The Opening Day That Wasn’t

While this pales in comparison to all that is crashing down around us, it’s still a sad day nonetheless. Today would have marked the Red Sox Home Opener…against the Chicago White Sox. A day that, to me, has always marked the start of spring, longer and carefree days, and new beginnings. Some feel anew on New Year’s Day….for me, it has always been the beginning of baseball season. Funny, coming from someone who isn’t actually a huge baseball fan per se….but, more someone who LOVES all that baseball stands for.

My wish is that there will be a day soon when we all feel anew. Be it at a backyard BBQ, the beach, back at our jobs, in our classrooms, sharing a drink at our favorite restaurant…or at Fenway Park. These empty seats (some of my favorite Fenway photos from my seat fetish days…and some fav opening days pics) will be waiting for us….and the stands…and our hearts…will be full again. #oneteam #theopeningdaythatwasnt 

Dr. Charles A. Steinberg, President of the Pawtucket Red Sox, said something that gave me goosebumps earlier this month in a letter to fans

For now, we sit by our windows and wait for spring. We listen to our leaders, and we take each step to protect the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones. When this fog clears and the sun shines once again, we seek to welcome you with open arms, as we sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and most poignantly, “Take me out with the crowd.”

Here’s to dreams of happy, healthy, cheering crowds.

 

 

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The Stuff Childhood is Made Of

Thursday night lights.  Rockport Little League Play-offs, Major B. Game One.

A sweet little Thursday night game under the lights at Parisi Field with the High School field of dreams looming in the background.

National Anthem, 6 innings, team BBQ (for both teams of course), laughter, running, more laughter, and then ice cream over at the Dairy Train.

Quintessential small-town Little League and the stuff that childhood is made of.

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A Fan’s Fan

This guy, this gentleman, is what it is all about. I love Fenway Park.   I love the sounds, the colors, the energy, the air, the motion, the memories, the stories….and the people. I like baseball (the players, the game, the history)….but, I LOVE the park and the stories of the fans who fill it. Two, in my book, very different things that, when coupled, create the most quintessential and perfect of New England days/nights. Goosebumps.

This gentleman is a fan who embodies generations of Fenway Faithful and I am so happy to have had to opportunity to share 9 innings of baseball with him last week. Honestly, every fan, young and old, should be so lucky as to share an inning of baseball with someone as dedicated and storied as him. Our first exchange was an awkward, “Excuse me. Sorry. Boys, be careful. Ok, sit down. Oops, sorry. Sigh. Hi.” After having troubled him to stand up, with a fair amount of effort, I was certain to place myself next to him rather than one of the boys with their sodas, gloves, balls, programs, and wiggly bodies. I sat somewhat sideways so as to give him as much space as possible…and to create a natural barrier between him and the endless assault of questions coming from Finn. We sat like that, with no further exchanges until the bottom of the 2nd. I wish I could remember who was at bat, when this nice, previously silent man, shouted, “Come on, you BUM!” and then smiled and added, “Sorry, boys, I’m not very nice sometimes.”

And….with that….our more frequent dialogue began.

As it turned out, the game we were watching side by side that Monday evening was his fourth game in four days. He was at the 16-inning Sox/Yankees game on Saturday and, yes, stayed for the entire game. “Unfortunately,” he was sure to add…because they lost. He was at the first game of Sunday’s double-header….and had also attended Friday’s game. Same seat? “No. Different seats each time. They had me in some obstructed view seats the last couple of games” he said while waving his hand in no particular direction. Shameful, I couldn’t help but think.

After some more silence I asked where he lived. I felt like I really wanted to envision the trip he had made four days in a row, alone, to get to those games….although I can’t really explain why. Well, I live in California now, but I’m home to visit. Of course most of the family I visit are in the cemetery now. I fly home in a couple of days and am going to see the Red Sox play the Angels…and then I’ll head up to Seattle to see the Mariners game next. 

He went back to watching the game. I sat and contemplated all that traveling…all those innings…and how happy the game of baseball and the Red Sox must make him. And how that passion had probably shaped his life…

At one point he glanced my way for a split second and said, “You seem pretty knowledgeable about baseball.” I can’t lie…I may have blushed… coming from him. As I began to tell him a little bit about my time in the park and some of the things I had done, it quickly occurred to me that there was nothing I could say that would warrant taking his attention off the battle that was ensuing between the mound and the plate….so I allowed my answer to trail off into the wind. He didn’t seem to notice that I stopped talking…and I liked him all the more for it.

Later I asked, “How many games do you figure you’ve been to in all?” With a laugh he looked up and around the park and remained thoughtful just long enough for me to feel like he was having a brief walk down Memory Lane….and then began to answer. Well, I first started coming to games in the 40s. I worked here in the park in the 60s. I saw Game 7 in ’75. I’ve seen more than 300 hockey games, some Stanley Cups, some Super Bowls, and have gone to the Kentucky Derby three times. But, how many baseball games? I can’t count.

Wow. I mean, really…..wow.

My favorite thing though about this fan was the juxtaposition of his rough exterior and his sentimental love of the sport. He would go from, “Oh COME ON! YOU STINK!” to being the very first person on his feet to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or join along in clapping (each and every time) to, “Let’s Go, Red Sox!” There didn’t seem to be a second of the game that he didn’t experience completely and he seemed more in the moment than any other fan I’ve ever met.

The game ended far too soon….as there was so much more about him that I wanted to learn. The crowd around us began to disappear and the boys and I gathered up our things. He did not budge. We climbed over the seats in front of us and said a quick “good-bye.” I turned around once to steal a photo as his was a face I didn’t want to forget and caught him taking notes about the game while waiting for everyone else to go home. If anyone ever deserved to have Fenway Park to himself for a few minutes…it was him.

As the week progressed I thought of him often. While watching the Sox verse the Angels and then the Mariners on TV, I found myself scanning the crowd for his familiar face. Was he shouting, singing, cursing, laughing…..was he sharing his love of the game with yet another fan who would be forever grateful for the opportunity?

Thank you, Mr. Section 27, Row 3, Seat 20.  May your life continue to be a Grand Slam, sir. May your bases be loaded, your pitch counts low, and your walk-offs frequent.

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Game 1 Intertown Twilight League Championship Manchester-Essex Vs. Rowley

The Manchester Essex Mariners and the Rowley Rams squared off Saturday afternoon in game one of their best of 5 championship series. Manchester-Essex Mariners took control early and won the opener 9-3. Rory Gentile got the win and Mike Cain went deep for the game’s only home run.

History

Founded in 1929, The Intertown Twilight League is the oldest active amateur baseball league in the country, and is recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as such.

Schedule

Game 2 of the series is played Sunday at 4:00PM in Rowley with Game 3 on Wednesday at 5:30PM back at Memorial Field in Essex.

Live Red Sox v Twins Update

Well, it’s my last Sox game of the trip, and it’s a night game!!! This weather has been perfect, and the boys are looking great.
It’s the top of the 3rd, and no score. But Pedroia just let one slip past. Rare. Stay tuned for some night photos.

Sitting just behind 1st, sweetness!

LIVE FROM FENWAY SOUTH: Twins @Sox – #gloucesterma, #fenwaysouth, #theherd

Game Time folks! And guess who wants my autograph first??
Colin Cowherd!

Then he has a moment. ( Most do when they finally meet me)

Hate the shirt, not the season.

Oh, and my sponsor and favorite Sox Fan, JOANY!!!

What a park!!

The retired folks waiting room to heaven.

Stay tuned for game time updates all week!!
#craigshoots to follow!

Live Spring Training!! Bon Voyage!! #gloucesterma

And I’m off to FENWAY South to report on the RedSox! JetBlue would like to remind everyone leaving Boston that your leaving Title Town. BOOOOM #

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imagejetblue, #bestairline

It appears that only one is missing…

Stay tuned for live updates from the games!

Sigh.

I’m feeling a little down and out as the 2014 Red Sox season comes to an all-too-early-end this coming weekend.  I find myself reminiscing back to Opening Day and the giddiness that comes with new possibilities, green grass, crisp white uniforms, cold beer, Sweet Caroline, the boys of summer, and magical nights inside the hallowed grounds of the one and only Fenway Park.

Opening Days, especially those that involve a ring ceremony, always give me the chills.  I can’t get enough of the sound of the crowd, the vivid colors that blend together to paint a portrait like none other, and the goosebumps. I’ve been fortunate to breathe in the awesomeness of Opening Days from the field.  To look up and around….to pan the crowd…and see it in almost slow motion.   It may come as no surprise that I may possibly be the world’s biggest sap, but Opening Day gets to me in a way that I have trouble putting into words.  So, it isn’t supposed to end this way. The years with no post season play feel like a year without Christmas, July 4th, beach days, and grapefruit beer.  The horror.

For me, it isn’t just the baseball.  The post season is about the camaraderie that is palpable while ordering your morning coffee after a late night win, while coexisting with strangers during mundane errands prior to rushing home for the first pitch, or while cheering on the Sox at a local bar.  Never mind the 9 inning marriage of 37,400 fans cheering on the team inside the park!  It is impossible to not feel like all of Red Sox Nation are immediate best friends come late September and October….if, that is, we’ve made it.  Which, of course, we haven’t.

With no wild card run, American League Divisional Series, American League Championship Series….and, sigh, no World Series….I’m feeling like I’ve just arrived to a luxurious beach vacation and the weather forecast is calling for 7 straight days of torrential rain.  And that, my friends, may be an understatement.

Sure, we’ll fill these fall days with plenty of fun…but, something will be missing for sure.

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Take Yourself Out to the Ball Game (and maybe bring the family)

Absolutely… spending a day at Fenway Park is one of the best ways to enjoy a day here in the Boston area, but, let’s be honest, it is not always that easy to score tickets that are affordable.  And…if you have young children, you can’t guarantee they’ll care much about the game.  I’ve seen more grumpy moms and dads grudgingly leave the ballpark because their young child was “done.”  OR….you spend a gazillion dollars on ice cream, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, big foam fingers, Wallys, inflatable bats, and other souvenirs as tokens of hush money….all to no avail.  3rd inning…out the door.

I’ll never recover from a day a few years ago when I brought Thatcher onto the field with me pre game to take photos of the players warming up.  He was a super cute 4 year old at the time and was wearing a “Pedroia” shirt. We walked past the dugout and Kevin Youkilis started to raz Thatch for not wearing his # instead. Within a minute Thatcher had the attention of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Josh Beckett.  They were all chatting him up and joking with him and I couldn’t have been happier.  Thatch?….you may ask.  Over the moon?…you may assume. Well, not exactly. After a minute of tolerating the attention, he turned to me and said, “Can we go back to our seats before Finn eats all the popcorn?”  Alrightly then.  Bye guys.

So, while my boys are now old enough to love Red Sox games, and they get through a whole 9 innings or more with only a little bit of bribing, it is still something that we can really only pull off a couple of times each summer.

The solution??   Three words.  Minor League Games!   My boys are almost just as happy to head to the Lowell Spinners, the Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox), and, hopefully soon, the Portland Sea Dogs.  The venues are incredibly family friendly, affordable, and FUN.  The children get much closer access to the players and can often times score themselves a run around the bases, an autograph opportunity, or a chance to catch something chucked into the stands in between innings.

I, just a moment ago, received an email from the Spinners reminding me of the Family Sleepover.  Come on….talk about fun for kids!   You go to the game, head back to the car for a minute, grab your tent and gear, set up shop, watch a movie on the scoreboard, and spend the night sleeping on the field.

If you have a budding baseball fan in the family and haven’t taken advantage of the minor league teams in our area, you’re missing out.  I highly recommend looking into tickets….and, might I add, there really isn’t bad seat in any of those houses!

Play Ball my friends!

Family Sleep Over at the Lowell Spinners

The Lowell Spinners

The Pawtucket Red Sox

The Portland Sea Dogs

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Defy Terror This Weekend

As I pointed out in this post, non-violent defiance is the best weapon against tyranny.  This weekend we all have a chance to defy the terrorists by going out as planned.  If you haven’t yet made plans, there’s even more going on than we knew about when we posted yesterday.  Tonight alone, you’ve got a choice of 10 shows starting at 6pm.  See the full live music schedule here.  Plus it’s Earth Day Weekend with over 20 Cape Ann events planned and nicely mapped out for you by our boy Joey here.

Whether it’s music, movies, eco-scavenger-hunting, shredding, clean-up, planting … whatever … don’t be shy — defy!  Let Music & Mother Nature cleanse your soul.

Even Yankee fans are showing us love by singing our tune …

Dylan Maki starts in Exhibition game against the Red Sox

Congratulations to Northeastern University Baseball Captain Dylan Maki former GHS Student Athlete for his performance in an outing, pitching against the Boston Red Sox last week.  (story in Gloucester Daily Times)

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This photo was taken during the playoff game his senior year at Gloucester High School in which he threw 173 pitches to defeat St John’s Prep.

How Does Curt Schilling Get Inducted Into The Red Sox Hall of Fame and Not Pedro Martinez?

I just read on the Eagle Tribune’s Smitty on Baseball that  that Curt Schilling will be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.  Looking at the list of inducted players I see that Pedro Martinez isn’t in there.  How can that possibly be?

If it wasn’t for Pedro’s willingness to throw inside and intimidate opposing players I just don’t see us winning a World Series. Pedro played for the Red Sox from 97-2004 and was dominant throughout.  Schilling had two good years and then was injured for his remaining two.   This is ridiculous in my opinion.  Your thoughts?

From wikipedia-

Pedro Martinez Red Sox 1997-2004-

The seven-year contract he received from the Red Sox had been considered a huge risk in the 1997 offseason, but Martínez had rewarded the team’s hopes with two Cy Young Awards, and six Top-4 finishes. Martínez finished his Red Sox career with a 117–37 record, the highest winning percentage any pitcher has had with any team in baseball history.

Curt Schilling with the Boston Red Sox 2004-2008

On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS. These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”. Following the game, Schilling took the famous sock and threw it away in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse. The win forced a Game 7, making the Red Sox the first team in MLB history to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit. The Red Sox would go on to win Game 7 and the ALCS and make their first World Series appearance since 1986. Schilling pitched (and won) Game 2 of the 2004 World Series for the Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. In both series, he had to have the tendon in his right ankle stabilized repeatedly, in what has become known as theSchilling Tendon Procedure, after the tendon sheath was torn during his Game 1 ALDS appearance against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. As in Game 6 of the ALCS, Schilling’s sock was soaked with blood from the sutures used in this medical procedure, but he still managed to pitch seven strong innings, giving up one run on four hits and striking out four. This second bloody sock was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame after Boston’s victory over St. Louis in the World Series. A four-game sweep of the World Series erased the Curse of the Bambino.

Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana, who was a unanimous selection, receiving all 28 first-place votes. Schilling received 27 of the 28 second-place votes. Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice.

Schilling began 2005 on the disabled list due to recurrent ankle injuries. He returned in July as Boston’s closer. He eventually returned to the starting rotation and continued to struggle. The Red Sox made it to the playoffs, but were swept by the Chicago White Sox in three games.

For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy. He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA. On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.[6] On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.[citation needed]