I grew up going to Red Sox farm league games often. Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where the AAA Paw Sox played, was a short drive across the Massachusetts border from the house I grew up in. I remember seeing a bunch of major league studs passing through there – including seeing Roger Clemens throw a rehab start. I never went to a true Red Sox game before college, but Red Sox baseball was definitely exposed to me at an early age. I even had a second cousin come through Pawtucket one summer, playing in the farm league for the Mets. I think I was 12 and remember standing by the players’ exit after the game to meet him briefly. I was shocked at how huge all the players were – the great majority over 6 feet and some of them ducking their heads to get through the locker room door. Wally came out and took a picture with me – pretty cool. He played a few years for various teams in the big leagues, I wonder where he is now.
Fast forward a few years, and the Red Sox won their first World series after an 86 year drought. The victory was in 2004 while I was at Northeastern University in Boston – on whose current campus the first World Series was played (won by Boston). Right in front of the old PT building, there’s a statue of Cy Young pitching from the location of the mound in the first World Series. The statue is barely noticeable in a courtyard filled with trees and shrubs. Hardly a tourist destination, but a cool history to know about and feel close to.
By the time of the 2004 World Series, my entire PT class had become entrenched in the Red Sox culture. Exams were delayed during the playoffs, all eyes were on baseball, not books – there was a common understanding that something uncommon was happening.
Through several years of PT school, there were times we’d see players out at the bars. I remember a few classmates who through connections of family members had ended up having Hall of Fame Pedro Martinez and Future Hall of Famer David “Big Papi” Ortiz up to their apartment to hang out one night. Other classmates were working at Fenway Park on the grounds crew as a part-time job. We were in the middle of it when the Sox won in 2004, we all felt like we were a part of it.
The years between 2004 and 2007 blur together. I remember one roadtrip with friends out to Colorado where we stopped in Kansas City to watch the Royals play. On a later roadtrip out to West Coast clinical affiliations with some friends, we caught the Sox playing in Anaheim against the Angels. That trip included some of the guys from the earlier roadtrip, but added a handful of others including my friend Kate, who I would later end up marrying.
By the next time the Red Sox won in 2007, Kate and I were travelers watching in an empty Uno’s Pizzaria in Colorado Springs during game 4 against the Colorado Rockies. We quietly hid our glee slipping out of the restaurant and then skipping down the street in a town that had lost the Wold Series that night. Later on, still as travelers, we lived in an apartment on a little peninsula just north of Boston when the Red Sox won again in 2013 after the Boston Marathon Bombing. It was nice to be back close to home when they won again, and when they won with so much emotion attached to it. On the day of the championship parade, we had staked out an early-morning table at McGreevey’s Tavern on the sidewalk where the parade passed by. We got a front row seat to the parade and somehow ended up mingling with some of the survivors of the bombing who were first made famous through their trauma, but later through their advocacy for other survivors. Many hours later in the day, we had been at the bar long enough, that our table was inside a red velvet rope and in very close proximity to Red Sox stud Mike Napoli. He hopped behind the bar, poured a couple drinks and marched around like the hero he was that night – the next day, the news published pictures of him parading shirtless through Boston, which I only accept partial responsibility for.
In between all these pinnacles, there were many lows where the Sox did not make the playoffs, or lost brutally to a division rival. There were also a number of road trips between Colorado and New England on alternating travel assignments. Every road trip was a chance to catch a random road game and in one instance to swing by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. If you have the slightest interest in baseball and are ever within a few hours’ drive of Cooperstown, GO! In 2012, when living in Anchorage, AK, we went to a farm league game up there, and heard a couple stories about the time an outfielder was running away from an aggressive moose… I’ve seen a lot of baseball on the road.
I don’t think my connection with baseball and the Red Sox truly reached its peak until the summer of 2015 when Kate and I were living in a camper on Martha’s Vineyard (Mahtha’s Vineyahd). We had no TV in our camper, and the wifi was iffy enough that streaming anything was pretty much out of the question. So, we turned to Red Sox radio for almost every one of the games that summer. One of the worst and best things about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games – that takes up most of the nights between April and September. That summer is when baseball became a true daily habit for Kate and I. Red Sox Baseball on the radio every night. If I recall correctly, the Red Sox season didn’t last into the playoffs in October that year, which was probably fine, since we moved indoors to an apartment that same month – and resumed the daily cable habit. But, something from that summer stuck, and most nights April into autumn, we are still watching or listening to the Red Sox.
Interleague play brought the Red Sox out to Colorado where we were able to take our 2 year old daughter to her 2nd Red Sox game. Because of the two separate leagues in baseball, the Sox and Rockies hardly ever play each other. It will likely be another 8 years before they play out here again. Sox won that night, Coors Field was full of Red Sox fans, it was fantastic.
But, the first game we took our daughter to was even more fantastic. Whenever a vacation is coming, I eventually look at the baseball schedule to see if there is a game I’d like to see on the road – well, this one was a no-brainer. We were visiting my parents in Florida, and my parents, Kate, our daughter, and I all went out for an afternoon game when the Red Sox were visiting the Tampa Bay Rays. What was otherwise a rather mundane loss by the lack-luster 2019 Red Sox was turned into an unforgettable afternoon when the guy sitting next to us caught a Tampa Bay homerun. His story is really long, but the short of it is this: He’s a long-time season ticket holder, he was wearing a purple suit, and this is the first home run he has ever caught. It made his year. It made my day.
I was never much of a baseball player. I think I had written it off by 4th grade. Too bad, really. Apparently it’s in my blood. On my Mom’s side, we have Wally who pitched in The Bigs for a while. I also remember my Grandfather telling stories about pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson while in the Navy. My Dad is a big fan of baseball with a deep knowledge of the game. I didn’t realize his passion for baseball until very recently, you’d think the frequent trips to see Farm League Baseball as a kid would have been a clue a little bit earlier.
As the current World Series works towards a conclusion, I have just a couple days left to celebrate as a fan of the 2018 World Series Champions. Man, what a game. Maybe you think it’s too slow. Maybe 162 regular season games is crazy. I’m just looking forward Spring Training and whatever park I might get to visit next. Play ball!