World Series champ Red Sox return for home opener

BOSTON (AP) The rings will come back out, another World Series championship banner will be hoisted and the Boston Red Sox will celebrate their third title in a decade on Friday when they take the field at Fenway Park for their home opener.

”It’s a great experience. I have been lucky to have been through it before,” said World Series MVP David Ortiz, the only Red Sox player who was also on the 2004 and ’07 championship teams. ”We all look forward to Opening Day at home, especially the way things went last year.”

One year after limping into Fenway Park for the start of what figured to be an apology tour, the Red Sox will open their championship defense against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. In an hourlong pregame ceremony, the team will distribute World Series rings and the players will unfurl the franchise’s eighth championship banner.

”I can imagine it will be a real fun day and the atmosphere will be great,” first baseman Mike Napoli said. ”Boston is really known for putting some ceremonies together. I’ve seen them on TV and seen them in person. I’m anxious. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a fun day. I’m pretty sure it will be a day I will never forget.”

Charles Steinberg, who is in charge of special festivities for the ballclub, said the ceremony will also touch upon the Boston Marathon bombing and include a moment of silence for the two Boston firefighters who died in service last week.

The Dropkick Murphys will perform the national anthem along with Keith Lockhart and members of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. A single helicopter from the United States Coast Guard will conduct the traditional flyover, representing all branches of the armed forces.

Rather than try to outdo the previous celebrations, Steinberg said his goal was to fit the mood of the time.

”It’s important to not try to make it bigger and better. That’s a dangerous path to go on,” he said, adding that he wanted to capture ”what we feel as members of our community … what images might move us, what people that we see once again might inspire us to let our emotions flow.”

The Red Sox collapsed in September of 2011 and then followed that up with a last-place finish in ’12 that included the franchise’s worst record in almost half a century. With a purge of the fried-chicken-and-beer brigade that presided over the 13-month fiasco, management revamped the roster with low-risk and high-character free agents who took the team from worst to first.

”Friday is going to be another reminder of a tremendous year and a tremendous experience,” said manager John Farrell, who was the team’s third manager in three seasons when he replaced Bobby Valentine last year. ”We’ll all take our own memories away from it.”

Farrell said the players who are no longer on the team will be invited back. Ryan Dempster, who has said he won’t pitch this year while contemplating retirement, will attend, but unsigned free agent shortstop Stephen Drew will not.

It will be the 12th Red Sox home opener for Ortiz, who batted .688 in the World Series to earn MVP honors. Six months after beating the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Sox will face Milwaukee in their first interleague home opener.

”It will be good to take a moment and enjoy the time we had and what we accomplished as a team in front of our home fans,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. ”Our goal every year is to win the World Series, then get our rings on opening day.”

The Brewers went 1-2 in their opening series against the Atlanta Braves. That one was at home, where Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun was greeted with cheers in his return from a 65-game suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug investigation.

He shouldn’t expect a warm welcome in Boston.

”I don’t think he’s ever been cheered on the road, so he’s not going to have to worry about that being that much different than any other time,” Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse said this week. ”Hopefully they’ll be distracted getting their rings, right? And happy.”

AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore and Genaro Armas in Milwaukee contributed to this story.