not just logistically (since I was checked out of the hotel and had a big suitcase with me) but — scarily — logically that the landmark stadium also could be targeted.

I know my editor at the time wanted me to head toward the bomb site and report details. But given what I knew from media reports of the chaos at the scene, not knowing whether there could be more bombs, and hearing of roads, trains and flights being shut down, my instinct was to quickly try to leave.

I had been through the 1989 earthquake World Series in San Francisco, but that was an act of nature, so there didn't seem to be anything that could be done but to wait it out. Here, there was and, right or wrong, I left.

Accompanied by Roger Mooney, then of the Tampa Tribune, we headed out onto the chaotic streets outside Fenway. The advice we had gotten was to walk the opposite direction from the bomb site, where we might have a better chance to catch a cab or a metro train that hadn't been shut down to get to the airport.

Fortuitously, we saw Red Sox PR director Kevin Gregg standing near a sport utility vehicle that the team arranged to take OF Shane Victorino's wife and child — whose apartment was near the bomb site and had been evacuated — to the airport. We shared our plight, and Gregg accommodatingly asked if she was okay with us riding along, which we did. I'll be forever grateful to all of them.

I briefly thought the airport might not be the safest place, either, if there were to be more bombs, but at that point it seemed like the best option. Flights resumed after a couple of hours.

I was never so happy to get to Baltimore.

Rays rumblings

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg ranking 24th among USA Today's 100 Most Powerful People in the game was impressive, though the reasoning odd — in part because the franchise "has a greater potential for mobility than any other." Six owners were ranked higher. … Not only did former Rays Joe Maddon, Dave Martinez and Ben Zobrist get Cubs World Series rings but also Kevin Kiermaier's brother Dan, a member of the Wrigley Field grounds crew. … With an eye toward a major-league job, Jared Sandberg is managing Triple-A Durham from the dugout this year rather than coaching third, with extra coach Craig Albernaz handling those duties, the Durham Herald-Sun's Steve Wiseman reports. … Hearing plans for a Turn Back the Clock event on Aug. 12, with retro '70s-style uniforms. … Soot Zimmer, Don's widow, being invited to the Cubs' home opener/ring ceremony was cool; her not being invited to the Rays' opener was not. … The repeated extensions in the talks to keep Fox Sports Sun on Spectrum cable systems makes it seem there will be an agreement, right? … With David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez retired, the only active player who debuted before the Rays franchise is Braves RHP Bartolo Colon, 43, who was a rookie in 1997. … Team nutritionist Ryan Harmon came to New York and Boston to get a sense of the food options in the visiting clubhouse and the late-night/postgame travel lifestyle.

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