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Red Sox closer amazed by ballpark transformation

by Shawn P. Roarke
PHILADELPHIA -- Andrew Bailey knows all about Citizens Bank Park, having attended games as a fan and pitched there in the past, but even he was shocked by what awaited him Monday afternoon.

"It's cool to see a stadium that I know what it looks like for baseball after having been here, and see it as something else," Bailey, the brand-new closer for the Boston Red Sox, told "I can't believe what it looks like now."

Bailey was a last-minute attendee to the sold-out game, driving down from his Connecticut home on Sunday afternoon to see the team of his youth, the Philadelphia Flyers, play the New York Rangers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He couldn't stop smiling at his good fortune in what has already been an off-season of incredible good fortune.

The baseball closer grew up in Haddon Heights, N.J., not too far across the river from Philadelphia. His parents now live in Cherry Hill, N.J., a stone's throw from the Flyers' practice rink in Vorhees, N.J. The 27-year-old grew up at the height of the Flyers' renaissance with the Legion of Doom line, and hockey was a passion when he wasn't chasing his baseball dream.

"I grew up a big fan of the Flyers and I loved the Legion of Doom," Bailey said. "I watched them a lot."

Eric Lindros, the fulcrum of the Legion of Doom line, flanked by Mikeal Renberg and John LeClair, was in the ballpark and was introduced during Monday's first intermission, just to add to Bailey's enjoyment of the game.

Soon, though, Bailey knows that thoughts will have to turn to the coming baseball season and his job as closer for the Boston Red Sox, one of the most pressure-packed occupations in all of sport.

Bailey, who was traded to Boston in a major deal with Oakland right after Christmas, says he is ready to fill the shoes of Jonathan Papelbon, who, ironically, will call Citizens Bank park home this season after signing a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"The opportunity to win is so great in  Boston and I'm excited about that opportunity. Plus now I have a nation rooting me on," he said, referring to the team's fans, who are known as the Red Sox Nation.
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