At 12:45 p.m., just more than three hours before he was to make his first Fenway Park start, Brian Johnson walked through Kenmore Square, up over the David Ortiz bridge, past the Cask’n Flagon and toward his workplace for the remainder of a sunny Saturday.With backpack slung over his shoulders, nobody recognized him. A few young autograph seekers walked steps behind, but weren’t sure enough that the 6-foot-3 pedestrian was anyone they could find a baseball card to be signed.
It was the same relative anonymity Johnson experienced while eating at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Fort Myers every morning, or driving a modest SUV, only distinguished by a few Florida Gators stickers.
He would go on to the souvenir shop on Yawkey Way to buy his friend a Red Sox hat before saying one last hello to his family and friend, who had chosen the Cask to wait out the hours leading up to Johnson’s big day. Still, nary an acknowledgement.
Seven hours later, everything had changed.