The departure of the Red Sox equipment truck for spring training is the annual first sign of spring for snow-weary New Englanders. No one cares about the groundhog because he’s usually wrong. The truck is infallible, an inarguable sign that warmer (if not better) days lie ahead. Crowds gather in the early morning hours at Fenway to watch something that happens daily all over the city: cargo being loaded into an 18 wheeler. The difference is that the cargo is viewed with the same reverence that observant Catholics treat saintly relics. As university pep bands play and Dunkin Donuts hands out free coffee, giddy fans watch the handling of cleats that Ortiz has worn, bats that Pedroia will splinter, or a guitar that one of the endless stream of Texan-bred pitchers will strum.
At noon sharp the official ceremony concludes and the truck pulls away amid cheers, off to Fort Myers. In two and a half days it arrives at JetBlue stadium, having been breathlessly monitored every step of the way by media and adoring fans alike. In a winter that has brought record snowfall, mass transit breakdowns, and a heart-stopping Super Bowl win to New England, it seems ludicrous that “Truck Day” remains such a big deal to Bostonians near and far. But every year the faithful exchange congratulations, knowing that warmer and longer days are just around the corner, and hopeful that a title-winning baseball team will accompany them.