Taking in a Red Sox game is always a calculated risk. For one thing, it could rain. For another, the team could lose. You never know when, or how, the unexpected will happen.
Even so, the odds are that you will have a good time at Fenway Park, and when you walk up the ramp and look out at that field of green, you know you are in a different world. Here grown men play a game, while men, women, and children eat peanuts and hot dogs and sing “Sweet Caroline” – “Good times never seemed so good … So good, so good!”
A few weeks ago I invited three friends to join me for a Yankees game. One was driving to Boston from Keene, the other two live near the city. This was A-Rod’s last visit to Fenway, and we hoped to see him on the field.
We decided to eat near the park, and my first victory of the day was snagging a parking place in Kenmore Square. Inserting a few quarters in the meter before and after dinner beats the $50 parking places being offered by flag-wavers on every street within walking distance of the park. My friend from Keene was duly impressed and helped pay for the meter.
We all showed up on time, ate dinner in Kenmore Square, and joined the throngs of people walking over the bridge to Yawkey Way. It was a cloudless evening, a perfect night for baseball. We sat down behind the third base line just as the first pitch was being thrown. Sitting to my left were a tall young man and a pretty young woman.
One thing about ballgames is that everyone talks to the people around them. I soon learned that this couple, recently wed, was visiting Boston from Alabama. He was wearing a Red Sox shirt, she had on a Red Sox hat, and they were crackling with enthusiasm, excited to be at Fenway Park and root for the Sox. He served in the military and remains on weekend active reserve. She’s a nurse, born and raised in the South. They got the tickets through StubHub and told me what they had paid. I raised my eyebrows, and he said, “It’s worth every cent just to be here.”
“How wonderful,” I thought to myself, “that this young couple is participating in America’s pastime, and with just the right amount of enthusiasm.” I was glad to be sharing the experience with them.
After an inning or so they went off and came back a half inning later, each with a beer in hand. During the game that happened once or twice more. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello, the unexpected stopper, pitched a great game; Andrew Benintendi, the 22 year old rookie who looks a lot younger, went 3 for 3; and Jackie Bradley, Jr. threw out a Yankee runner at third, right in front of our eyes.
A-Rod didn’t play, or even go out on the field, but he stuck his head out of the dugout a few times, just a few rows in front of us. My new friend from Alabama joined the hooters with gusto. “He really belongs here,” I told one of my friends, “a Yankee-hater in the best sense.”
At the end of the eighth inning the Sox were ahead 5-2, and people started to leave. In came the “Closer,” Craig Kimbrel, who proceeded to give up two walks, followed by a passed ball, and then two more walks. Now the score was 5-3, and no one was leaving except for Kimbrel. The Manager waved his hand, and in came another pitcher.
While all of this was going on, I stepped away for just a minute, and when I got back to my seat I noticed that the young couple from Alabama were nowhere in sight. “Where are they?” I asked.
“They’re gone,” one of my friends told me. “I saw him walk down to behind the Yankees’ dugout. It looked like he was, shouting something at A-Rod, and the next thing I knew security was leading him out of the ballpark.” Not so good.