Thursday, July 2, 2009

The more things change...

Many years ago (more than I care to remember!), after much pleading, my father agreed to take us (my two younger sisters, my mother and me) to a Boston Red Sox game. The year was 1966, the year the Impossible Dream Team was just a glimmer in Tom Yawkey's eye. I was a faithful watcher of televised games, always in black and white, of course, and often listening to Ken Coleman broadcasting the play-by-play late into the night on my transistor radio tucked carefully under my pillow. Younger readers of my blog may not believe this, but in 1966, attendance at Red Sox games was so pitiful that tickets were easy to obtain. My father bought the tickets at McCarthy's Smoke Shop in Brockton, and I began the painful countdown until the day I would get to see my favorite players in person.

The big day finally arrived, and off we went, Mom, Dad, and three daughters ranging in age 11 down to age 7. I remember the noise, the colors, the crowds, and the excitement, all swirling around me. But what I was not in any way prepared for was the site that greeted me as I walked up the ramp to our seats. Green grass, so bright, so perfect, it hurt my eyes to look at it. I realized then that I had never ever seen an image of the field that was anything but black and white. I stood at the top of the ramp, unable to move, in awe of the view of the field in 'living color'. At age 11, it was love at first sight; a true and passionate love for a field, a game, and the men who played it. I don't remember the details of the game, who won or lost, the final score, or even the name of the opposing team. None of that mattered. The only thing that mattered is that I had finally been to Fenway. No matter where I lived, how far away I travelled, how many ballparks I visited, going to Fenway Park would always be special, and I would never forget that first trip up the ramp to see the green grass of Fenway Park.

Fast forward 40+ years. As a mentor for a city organization this year, I was matched with a mentee who has an interest in my career, nursing. So, we had a couple of breakfast meetings, went on a few field trips, and although she was pleasant and polite, even as the program was drawing to a close, I didn't feel like I had made any difference in her life....I had failed as a mentor! When an opportunity arose to take her to a Red Sox game, I jumped at the chance, selfishly figuring I may as well be getting something out of this arrangement, even if she isn't. So, off we went, on a cool night in May that threatened rain. After parking and walking to the concourse, I noticed her interest piquing. She was texting her frends about being there; a step in the right direction. I brought her over to watch Jim Rice and Dennis Eckersly as they were doing the pre-game show. She didn't know who either one of them were, but politely expressed interest. We walked into the Souvenir Store, where I bought a hat for my California daughter, then headed inside and bought sodas (yes, fellow Sox campers, soda, not beer!) before we sought out our seats.

As we walked up the ramp, her face brightened. Speechless, her eyes roamed the field surface, shining brightly green despite the gloomy weather, then scanned the skyboxes, brightly lit like a necklace around the inside of the park. She craned her neck to see the scoreboard above us, already showing amazing plays of the previous week. And she smiled.

I saw a little bit of myself that day, as I imagine my father saw a little bit of himself in me those many years ago. This is how Boston Red Sox fans are created; it is as much about the scenery as it is about the play, and hopefully, someday, I'll bring one of my own grandchildren here to bear witness to the incredible, awesome power of Fenway.