by Kelly Salasin
In less than a year, this library-museum-cafe lover finds herself back in the stands at Fenway, and writing about baseball again.
You might recall last summer’s Cracker Barrel and my article entitled, “An Outsiders View into Fenway Park.” In it, I pooh-poohed professional baseball and all its hype. Though I’d found old Fenway charming, I described the crowd as being “a lost nation in a sea of Budweiser Lights.” (Frankly, I was surprised not to receive any mad mail from those fanatic fans.
Despite my lack of interest in ball, however, I am the mother of two sons and thus have spent my share of time at games including: 5 seasons of T-ball, 4 seasons of Small Fry, 2 of Little League and one of Babe Ruth. Although I don’t always know what’s going on in the field, I’ve always been an avid supporter of my boys’ teams. What I don’t understand is million dollar players, $8 beers and bust-the-bank seats.
My son Lloyd dreamed of going to Fenway long before I knew how many innings were in a game. For years friends accused us of neglect before we finally begged tickets from the owner of the local market- whose brother lived in Boston- and had season seats that he wasn’t using on Marathon weekend.
Just a simple $200 later and we were there! (Plus gas, parking, souvenirs and meals.) Our seats were right past the first baseline and not too far up at that. My son was in heaven- and though I could appreciate that the posters on his bedroom walls had come to life- I still didn’t “get it”.
During the game, I was given the evil eye by both my boys for my lack of baseball coolness which apparently included: not sporting any team paraphernalia, cheering for the opposing team and pulling out a novel when I realized that the 7th inning stretch wasn’t the end of the game. (It was in Little League.)
I made the trip to Fenway to bring joy to my son, but in the process, he joined a “Nation” and left me behind. Just a few months later though, and this diehard fan turned 13. Suddenly he emptied his drawers of Sox shirts, retired his extensive collection of baseball caps, and removed every poster from his wall- including the hundreds of baseball cards that had trimmed his room- floor to ceiling.
I enjoyed this new clutter free space, but I missed my little sports fanatic who begged to stay up to hear “just one more inning” and learned everything he knew about the sport from the library, the newspaper and radio. (We live in the mountains. We don’t have cable.)
I was also concerned. With sports discarded, what would take its place? During the long winter months, action films and technology consumed more and more of Lloyd’s time. That’s why I was delighted one spring afternoon when his friend Jack called with an extra ticket to the Sox game the next day.
My delight quickly turned to dismay, however, when another ticket became available and I was invited to come along too – in what had been dubbed, a mother-son adventure. How could I say no? (I tried.)
On this return trip to Fenway almost a year later, we arrived just as they threw the first pitch with a foul ball headed our way. My attention was riveted with seats just past the third base line and close to the action.
Before the top of the first was finished however, a group of dark clouds moved in and it began to spritz- and then to pour- like I’ve never felt. As buckets of water fell upon us, I quickly learned that “good seats” become “bad seats” in a downpour. We stood in a line that moved at a snail’s pace to leave the stands– drenched.
This rainout should have been a godsend for me, but I was actually disappointed—and then surprisingly thrilled- when the storm passed and the game was set to resume. We returned to our seats- jubilant- passing paper towels across the aisles while the field crew worked on the diamond.
It felt “good” to be here—together– united in common appreciation; and I could feel America’s pastime seeping into my bones. Just as the players returned to the field, the sun appeared and steam rose off our wet bodies.
Innings passed without any concern for time. In fact, I even experienced a “timeless” moment when the outfield and the infield moved like a hand—fingers flowing into palm—like a dance. It was a thing of beauty and it caught my breath and swept me up into the mythic current of the game.
The score was of little concern, but the Sox were well ahead. Our hosts asked if we minded leaving at the top of the ninth, and to my surprise, I did. But what could I say? I had been the one who had asked, “Are you sure you want to waste a ticket on me? I don’t even like baseball?”
As we left the park, it was like leaving a part of me behind. Crowding into the subway car with other fans, I had an unfamiliar sense of belonging and buoyancy.
Once home, my 13 year old- who once could tell me everything I didn’t care to know about every player and play in the history of the Nation–was shocked to find me scouring the papers for more. The whole family was taken aback when I came home from the library with Boston magazine for its feature, “67 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know about the Local Nine.” I didn’t know anything, but I still enjoyed the read and the history of Fenway that was included.
For days I covertly pursued my new passion, and then- it faded–back into the field of dreams–where, no doubt, some other unsuspecting soul is falling prey to its magic.
And yet, if tickets were to find me again, I’m not opposed to returning to Fenway this season. My younger son should get the chance to enjoy a game with his mom. (But don’t tell anyone that I was looking at Sox shirts… in my size.)