Spring Training | Boston fans flock McKechnie Field after magical 2013 world title season

jdill@bradenton.comMarch 4, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Whether they live here locally or just made a brief visit to the area, Red Sox fans came out in droves for Monday's Grapefruit League game between Boston and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field.

A total of 7,558 fans attended the game, which saw the Pirates win 7-6. It was the fifth-largest crowd in McKechnie Field history.

That's what happens when the defending world champions stroll into Bradenton.

Fans decked in Red Sox gear, whether they were hats, T-Shirts or jerseys of popular players like Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jon Lester, flocked to McKechnie Field.

Boston claimed its third world title in 10 years last fall, and it capped a whirlwind time for the fans that make up Red Sox Nation -- an affectionate term referencing the throngs of Boston fans.

Steve Widrow, who goes by the nickname "Woody," has lived in Bradenton for the past 14 years.

But the 66-year-old is originally from Foxboro, Mass., and is a diehard Red Sox fan.

Watching his beloved Sox capture the world championship is always a treat, but it happened in an unexpected manner.

"It verified that (John) Farrell is a good manager," Widrow said.

Boston went from finishing in last place with Bobby Valentine at the helm in 2012 to the penthouse in 2013 with manager Farrell leading the charge.

But before the "Curse of the Bambino" was broken in 2004, Widrow said he never thought the Sox would claim three titles in 10 years.

"Back then you said, 'Just once before I leave the planet,'" Widrow said.

The McClurg family also ventured to McKechnie for the Monday afternoon, under sunny skies.

Kevin and Janice moved down to the area a year ago, while their son, Justin, came visiting from Fairhaven, Mass., for a week.

Despite the Sox not bringing a full lineup of regulars, the 26-year-old was still excited to see his team.

"It's good to see some of the younger players to see what … the years of the future are going to be like," Justin McClurg said.

And for the McClurg family, like so many other members of Red Sox Nation, the fandom starts at birth. It's a lifelong obsession with a Major League Baseball franchise that isn't common to every baseball market.

Basically, being a Red Sox fan for the McClurgs is something that's imprinted in the DNA.

"It means everything," said 56-year-old Janice. "They're like family."

Last year's wild ride resonates with the fan base, because it was the first time Boston had clinched the Fall Classic at home since the curse was snapped in 2004. Celebrating at Fenway Park was something that hadn't happened in 95 years.

Add in how the Boston community grew closer following the Boston Marathon bombing, and the season -- beards and all -- became a special occasion for fans rejoicing in the franchise's third championship in the 21st century.

"It was a rallying point," Justin McClurg said.

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