Game Day Tours
It wasn’t as easy as it should have been to get out of bed on Monday. I wasn’t sleepy but I was groggy. We had decided that although the T worked fine to get us to Fenway, the stress would be less taking a cab. We shared one with fellow California camper Jerry and his wife Nan. The traffic was brutal but we got there. Breakfast was on the EMC level. The field was beautiful. The excitement was palpable. The continental food was excellent. Ben and colleagues reiterated the restrictions on the infield grass (no problem, as it turned out) and asked for lineups. Ken Miller, Tim Cyr, Pat Foley and I were the only Gulls present. I suggested drawing the names out of a hat. One of them replied, “how about this- since we’re the first four here, how ’bout we bat 1,2,3,4?” How could I argue with that logic? I ended up 3rd- a favorite spot for me through all my baseball and softball career. Pat was selected for leadoff because of his speed. He protested some but I reminded him that the second time through the lineup he’d be the first one to get that chance.
We took a tour of the facility which was great. They explained the history of the place including investments made and not made by owners. The requisite cuts on the Yankees were sprinkled throughout. They told a great story of the Yankee fan in row 37 of the right field bleachers who had his straw hat and nap ruined by Ted Williams’ 502 foot homer in 1946. I felt like I “owned the joint” after the tour.
We of the returning Gulls plus the two Fallons played in the second game at 11:30. So I set up Karen with the video camera and went to the visitor’s locker room. I got dressed and caught up with Pat Foley. We went to the visitors’ batting tunnel and got in some swings. We then went out to the bullpen where Paplebon hangs out and warmed up. By the time the first game ended, I had a good sweat on and was pretty stretched out.
Walking on the field was a dream come true. It was immaculate, the sky was blue, there were fans in the stands and crusty old umpires there to keep us in line. I started at first and threw infield to Tim, Pat and Craig. I missed some scoops but in reality, I felt right at home there. Kenny was on the hill and his warmups were right in there.
We battled Berkman and the gang to a 1-1 tie in the first couple of innings. My first at-bat was what for me was a long fly ball to right center. On all 3 at-bats I swung at a first pitch fastball. In my second at-bat I won myself a shaved head (promise to Karen) as I lined one down the left filed line for a stand-up double. I got to third on a ground out and scored the go-ahead run on Toce’s infield hit (he’s STILL got wheels!).
The game went by fast. In the third, with the score tied 2-2, no one else wanted to catch so I did. I caught when I was 13/14 and again while coaching my sons. Toce had replaced Miller on the hill and he was throwing them in straight and sweet. They managed to get a guy on second with 2 outs. The next batter hit a single to the outfield. I knew a play might be coming. I threw the mask away and lined up blocking the plate. The outfielder did his job and hit Foley at short. I yelled “four, four four” and got ready. Foley wheeled and gunned a perfect charity hop right to me. I didn’t have to go up, down, left or right. I squeezed it in and reached down to tag the sliding runner. Dead meat! He never even reached the plate. The home fans went wild! I lifted up the ball triumphantly and looked up into the stands where my Uncle John, Aunt Diane and wife Karen were sitting. Wow, what a moment. What a day.
I got up a 3rd time with the bases loaded and grounded the first pitch to short. A Fielder’s Choice yielded a run and an out.
Gulls Win 3-2
So recapping my “Joesylvania” day at Fenway, I went 1 for 3 with a double, a run scored, an RBI and a stop at the plate. It would have been heaven to put another “dimple” in the monster (we’d never call them “dents” after ’78) but hey, at 51 I can live with this. Whenever I see a game on TV at Fenway, I can ask everyone in earshot if they ever played baseball on that field. Chances are, the answer will be “no”. And I’ll have a memory of a lifetime to make me glow inside.
I snuck out of the dugout (I’ve been there more recently than Manny!) and grabbed a photo with the recent championship trophies. I said my goodbyes to my Unle John and Aunt Diane. I was honored to have them come. Karen was proud of me. I felt like a little leaguer about to go grab his free soda after the game. We ate lunch at the Absolut room and wandered back to the field to catch the end of the last game. Tours were going on all over the ballpark. The old guys were taking their turn on the field and it would soon be over. The weather was perfect. My quads were sore. What a great great great experience. I want to extend a hearty “thank you” to Ben, the groundskeepers and the entire Red Sox organization. What a class act! I hope to come back in 9 years when both of my sons are 30. But even if Fenway isn’t here then, I can die a happy man!