BOSTON -- Al Hartz won’t be quite as anonymous this year as he has in years past.
The driver of one of two trucks bearing most of the equipment the Red Sox will use during spring training normally cruises from Boston to Fort Myers, Fla., without anyone knowing who he is or what he’s carrying. Even in years when Truck Day ceremonies -- foam fingers distributed on Van Ness Street on Friday read “Green Monster Truck Rally” -- featured a large banner identifying it as the Red Sox truck, the banner usually came down before the truck even made it out to the Mass Pike.
Not this year. The banner identifying the truck -- complete with corporate sponsorship, of course -- will remain in place until the truck pulls up to the team’s spring training complex in Fort Myers sometime around noon on Sunday after the nearly 1,500-mile trek. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Thursday, though more than a handful of players already are there.
That could make for an eventful drive -- especially the part that will take Hartz through the Cross-Bronx Expressway as I-95 weaves through New York City.
“(There will be) some one-finger waves in New York City, maybe,” said Hartz, who has driven the truck every year since 1998. “But, other than that, I think we’ll be past anybody before they see what it is.”
Movers arrived at a warehouse in Holliston, Mass., at 4 a.m. on Friday to kick off the annual Truck Day festivities. Much of the Red Sox locker room already had been packed up to make room for the NHL’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and all of that equipment had to be retrieved before the truck could make its way to Fenway. One of the trucks even needed a jump-start before it could get going.
Around a dozen fans were gathered to watch at the truck being packed at 10:30 a.m., but the group had grown to close to 50 by the time it was full. The truck pulled away from the curb just after noon with assorted baseball equipment as well as several non-baseball items, including a bicycle belonging to former bench coach Brad Mills, now the manager of the Houston Astros. A stroller, a plastic green wagon and a bright red tricycle made their way into the truck as well.
(You can fill in your own Dustin Pedroia joke. Several of the fans watching did.)
By the time movers finished packing up the two trucks that departed for Fort Myers, the bright sun even made it start to feel like spring on Van Ness Street outside Fenway Park.
“I don’t think a lot of other teams do this sort of thing or get as excited about a truck,” Hartz said. “It’s something to get excited about, though.”