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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
When he was a kid, Evan Lepler used to steal the jackets his mother received for volunteering in the Boston Marathon and wear them to school. Patriots' Day was and still is a big deal to him, just as it is to most natives of Massachusetts.
So it was with a heavy heart that Lepler took to the airwaves at 7:05 p.m. to call Monday's Salem Red Sox game against Potomac, just hours after learning that explosions at the marathon site had killed three people and injured more than 100 others.
"My mind was elsewhere," Lepler confessed after dutifully describing Salem's 7-2 home loss on WGMN 1240 AM. "I sort of pride myself on the enthusiasm I bring, and I really was a different person tonight."
Growing up about 20 miles south of Boston in Sharon, Mass., Lepler was immersed in the Patriots' Day culture from a young age. He watched his mother, Ramie, run in the Boston Marathon when he was a kid, then attended the event in later years when she volunteered.
His first thought upon learning the news at the ballpark Monday afternoon was that his mother might have been volunteering near the finish line. A call to her work went to voice mail, so Lepler called his father, Steve, who confirmed she was not at the event.
Lepler then thought about all the other people he knows in the area - high school friends, childhood acquaintances, extended family.
"My worst fear all day has been just waiting for the news that somebody I know got hurt or was killed," Lepler said after the game. "I still feel pretty vulnerable, because I still don't know whether that will happen by the end of the day or tomorrow or whenever.
"You hear the phrase, 'It hits close to home.' Never has the phrase been more literal for me. I mean, it literally hit close to home. My grandparents live in Brookline. My father grew up in Brookline.... While I have a few different homes now, I still consider myself a Bostonian. To have something like this happen to your home, it's surreal. It certainly shook me up."
Fortunately, the Salem game was relatively uneventful, with Potomac taking a 5-1 lead with a four-run sixth inning and cruising to victory.
"Patriots' Day is such a big day in Boston," he said. "We have these random morning games in the minors, but in Major League Baseball, there's one morning game all season long, and it's Patriots' Day. The Red Sox always host that Monday morning the day of the marathon. I remember going to watch the marathon on Heartbreak Hill when I was pretty young. It's just a great day for the city of Boston.
"The day certainly means something else going forward."
Lepler tried to keep one quote in mind while he called the game: To be a professional is to do your job on days when you don't want to do your job.
He did that, but that doesn't mean it was easy.
"April 15, 2013," Lepler said. "I don't know what they're going to call it, but it's a day that we're going to remember forever."
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