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Fenway Green Monster Seats Open Early

April 13, 2003

BOSTON (AP) _ Kids holding baseball gloves. Signs that read ``Hit it here!″ Fans drinking beer and admiring their view of the field.

All these things are commonly seen at ballparks around the majors _ but never in left field at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox unveiled new seats above the Green Monster for their home opener Saturday night.

``Nice view, huh?″ said ironworker John Vaters, who was among the construction workers the team welcomed to the new ``Section M″ to thank them for working around the clock to finish the job 17 days early.

Wearing green sweatshirts that said ``I built the Green Monster seats,″ painters, electricians and concrete finishers took the field to sing the national anthem and watch their project superintendent throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Then they got a chance to admire their work up close.

``They’re justifiably proud,″ Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said after bringing another round of dignitaries to see the seats. ``They did a remarkable job in a short period of time.″

Crews finished the job in 20 weeks, driving piles into the frozen ground in the middle of winter and wrapping up the job last week during an unseasonable April snowstorm.

``We all shared a vision of getting this done for opening day and we pulled it off,″ superintendent Pete Leyden said, who also worked on the renovation of historic Faneuil Hall but called the first pitch ceremony, ``the highlight of my life.″

The Red Sox hedged their bets by holding back tickets for the first homestand; all of the others sold out in hours. Tickets in the section for next week’s games will go on sale Monday morning, but for the weekend the seats were reserved for special guests.

Rain pushed Friday’s scheduled home opener back to Saturday afternoon, and then forced it to be rescheduled until Aug. 8. It was breezy but 58 degrees _ warmer than it would have been had the teams played Friday as scheduled.

It made for a great mood in the seats _ as did the free beer and sausages. It didn’t even seem to matter that the wind was blowing in and Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was pounded for a career-worst 10 runs in 4 2-3 innings.

The seats are just 310 feet away from the plate and 40 feet up, in an area that was previously occupied by a net that collected home runs that cleared the landmark left field Wall.

In the front row, fans can lean over and stare down at Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez or Baltimore’s B.J. Surhoff. Those in the back can look out over the nightclubs of Landsdowne Street and beyond, to Kenmore Square and its landmark Citgo sign.

``The perspective is unique,″ Lucchino said. ``Where can you be this high, this close, in this historic of a setting?″

Among other improvements to baseball’s oldest and smallest ballpark this winter were new bathrooms and a picnic area under the right-field stands. Other walls were taken out behind the center-field bleachers, opening a view of the city skyline, and some walls received a fresh coat of ``Fenway Green″ paint.

The Green Monster also has a new look, with a logo celebrating the 50th anniversary of the team’s affiliation with the Jimmy Fund, a charity that raises money for kids with cancer. Ads have also been posted at either end of an enlarged manual scoreboard, which now lists National League scores as well as the AL.

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