CLEVELAND — Jon Lester has felt pride when slipping on his Boston jersey and cap. Never more than now.
Away from home and family members they worried about during some anxious moments on Monday, the Red Sox are hoping their return to the field Tuesday night will help their wounded city heal after the marathon bombings.
As always, the Red Sox will play for themselves — and all of Boston.
“It really hits home,” Lester said. “Boston’s my home, just like everyone else in this clubhouse. It’s obviously not a good situation, but hopefully like 9/11 we come together as a city again and as a nation and whoever did this make them realize we don’t take kindly to things like this. It really hits home.”
The Red Sox and Indians will wear black armbands to honor the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. Three people were killed and more than 170 were injured in the attacks.
The giant American flag flew at half-staff before the series opener with a moment of silence before Tuesday’s first pitch.
Lester said there was never any discussion about not playing Tuesday’s game.
“I think everybody just assumed we would take the field tonight and be proud to put on that Boston uniform, like we are every day — but especially with everything going on,” he said.
On Monday, the Red Sox had just beaten Tampa 3-2 on an RBI double by Mike Napoli in the ninth inning in the annual Patriots’ Day morning game and were in a bus headed to the airport when they received the first reports of explosions near the finish line.
“We usually have a police escort and they took off without us,” Lester said. “We started asking questions and it started from the front and went to the back.”
Lester said players frantically called family members to check on their safety. Later, on the flight to Cleveland, players who normally pass the time by watching a movie or playing a game on their laptops, were glued to TVs showing the latest events in Boston.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was subdued and solemn as he discussed all that transpired in the past 24 hours.
“It’s the worst thing,” he said. “It’s awful. I was there the day before. You can’t even describe how you feel. All of us, that bus ride, it was silent. It’s still hard to put together.”
Pedroia, though, was sure Boston would rally.
“You take pride in the city you play in,” he said. “This is all some of us know. I’ve only played for the Red Sox. This city, what they demand of their team, the way everybody — it’s the toughest city out there. We put our uniform on, and it’ll be that much more special every day.”
Indians manager Terry Francona, who won two World Series titles during eight seasons in Boston, said he got word while he was Progressive Field filming a commercial. As he caught up on the tragedy, Francona was struck the familiar images appearing on the screen.
“It’s personal for just about everybody,” he said. “Some of those views, you could see the church where my daughter got married. It’s very unsettling for everybody.”
With the Bruins and Celtics having their homes games scratched because of the attacks, the Red Sox can bring some comfort to a region needing a break.
“When it comes down to anything in life, I know going back to my experiences with cancer,” said Lester, who survived the disease. “The further you can get away from that and not think about it, it eases your mind and maybe we can do that by taking the field and easing some minds back in Boston. We can give them something other than news to watch for a couple hours and hopefully make people forget for a couple hours.
“Hopefully, we can bust our butts and keep playing hard.”
One TV in Boston’s clubhouse continued to show images of the bombings, which occurred on sidewalks many of the players have walked with their families.
Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes said he and his teammates have “heavy hearts” as they move forward. However, Gomes said it’s not like anyone from that area of the country to quit at anything, and it’s up to the Red Sox to do their part to make Boston whole again.
“We’re trying to say the Boston Red Sox are not laying down for this,” he said. “We’re going to keep on trucking.”