“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
— Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, in “Moneyball”
So here were are, at the end of another baseball season. The Washington Nationals are World Series champs, their ascendance officially leaving our pitiful Seattle Mariners as the lone MLB team to have never tasted the Fall Classic without a ticket.
I should be in despair, along with fans of the other two-dozen plus teams who didn’t get a sniff of the playoffs, or the poor Brewers and A’s fans, who only got a game in before their season came crashing down.
This year I lived out my baseball dreams a bit vicariously.
On a trip this summer to see our two daughters, my wife and I couldn’t help but notice several business names that led to some serious eye-rolling. We were, for the first time, cruising the Eastern seaboard and cruising north, north, north to see our youngest. With a number of hours between Boston and seemingly-middle-of-nowhere Maine that led to mind wandering, we noticed “Maine-ly Music.” Then, “The Lob-store” (they sell lobsters, live and boiled). Worst of all, there was “Chow Maine.”
On the opposite end of the placard spectrum, there was this one: “Fenway.”
As a Little Leaguer many, many years ago I inexplicably developed an affection for the Boston Red Sox. I assume this was because one of my Little League teams was named the Red Sox, or, being a Mariners fan and having a natural, entirely healthy distaste for the Yankees, adopted the old “The enemy of my enemy is a friend” attitude. For whatever reason, I began to root for the BoSox.
Later in life my sports-loving soul was romanced from start to end by “Field of Dreams,” one in which the lead character makes a trek from Iowa to the hallowed baseball grounds of Boston’s Fenway Park.
In recent years I’ve passed by the park on two occasions, both in passing through to see our youngest at her school in central Massachusetts. This led once to a rather harrowing driving trek into the heart of Boston proper, as I recalled in a rather lengthy diatribe in 2015 (www.sequimgazette.com/opinion/editors-corner-the-time-i-got-lost-in-boston).
But as much as I’d wanted to catch a game at Fenway, it simply hadn’t worked out for one reason or another … until this year. Thanks to the all-fickle weather gods, it almost didn’t happen.
Making the loooooong trek from Sequim to Boston the night before — actually, the wee-early morning hours of — July 17, and entered a sweltering city of humidity (85 degrees at midnight, by my estimates) and a neighborhood where, apparently, it was trash day. So … ew. After an uncomfortable night in a third-story rental, we set out and enjoyed the day in Boston, fingers crossed that the darkening skies would be kind to us by game time.
Yeah, not so much.
An hour before the evening’s first pitch, a slow drip became a steady rain. Fear began to creep in: Will they cancel the game? Am I destined to never see a game at Fenway? Did I gain the famed Red Sox curse? Did I need some perspective on life that sports shouldn’t matter that much?
Water was pouring down the concrete steps as we made the way to our seats. But by the simple fact that they let us in the stadium, I figured they were going to try to play this game.
Our seats wound up being on the third base side, far from home plate … which is, baseball fans can sleuth out, toward the famed Green Monster in left field.
Oh yes, I have seen the Green Monster. Yes, I toughed it. Yes, I am a baseball nerd to the core. I don’t care.
We sat in the misting rain as lightning and thunder rolled through downtown Boston, but about 40 minutes past the schedule start the rain let up a bit and the game started.
I tired to pay attention to the game. I really did. At this point the Sox weren’t totally out of the AL East race just yet and the visiting Toronto Blue Jays were moderately interesting, with the sons of three former major leaguers on the team.
But I just couldn’t help thinking back to the history of this sport that was created here. Ted Williams’ last home run. Carlton Fisk willing a walk-off home run ball fair in the 1975 World Series. Roger Clemens striking out 20 Mariners (ouch) to set a major league record in 1986. The All-Century Team at the 1999 All-Star game in 1999. David Ortiz and company finding a way to break the Curse of the Bambino in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
In any event, the Red Sox — behind eventual 19-game winner Eduardo Rodriguez — beat the Blue Jays, 5-4. We saw four home runs, three that cleared the Green Monster, two of them by Teoscar Hernandez. We joined 30,000 others in singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” We ate baseball park food (no, I did not get a “dog and a beer” like James Earl Jones did in “Field of Dreams,” though I really should have).
A few days prior to our trek to Boston, we visited the oldest daughter who lives in Fort Collins, Colo. In between visiting downtown clubs and trying to avoid rattlesnakes on low-lying mountain trails, we decided to make a short trek to Denver to catch a Rockies game.
Having never been to Denver — and having still not really been to Denver, since all we saw was a parking garage, the three blocks to the ballpark and Coors Field itself — I got a generally good vibe from the fans and the park. Folks were nice enough (no one made a snide comment about my Ken Griffey Jr. jersey), the stadium was impressive, the game was exciting if not exactly cleanly played (four errors in all), and the home team won (Rockies over the Reds, 10-9).
For me, a Mariner fan with literally no roosting interest in either team, the best parts were watching Garrett Hampson (I admit I’d never heard of the dude before this game) scoring from second base an a slow roller to first, and Colorado third-sacker Nolan Arenado rob Yasiel Puig of an extra-base hit on a line drive in the ninth to end the game.
Michael Dashiell is editor of the Sequim Gazette. Reach him at email@example.com.