Sox in Cleveland, thinking about Boston

CLEVELAND -- Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli lives in an apartment complex in Copley Square, the same place in which former manager Bobby Valentine lived last season, and a short walk from the site of Monday’s explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

On Patriots Day last year, when he was still playing for the Texas Rangers, Napoli had an off-day in Boston. “I walked by the race last year, checking it out,’’ he said. “I walked around the city.

“Just a weird feeling, you know? Helpless feeling, too. Nothing we can do about it, you know what I’m saying? Innocent people get killed, doing something they love. Evil people out there, who don’t value life.’’

The Red Sox were just minutes away from boarding their bus to Logan Airport on Monday afternoon when security chief Charles Cellucci, who among other duties in a 34-year career with the Boston Police Department served as the department’s liaison with Homeland Security, called traveling secretary Jack McCormick. There had been two explosions on Boylston Street.

Moments later, the police escort assigned to accompany the team bus sped off. “That’s when we started asking questions,’’ pitcher Jon Lester said, “from the front of the bus to the back of the bus.’’

The bus driver was having trouble closing the baggage compartment on the bus, but McCormick, concerned that air space might be shut down over the city, told him not to worry about it, and head for the airport.

“We’re driving this way,’’ Jonny Gomes said, “and police cars, ambulances, fire trucks are driving the other way.’’

Throughout their flight to Cleveland, players were glued to their televisions, watching the news reports from a tragic scene less than a mile from Fenway Park.

Lester is among the players whose in-season home is in the city.

“Obviously it hit real home,’’ Lester said. “Boston is my home, just like everybody else in this clubhouse. Obviously, it’s not a good situation., Hopefully just like 9/11, we come together, not only as a city again but as a nation. Whoever did this is going to realize we don’t take kindly to things like this.

“I know a lot of guys live fairly close to the ballpark. Obviously, that’s the first thing that goes through your mind, people’s families. Luckily nobody [from their immediate families] was down there. Everybody was safe.’’

Gomes was reminded of the dramatic impact felt by New York City in the aftermath of 9/11, when baseball resumed after a brief interruption, and Mike Piazza of the Mets hit a game-winning home run. For that moment, at least, joy, an emotion rarely felt in the days immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center, was allowed to be given full rein.

“It was not a win-lose situation, more like getting everybody back on track,’’ Gomes said. “This situation is a lifer. You’re not putting this behind you. At the same time, if we can get some people's hopes up, give people a breath of fresh air, we’re in entertainment business. That’s what we can do to help the area.’’

That can only go so far, though, he added.

“We’re not getting anyone out of surgery with a win or a loss,’’ he said. “This is a lifer here, you know? Just the main thing is to show the Boston Red Sox aren’t laying down to this. We’re going to keep trucking, and hopefully set that character, that attitude throughout the city.’’

CLICK HERE for more on the Red Sox's reactions to Monday's bombings.