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For one day, spring's in the air at Fenway

Loaded with 20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats and much more, the Red Sox equipment truck took off from gray, snowy Boston a little after noon. Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

BOSTON -- On a Thursday afternoon with snow falling and temperatures well below freezing, the crowd at Fenway Park for this year’s Truck Day was smaller than usual. But that didn’t stop Boston Red Sox fans like Mike Fimbel and his wife, Zo, from enjoying the event for the first time.

Having had the day marked on their calendar, the two woke up at 5 in the morning on Thursday in order to make the trip into the city from their home in Mount Vernon, N.H. After a pit stop at Logan Airport to drop Mike’s sister off for a flight, they fought traffic to head to Fenway Park, where they arrived around 10:30 to wintry conditions that were just picking up.

While many fans came and went, Mike and Zo stayed at the park to see the truck off shortly after noon. Despite all it took to get there and the elements they endured once they arrived, the two stuck it out, excited just to be there.

“It was all part of the experience,” Zo said. “And those Red Sox are worth it.”

Even after a season in which the team occupied last place in their division for the second time in the last three years, this year’s Truck Day carried its usual feeling of high hopes for a new baseball season. Seen by many as the unofficial start to spring training, the event had those in attendance buzzing with excitement as the 53-foot red truck -- emblazoned with the message “Ready to roll. Right off the bat.” -- was loaded with various supplies and equipment to be driven to Fort Myers, Florida, by Al Hartz, a native of Milford who has been doing it for 17 straight years.

Among the cargo: 20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats, hundreds of jerseys, pants, helmets, baseball gloves and, not to be forgotten, dozens of cases of bubble gum and sunflower seeds. While Red Sox workers put the finishing touches on loading the truck, the team’s poet laureate Dick Flavin got the crowd going with a poem written just for the occasion.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel; spring training is not far away!” Flavin bellowed in front of cheering fans. “The truck is all loaded and ready; Fort Myers it’s heading your way!”

It wasn’t just the fans who were in good spirits, either. For the Red Sox officials on hand, the day signaled that baseball is once again around the corner.

“For those of us who aren’t ashamed to acknowledge our true love of baseball, this is one of the great days of the year,” team executive vice president Dr. Charles Steinberg said. “I think it’s a wonderful sign of spring and I think spring is a beautiful time of year.”

“We’re very excited,” team chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said. “We had a disappointing 2014 and we’re excited to turn the page on that and get going. I know a lot of players are excited, they’re already down there working out. It’ll be great to get down there.”

According to Steinberg, 22 players have already made their way down to Fort Myers, a sign that enthusiasm toward 2015 is running high throughout the organization. After an offseason filled with significant additions to both the offense and pitching staff, the Red Sox will look to rebound from their last-place season like they did in 2013.

“I love that we have the chance to go from worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first,” Steinberg said. “Not everybody can do that. Not everybody wants to. But if you can get there, that would be very cool.”

With several feet of snow on the ground and more expected to hit Boston this weekend, it’s tough to imagine springtime. But for fans like the Fimbels who showed up to Fenway Park on a cold Thursday in February just to see a truck drive down the street, there was at least a taste of better days to come. And for that reason, being there was worth it.

“You see the fans that come out, they are looking for hope. They’re looking for a sign of spring. They’re looking for the first warm,” Steinberg said. “And this is it.”