The smell of fresh cut grass. The sight of the Green Monster walking up from the concourse. The cacophony of Boston’s regionalized accents, from Saugus to Southie. There’s nothing like taking in a Red Sox game from Fenway Park.
It’s agonizing to sit through a cold, snowy (not really this year) winter to get to sit in parkas, or windbreakers if we’re lucky, to watch first pitch on Opening Day. I haven’t lived in Boston for a number of years, but even if I’m not in the stands, I flip on NESN from my MLB.tv subscription and watch every first pitch to start off a new campaign.
Still, I try and make an annual pilgrimage to the corner of Jersey Street and Brookline Ave to truly take in the magic and beauty that is Fenway Park. Honestly, it took me long enough to get to Fenway for the first time as a kid, too.
My dad, also a giant Sox fan, always tells the story of how he slept in a milk crate outside Gate D just to watch the Bucky Dent game. He also tells us he was the last fan to leave Fenway Park afterwards. That’s why it took him from 1978 all the way to 2006 to get him back to Fenway, my first game ever in-person.
Sitting high in the right-field corner grandstand, sitting next to some women from Lynn drinking a Dark ‘n Stormy out of a can most likely, taking that first bite of a Fenway Frank, I couldn’t contain my joy being at a Red Sox game for the first time. It certainly helped the on-field game was exciting, getting to see an ever-rare Doug Mirabelli homer and an even rarer Big Papi stolen base. Down 4-0 to the Royals in the stretch to a 5-4 victory, singing Dirty Water all the way home. I was already hooked as a Red Sox fan before coming to the ballpark, but now I could never stay away.
Our family made trips every few years for a game, me being able to satiate my appetite just enough to last until the next trip. Moving further from Fenway in my teens didn’t help, frankly it was much closer to enemy territory. Still, I would always ask every year if we could make a trip up, even if it was met with a “let’s kick the can down the road and see how it goes.”
Lucky for me, I ended up going to college at Boston University. You couldn’t PICK a school closer to Fenway if you tried. My first semester sophomore year dorm, a bright white building right off Kenmore Square affectionately known as HoJo being a converted Howard Johnson hotel, gave me a view of the light standards right out my room’s window. The amount of times I bought Student 9s just to get into the building, sneaking my way to an empty seat when I could, I simply couldn’t stay away. I’m fairly sure I was at every game of the 2015 home-opening series against the Nationals. Taking two out of three gave me a little false hope en-route to a really disappointing fifth-place finish.
Summer 2016 comes, and I got to experience what many dream of, and I didn’t even know it was happening until well after I got to the ballpark. My three brothers and I had one of our first “just boys” outings as young adults that I can remember, taking in a Sox game against the Rangers in early July. We got in pretty early, I was a Red Sox Nation member at the time, and I could take one of my brothers in during BP. As usual, an hour before first pitch, gates opened, and my other two brothers (who aren’t as interested in sports in general but appreciate a good game at Fenway too) joined us at our seats in the first-base grandstand. Amazingly, it was my twin–again, not exactly a sports connoisseur–who threw his phone in my lap to show me a tweet from the Red Sox account.
1st person to find us here and prove they voted #SoxASG will have the chance to throw out tonight's 1st pitch! ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/b6lBR9UPu7— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 5, 2016
I can’t tell you how fast I jumped up from my seat, slithered through the crowd to the Pesky Pole, not even knowing who to look for. Judging by how fast their next tweet went out, I must have been pretty damn fast.
We have our winner! He'll be throwing out tonight's first pitch. Thanks for voting #SoxASG! pic.twitter.com/OsPOxtwIQM— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 5, 2016
Everything from there was such a blur. The Red Sox representative pulled me into the vomitorium closest by, letting me call my brothers to tell them to meet me at the exit closest to our seats and that I had quite the surprise for them. Once we scooped them up, we were taken down into the bowels of Fenway Park, into a “green room” under the third-base stands. About 15 minutes before, we were lined up in order of appearance, from charity appearances to the kids saying “Play ball!”. I remember my heart absolutely beating out of my chest, and my brothers couldn’t have been more excited for me. Every second of the clock ticking by felt like an eternity, just waiting to experience this moment. Finally, it was time to go. I almost blacked out as soon as I stepped onto the field, but thank goodness my twin was smart enough to record the whole experience, even if it looks like it was shot on a potato now.
Yes, I threw a spinner that bounced just before the plate. Hell no, I don’t care I didn’t heave in a perfect strike. That ball is now one of my most prized possessions.
I will say the one thing I do remember from this whole experience is just the bowl of noise Fenway is standing on the mound. Every voice, every speaker, pointed right in your direction. Every eye, every flashbulb, looking right at you. It’s such a surreal experience. Even with David Price throwing a gem in a 7-2 loss — thanks Craig Kimbrel giving up four runs in the ninth — I will always cherish that moment.
Since then, I’ve been back a handful of times to Boston’s hallowed grounds. Whether it’s with friends or family, it always proves to be a special experience. I plan on being there the second game of this upcoming season with 50 or so of my closest college friends and acquaintances as a reunion.
Everyone has their special memories of being at Fenway Park, these just happen to be mine. I hope everyone can’t wait–I know I certainly can’t–to make many, many more.