One September day we took the kids on an excursion to Fenway Park. This is no ordinary outing to these boys: fully afflicted with baseball fever, there’s pretty much no place they’d rather be.
So the kids were delighted, having resigned themselves to the apparent reality that there would be no trip to Fenway this season–until they were informed yesterday of today’s agenda.
As fairly attentive fans of Major League ball, they were aware that this was the Red Sox last homestand as the season entered its final 2-week race to the finish. The Sox were in a bit of a tailspin that threatened what had seemed like a sure lock on postseason play. With the last-place Orioles in town for 4-game series, the kids hoped to see Boston finally brake the skid. But they don’t get too emotionally caught up in the losses, which is great–they just enjoy baseball and if their team wins the game, so much the better.
We took the train down from Portland, a 2-hour jaunt south on the old Boston & Maine route. At North Station we bustle downstairs to the T and make our way to Kenmore Square. The 3 block walk to Fenway Park from the Square is always dramatic–the famous Citgo sign looms above, and then quickly the kids get that first glimpse of the light towers and the Green Monster as we approach the bridge, and before you know it the grand old park is right in front of you.
We arrive when the gates open so the kids can hang out before the game and watch the players warm up, maybe get an autograph or two. Unfortunately there’s no batting practice today, but the kids head right down to the edge of the field to watch some of the guys play catch and limber up. With baseballs and Sharpies in hand, of course, just in case…
We sat in the grandstand directly behind the plate. Maybe 30 rows up from the edge of the field, but at Fenway that feels quite close. Both kids, but especially Ben, watch games pretty closely and are aware of what’s going on most of the time.
Something about the game of baseball really seems to captivate them–as it does me. I’d forgotten about it, turned my back on professional baseball after the strikes in the eighties and a growing distaste for how ugly the business side of professional sports can be. After going to 20+ games a year for several years as a kid, I stopped following any of it. That changed when Ben 3 years ago (at age 7) found an old shoebox filled with my baseball cards from 1979-1981, and started looking through then and asking about them. I ended up taking him to a minor league game in Portland, and the rest is history.
It was sunny, breezy, and about 62 degrees as the first pitch was thrown. Just a wonderful baseball day, but you’d better have a jacket if you’re sitting in the shade! The game was exciting, some good offense including a home run or two, plus some great pitching moments (and some fielding misadventures–“see, kids, even they mess up sometimes”). The Sox made a valiant comeback effort but lost, their pitchers having given up too many runs early.
Ben and I were most impressed with the intense crowd energy around Alfredo Aceves, the young Mexican who relieved the starter and pitched himself out of a couple jams with high-stakes strikeouts. When he had 2 strikes on the hitter, with 2 outs, runners on base, everyone was on their feet cheering for that 3rd strike–and when it came the place erupted.
Thankfully Fenway allows you to bring in food (I guess they figure the box office made enough just getting you through the gate!), and the kids are terrific about not clamoring for hot dogs, cotton candy, soda, or even clam chowder(!) which they’re hawking all around us during the game. We deliberately packed “yummy” snacks, although this can be a tricky business with kids.
With the trainride to Portland and the drive home (including the obligatory stop to pick up a free Flatbread Pizza in Portland, compliments of a botched order on the last visit), it was virtually 9:30 pm by the time we got the kids in bed. A bit late for our tastes with the kids, but should still provide for a decent night’s sleep.