Boston Red Sox players Johnny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hold jerseys in front of the Boston Marathon finish line during the World Series parade and celebration. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Winning baseball teams universally capture the attention and support of their communities, but Granite Staters saw a lot of traditional New Hampshire values as they flocked to support the 2013 Boston Red Sox and bask in the glory of the club's epic world championship.
The season will long hold memories for casual fans, devoted baseball enthusiasts and victims of the Boston Marathon bombings alike.
Over the years, some people have complained that professional sports have gone from being in-person experiences to being expensive television spectacles. Even with prices frozen for 2013, the Red Sox were still the most expensive team to watch in all of professional baseball.
But many in New Hampshire - James and Brittany Gunnip of Hampton among them - said last week this Sox season was different because the players' work ethic matched their own.
"It's the ballplayers," James Gunnip said as he prepared to board a commuter train in Bradford, Mass., for the ride to Boston and Saturday's parade in celebration of the World Series victory. "They do their job and they go home, just like anybody else."
"They seem like a family," said Brittany Gunnip, who credits her father with making her a baseball fan.
"It's like a community," Halle Sickel of Hampton said as she headed to Boston with her father, James, for the "rolling rally" parade.
That community of players and fans came together on a Monday in April when bombs exploded near the finish of the BAA Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 people, including several from New Hampshire. By tradition, the Red Sox have played at home on the same day as the marathon, giving generations of fans a chance to attend both events.
The devotion of the team and its fans to the people who were hurt by the bombs was on display when Saturday's parade paused at the marathon finish line in honor of the victims.
Survivors seem to appreciate every gesture.
"The inspiration of the team, their resiliency and how they managed to conquer and face so much adversity and overcome it is very inspirational," said Alvaro Galvis of Nashua, who along with his wife, Martha, was seriously injured in the bombings. "It has become a close circle of friends that are survivors, the Red Sox have been very embracing and very cordial and very nice about the people who attend the game and become part of them. They have been very responsive to the survivors."
The Galvises, who have not had direct contact with the Red Sox, still make three or four trips to Boston each week for physical therapy and psychological care. They were not there Saturday for the parade, however.
"My wife was watching (on TV) and said it was very moving,'' said Galvis.
Both Alvaro and Martha Galvis remain out of work because of their injuries. They appreciate the support of the fans who adopted Boston Strong as a motto and the frequent expressions of support from the baseball team.
"It's like a dual-edged sword because it brings back memories, but at the same time it is part of the healing in the sense that you see people pulling for you," Alvaro Galvis said. "But it's been very nice from the whole community of Boston and New Hampshire, to feel that people are accompanying you in your sorrow and your healing, but at the same time it does remind us about it."
Joy will linger
The exhilaration of the past season may have peaked with Saturday's parade, but some residual effects of the season will be felt throughout the region.
Outfielder Jonny Gomes, one of the bearded heroes of the season, will visit as one of the featured guests at the Granite State Baseball Dinner on Nov. 23.
The dinner is an annual affair benefiting Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD), the Ted Williams Foundation and the New Hampshire Monarchs Foundation. Tickets, at $80, are still on sale for the event. They may be purchased at the Fisher Cats Ticket Office, by visiting www.nhfishercats.com, or by calling 641-2005.
"Certainly having Jonny Gomes there, we certainly think hometown folks will want to come out and meet him," said Tom Gauthier, marketing director for the Monarchs. "He's quite a character with the beard, and the people who will be there that night will certainly appreciate Jonny."
The baseball dinner will provide a Hot Stove League moment as New Hampshire settles in for the winter.
While the Monarchs compete for local fan dollars, heightened interest in the sport in general can't hurt area ticket sales.
"That's certainly a good thing when you're talking about winning a World Series, especially in New England when you're talking about the Red Sox," said Gauthier.
"It's always a good talking point when you're talking with season ticket holders; the longer you talk about baseball, it keeps people engaged."
Minor league baseball may become more of a bargain as prices at major league venues continue to rise. Team Marketing Report, which analyzes the business of sports, projects that the cost of a night at a Red Sox game for a family of four in 2013 was $356, including tickets, hot dogs, a souvenir cap for the kids, a round of soda for all and a $7.50 12-ounce beer for mom and dad.
The team has typically raised prices after successful seasons.
Longtime baseball fan Mike Grady, owner of Collectors Heaven in downtown Manchester, realizes that times have changed since players such as Frank Malzone, the idol of his youth, returned year after year. But like Malzone's exploits on the field, the 2013 Red Sox will remain fond memories for many Granite Staters.
"This team is made of characters, not just superstars. They showed closeness," Grady said. "They showed a closeness, unlike over the years when the line was the Red Sox had 25 players riding in 25 different cabs."
A Manchester woman said the team's charitable connections will help to preserve the connection.
"A lot of it is the Jimmy Fund and how they're helping out charity," said the woman, who did not want to be publicly identified. "That makes it more of our community that they do that."
New Hampshire residents who waited for the train ride to the parade Saturday said 2013 may have been the third world championship in 10 years, but it was a special moment they will remember.
"Nothing will be the same; it's hard to match a season like this," said Tom Stickel of Hampton.
"They went from worst to first, and that just doesn't happen, and it's hard to get the chemistry that these guys had to work together the way they did."
Hampton's Brittany Gunnip was with younger family members at the game.
"My dad, Jon King from Derry, has always been a Red Sox fan," she said.
Other New Hampshire traditions were born during the season.
Jeremy Edmond of Auburn had his young daughter Charlotte with him as he waited for the train to the victory party.
After experiencing the parade, "She's going to be a fan for life," he said.