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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Happy Opening Day!

If you know me, you know by now that I’m passionate about a few things…..my amazing boys, the school where I am blessed to work and my boys are even more blessed to attend, people who have your back, staying busy, all things Cape Ann, and Fenway Park.  Weird, right?

I say the same thing each year at about this same time…..  I appreciate baseball, I like the Red Sox, but I love Fenway Park.  Cliche as it is, I find it kind of intoxicating.  Larry Lucchino once led me through a door that leads from the front office to the grandstand on a day when the park was relatively empty.  It was, in fact, hours away from an evening game time and the park was just starting to yawn and stetch.  He told me that it was moments like that when Fenway spoke to him the most.  I couldn’t agree more.

I am in love with the geometric lines and patterns, the shadows, the shapes, the textures, and the colors that make Fenway come to life.  During game time, as exciting as the play on the field can get, it is the sounds, smells, and palpable buzz in the air that literally give me goosebumps.  It is watching families, friends, soulmates, and strangers united in their love of a day together at the park.  At all other times, it is the history that seeps from every nook and cranny, it is the tradition that stands at attention, and the memories that echo off the hallowed walls.  It is my own memories and the memories of millions of others swirling together in shades of green and red that make me take pause….and smile.

I have attended Opening Days, World Series games, Big Papi’s last game, Pedro’s # retirement, ring ceremonies, rolling rally parades, concerts, charity events, and hundreds of games in between.  I have been blessed to be in the midst of some incredibly exciting moments and to bear witness to history being made. That being said, my favorite minutes in the ballpark still remain the very late night hours when I’ve left a game, met friends for a drink, and then wandered back into the park and down towards the field.  The park is sleepy then, the lights are still on, the air is still buzzing, the field is often shiny and wet, and all is right in the world.

The 2018 Red Sox Home Opener takes place today….and with it comes the promise of excitement, disappointments, cheers, spills, laughs, rally caps, 7th inning stretches, home runs, wins, losses, broken bats, broken hearts, continued traditions, lots of firsts, and a wild, wild ride. Buckle up, grab some friends, and make some memories.  Game on.

 

Red Sox Legend Ted Williams with Gloucester Youth Larry Veator

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This photo was taken circa 1946.

Young Larry Veator an avid Red Sox fan, receives an autographed photo of Ted Williams after a game at Fenway.

Larry, also a great athlete at Gloucester High School, had a brilliant business career, and also author of “The Other Side of the Cut” A Memoir, now retired and living in Gloucester on the other side of the ‘cut’.

Many Thanks to Larry for letting me share this photo .

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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Papi’s Final Stand

The Red Sox come home today for their last regular season home stand….and the last regular season home stand of #34’s career.  I’m no sports writer so I won’t try to wax poetically about the ride it has been, but I will say that I’ve gotten a huge kick out of being in his presence off and on for the past 13 seasons of Red Sox baseball.  The weeks of the ALCS, ALDS, World Series, and Rolling Rally Championship Parade back in 2004 will go down as one of the best months of my life.  While we’ve shared fewer than 10 sentences over the years, he has both smiled for my camera and made me smile more times than I could ever count.  Bring on the postseason!

 

Sunny in Boston today.

Sox take over first place in AL East. Buck Showalter's team gives it up in the 13th inning and will never see first place again. Meanwhile the Yankees climb out of the basement with six straight wins to get to .500 but they are still the Yankees and of course they still suck.
Sox take over first place in AL East. Buck Showalter’s team gives it up in the 13th inning and will never see first place again. Meanwhile the Yankees climb out of the basement with six straight wins to get to .500 but they are still the Yankees and of course they still suck.
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So toasty in Boston today that the tourists are vaporizing.

Giddy Up, it’s Opening Day.

Opening Day.  2016.

Spring is in the air (kind of). The boys are back in town.  And Fenway Park is officially open for business.  Baseball season makes me kind of giddy and, as another Opening Day is upon us, I felt the need to take a walk down my own little Memory Lane last night.

I’ve clocked some serious hours inside the hallowed walls of Fenway Park….here are some of my favorite memories and photos.  Some during important events with sold out crowds, some when the ballpark was completely empty, some victorious, some solemn, some firsts, some lasts, some celebrations, some good-byes, some iconic, and some quirky. All a part of why Fenway Park in undoubtedly one of my favorite places on Earth.

Tourists from Washington D.C.

Grandfather, Father and Son 3 generations visit Gloucester from Washington D.C.  Father and son came up to watch the Red Sox play the Washington Nationals.

FYI – They were all Red Sox fans.  The young man also counted 537 Granit Blocks he walked on all the way out to the Beacon.

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Game On!

Onions and peppers? Of course onions and peppers!!
Onions and peppers? Of course onions and peppers!!
Monday, Sunny and in the 70s. Opening Day. Yankees are in the basement and no need to watch anymore hockey. Game On!
Let’s see, Bruins SUCK! No need to watch them. Sox will bury the Yankees in the basement all weekend. Then, Monday, Sunny and in the 70s. Opening Day. Sweet Jesus Rubber Duck scored some primo tickets! Need to practice eating the Italian Sausage baby.

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!