To Red Sox fans Fenway Park is baseball Mecca. Sure the park is 95 years old, with weird angles, cramped seating, and very little foul territory; but that is exactly how most fans want their baseball: classic, a bit odd at times, and as close as possible.
To be a Sox fan and not have visited Fenway Park is difficult, but not hard to imagine. Being a long distance fan is part of it, but with Fenway seating just over 37,000 even some Bostonians haven’t been able to sit inside those brick walls. To get inside, even for a tour, is something some Red Sox fans can only dream about.
Finally, after years of such dreams, I made the trek to Fenway. Of course there are hundreds of ways it could have been better: we could have played someone other than the D-Rays, I could have actually had a seat, David Ortiz could have adopted me, and so on. Still, this was my Mecca. And it was perfect.
The walk to the stadium was enough of a rush. My hotel was a few blocks from Fenway, but as we walked closer to the stadium, the lights disappeared under cover of some smaller buildings along the way. That element of surprise stayed with me throughout the entire walk. In my mind there was an image of Fenway Park borrowed from pictures and FOX broadcasts, but it is nothing like the real thing.
Walking through the Fens, the Olmsted park that Fenway was named after, was unexpectedly moving. It was like walking through another part of the world. Right in the middle of this bustling city is a murky, dank smelling pool of water surrounded by foliage. Walking through the Fens with that humid, stagnant smell lingering made me realize that Fenway Park is unlike any place I’ve been to watch a sporting event.
After navigating a bit of winding sidewalk, I finally turned a corner, and there it was.
“Holy crap that’s Fenway Park”
The brick facade, the championship banners, the famous players. Before you know it I’m in front of Ted Williams and that lucky little kid, forever captured in bronze. I walked down the first base side, studying the brick walls like a textbook. The old entrances are closed off but still visible; one can only wonder where they lead. So much of the old park is still there: the ancient windows, wooden seats, it really is a wonder everything still works in there.
The Fenway Park tour is worth every penny. Even though we had tickets to the game, I wanted to spend as much time inside as humanly possible, and that included paying $12 to see it empty. But sitting in those old seats, hearing the stories about fire, Ted Williams’ red seat, the Green Monster being built; those are things you just can’t get from pictures or books. You just can’t feel the ghosts until you are sitting in their seats.
While on the Green Monster I didn’t get the chance to look down onto the field. I was distracted by a man proposing to his girlfriend. He didn’t make a spectacle out of it, no big announcement, no round of applause. There they were, a row below me, and he slid an engagement ring across the table to her. It struck me that he would pick now, inside a baseball stadium on a $12 tour to do something as life altering as that. In hindsight it was probably the perfect way to do it: inside a stadium they both love. No going on one knee, no speeches, just two people looking out at a beautiful field, thinking the same thoughts.
After getting refused at the Cask and Flagon (it’s a long story), spending three paychecks at the team store, and a few laps around the park, it was time to open the gates. Batting practice brought a few near misses and a fingertip grazing from a D-Ray hitter, but nothing very shocking. I refused to relegate myself to diving for batting practice balls, so there was not much to pre-game but soaking in a sunset at Fenway.
The game itself was laughable at best. The Devil Rays went through 4 pitchers in 4 innings, Coco Crisp hit a grand slam (he was up facing bases loaded four times that night), and Josh Beckett plowed through the D-Rays for a 15-4 win. Hideki Okajima was announced as an All-Star, which was very cool, and it started to pour after the 6th inning.
Of course, I gave my “Samuel Jackson in “Deep Blue Sea”” speech about not leaving the park till the game was over. My standing room only tickets soon turned into right field roof deck table seats as businessmen decided a blowout was worth less then their nice ties. A few innings later, Timlin induced a double play, and “Dirty Water” plays on the Fenway speakers.
Still, that meant I had to leave now, and so we lingered around taking some pictures, soaking in the view of the Green Monster one last time. It was a very, very good day, and no amount of rain could change my mind.
As we walked home in the mist, I couldn’t help but think about the other places I’d watched baseball. Jacobs Field, Great American Ballpark, Skydome, Dunn Tire Park. Even all the little league and high school baseball diamonds. Sure, they all have their charms, and most are certianly more comfortable then Fenway. But there is something intangible about that place that just can’t be beat.
There is a reason that Red Sox fans fought so fiercely to keep it alive: it is the history that makes it so special. There are ghosts within that simply cannot be torn down. Carlton Fisk will always be waiving that ball fair, and Dave Roberts will always be stealing second base. So while the Yankees get a replica stadium built next door, there is just one Fenway. Personally, that’s all I need.