Monday, August 9, 2010

48 Hours in Boston - Fenway Park

For those who know me, you know that one of my favorite summer activities is going to Major League Baseball games. My wife, Carla, shares this love with me and throughout our dating and married years we've been to more than 100 games together.

With our 14th anniversary approaching (actually it's today - Aug. 10th), I thought it would be fun for us to travel to Boston for a couple of games at Fenway Park and to also see the sights of one of the oldest and most historic cities in this great country. (Heading into the trip, Boston and Miami remained as the only two cities we hadn't seen an MLB game in and when Fenway was crossed off our list it marked the 34th MLB ballpark we have seen a game in.)

We left our daughters with my parents and headed out early last Wednesday to Columbus where we hopped on a Southwest Air flight. A couple of hours later, we had arrived at Logan International Airport and soon our hotel, Courtyard by Marriott.

After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, we set out for Fenway Park via the Boston subway system - the T. We climbed out of the terminal right into the middle of the city like ants from a colony. Quite a crowd had already gathered two hours before game time and it was very festive as we approached the park after grabbing a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor on Lansdowne Street.

When we first walked in the ballpark, I was surprised with how big the stadium seemed to me. For whatever reason (maybe it's the home run dimensions down the lines), I always thought that Fenway seemed smaller than most ballparks when watching games on TV. However, while you do have an intimate feel sitting in the crowded seats, the park seems larger than life when you are there in person.

After surveying the ballpark from left center with the visiting Cleveland Indians taking batting practice, I quickly maneuvered my way down to the front row at field level about 20 feet inside the Pesky pole in fair territory. Within about five minutes, I was using all 6-foot-6 of my wingspan to snag a ball off the warning track. Of the 30 or so balls that I've gotten at games over the years, this one may go down as my favorite since it's got a little Fenway dirt on it, too. I had a shot at a couple of other balls, but I didn't pursue them too hard since I already had one and there were plenty of kids who hadn't gotten any.

When batting practice ended, I made my way to the Indians' bullpen so that I could say hello to Tim Belcher, the Indians' pitching coach who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1983 draft out of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. He noticed me and came over and talked for a few minutes. He's always been really good about keeping connected with MVNU.

From there, we moved to our seats and got to chat with Hillary Haynes, a fellow sports information director I've met through Twitter who was also at the game with her fiancee, Dan. I always enjoy meeting people in person who I've come to know through social media. She joined us as some of the few Indians' fans at the game.

Well, the game unfolded and the Indians put together a solid 9-1 win over the hometown Red Sox. This score was good for us because a lot of the Boston fans started leaving in the eighth inning, which allowed us to move closer and closer to the field. By the end of the game, we were sitting a few rows up from the Indians' dugout and I was able to quickly talk to Tim Belcher again when the game ended before we headed back to the hotel on the T.

Thursday was a full day of sight-seeing (which is a story for another blog) before we came back to Fenway for a second game. I got on to the Green Monster for an inning during this game and tried to get pictures from all across the park. The Red Sox won 6-2 this time.

Throughout the course of the two games at Fenway Park, I thought about all the baseball history that had happened in its 98 years of existence and also about the stories of the people who had come to the over 7,000 games that have been played since it opened. Just days after the Titanic sunk, the ballpark opened with the Red Sox beating the New York Highlanders (who would go on to become the Yankees) 7-6 in 11 innings on April 20, 1912. Those two teams have been bitter rivals ever since.

Over the years, players such as Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, and Carl Yastrzemski have all called Fenway home. Even though the ballpark doesn't have all the amenities and fancy seating sections that the modern parks have, Fenway has an aura about it that exudes baseball tradition from a different era where it was played for the love of the game. Even with its cramped seats, long aisles, and occasional obstructed views, I, for one, hope that they never tear it down as it along with Chicago's Wrigley Field remain as significant living memorials to the history of our great national pastime.

(Note: To see all my pictures from Fenway, you can check them out on my Facebook page by clicking here. I would also like to thank Sports Travel and Tours and specifically Mike McGarry for helping us secure good tickets to both games.)