Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ruminations on a Trip to Fenway

Here is a collection of thoughts recorded via my cellphone and pictures via camera during our trip into Fenway park last Thursday night, July 19, with comments added.  Think of it as a retro diary without the time stamps.  It should be noted that we went to Jerry Remy’s Grill on the Waterfront before the game:

 and strolled into our seats in the second row a paper-airplane flight away from Pesky’s Pole.  They were probably the second-best seats I had ever sat at in Fenway before, behind the time I went as a little kid and we sat in the first row along the third-base line in a game against the Indians:
  

Here’s what transpired:

“As you walk into Fenway Park, there is an assault of noise, smell, and visuals”

  • I haven’t been to many parks around the country, but Fenway is special in that it generates an actual buzz in the ballpark - an electricity, if you will.  There is a collection of fired-up-ness amongst fans that creates an infectuous energy in the park.  You want to yell and jump and skip merrily.  You want to eat sausages and drink cold Bud Light that costs about $20 per trip for two.
“Players can clearly hear the fans and they get on the players for every little thing.  Home field advantage.”
  • This is a phenomenon that is somewhat unique to baseball.  Basketball players can also clearly hear fans during a game, but they are in motion.  Baseball players have to stand still out in the outfield and pretend that they don’t hear a word of what’s being said.  So it becomes a contest to see if a fan can come up with something interesting or funny (or sometimes, deplorably, hurtful) to get the fielder to acknowledge them, maybe even throw the player of their game a little bit.  Fan/crowd influence of baseball is fun.  It’s a combination of a slowburn pestering of an outfielder, rising to your feet for big moments late in games or with two strikes and the bases loaded, and wild celebrations.
Will Middlebrooks is the biggest dude on the field”
  • Now, I never saw him standing next to Gonzalez because they play across from each other in the infield, but he was much bigger than anyone else.  I am legitimately excited about the future of the Middlebrooks era.  This kid is for realsies, as the kids say.
“Willie Middle and Ross have the sickest walk-up music”
“Bullpen personnel stand up on the fence”
  • We’re not sure who they were, whether it was the bullpen coach, catcher, etc. or whether they were members of the bullpen pitching staff.  Either way, they were up on the fence, dialed in, and cheering throughout the game.
“Everything about baseball is more impressive in person”
  • Especially sitting close to the field, it is very apparent that watching baseball on the television is an extremely limited view.  Sitting close to the game allows you to judge moments like the speed of a thrown fastball, how far the outfielders throw the ball on a rope between innings, how hard it is to stop screaming ground balls and turn double plays, and just how hard a baseball bat is swung and how fast the ball flies when contact is made.  You get an actual sense of how large and athletic today’s baseball players are.  Sure, there are more small or hefty of stature white dudes playing baseball than say the NBA or even soccer, but the skills of baseball (catching rocketed fly balls, running the basepaths aggressively, hitting the hard cheese, making the play at the hot corner) remain impressively, almost unfathomably difficult, which is something that television broadcasts cannot convey.
Cody Ross doesn’t move an inch for a ball in right-center”

  • There is a rip to right center, and the Red Sox’ right fielder does, well...nothing.  Ross stays firmly planted into the right field grass and watches as Ellsbury glides over and makes the catch.  It was a fairly easy catch, but it still seems as though Ross should have hustled over to at least back up the play.  For the remainder of the game, our section helps remind Ross that “this one might come your way, Cody!”, “hey Cody, stay in this zip code!”, and “Cody, move in a few steps!”.  Seemed helpful.
“The whole park smells like sausages.  And I love it”
  • Can you remember the last place you were in where the smell affected your behavior? When you’re sitting in Fenway Park, your body craves a sausage and beer reflexively.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and fry up some sausages, peppers, and onions in your kitchen and serve it up on your table with an ice cold beer.  Then sit and the next room and not eat it.  You can’t! That’s what sitting in Fenway  is like.  I suppose some other places are like this - you desperately want a coffee upon entering an aromatic coffee shop.  I think bars and restaurants should look into smell-infusing machines to pump sausage, peppers, and onions into their establishments.  It would probably increase sales.
“How does every screamer into the stands not concuss and break bones? How are we not carting people out of the stands in stretchers on the regular?”
  • As noted above, sitting down next to the action makes real just how hard these guys hit the ball.  Balls go into the stands going somewhere between 80-2,000 MPH.  They go directly into a crowd of people, some of whom who are not paying attention.  Yet, there are rarely serious injuries.  People seem genuinely happy when catching a screamer of the bat of a big-leaguer, instead of screaming from broken hand bones, which one would expect to happen much more often.  Baseball may be the one sport where it is more dangerous to be a spectator than a participant.
“Youk isn’t in the lineup.  Bad cause we can’t see him.  Good because Escobar sucks.”
  • Youkilis was in the lineup against his former team for the first three games of the series, but of course he was sitting the night that the Maineiacs were in attendance.  It was unfortunate that we couldn’t experience the Fenway reaction to Youk, but is was good for the Sox in that the light-hitting Escobar did nothing threatening.
“Cheers far outweigh jeers for Crawford at Fenway”
  • There is a sentiment amongst Red Sox Nation that Crawford was a terrible acquisition and that we would be better off with Daniel Nava in our everyday lineup.  While it’s true that CC has yet to live up to his excessive contract, he is an impressive athlete in person and somebody that has the potential to be a dynamite player for the Sox for the foreseeable future.  I was glad to hear that there was widespread support for CC amongst the Fenway faithful.  I expected boos.  Instead, there was support.
“Fans in my section love Sweet Caroline”
  • Neil Diamond isn’t going anywhere at Fenway Park.  The eighth-inning ritual is beloved by all fans that I could see.  There are generally two groups of fans that really get into the Sweet Caroline experience - families with young children, and drunkards.  Both groups enjoy dancing horribly and belting out the song with the enthusiasm of a lion tearing into zebra flesh.  The poo poo-ing of the song and ritual by Boston’s beat writers is not going to gain traction any time soon.  The power of families and drunkards will resist change.  Personally, I enjoyed it.  Why not? 
“Rios heckles.  Love it.”
  • Around the 7th-8th innings, fans in our section decided to jump onto White Sox right fielder Alex Rios.  I think it helps that the name “Rios” rolls off the tongue and naturally lends itself to chants and chicanery.  Our section decided to have an impromptu competition to see who could come up with the best Rios heckle.  “Rios, you’re a bum!”, “Rios, you’re going to drop the next one!”, “Rios, ya f***!” (contribution from the fan sitting next to us) and “Rios, they won’t pick up your option next year unless you make the next catch!” (submission from yours truly, although I admit it is wordy) were all called to the player, while to his credit he ignored them all.  Add into this equation the two middle-aged women sitting in front of us, who happened to be White Sox fans, and for some reason big Alex Rios fans.  At one point one of the ladies stood up and bellowed, “all right! that’s enough!”, followed predictably by a round of jeers and “sit downs!” (offered up by another Maineiac).  Then the section came together as one into what we hoped would be a haunting, disconcerting chorus of “Riiiiii-oooooooos, Riiiiiiii-ooooooooos, Riiiiiii-ooooooooooos”.  Our fun was spoiled when Rios made a nice catch coming in on a rocket to right.  Nevertheless, a highlight of the trip so far.
TEXT MESSAGE, 9:34pm: “we got empty seats over here if u wanna come watch the last inning & leave together.”
  • Around the middle of the game, yours truly discovered that a group of ten of my closest friends not only happened to be at the same game (I had known beforehand several of them were going), but were sitting together up behind home plate with a nice vantage point and empty seats to sit in.  The two Maineiacs hustled up to join the crowd of now 12 deliriously enthusiastic Mainers.  We screamed and chanted and cajoled at the top of our collective voices.  Which of course, led to:
“Absolute pandemonium.  Diving from 7 seats away.  Screaming.  Thrusting arms.  Cody chant.”
  • After Crawford led off the inning with a single and Pedroia walked, the White Sox brought in closer Addison Reed.  Fenway stood as one and cheered for something momentous to happen.  Ross lifted one into the night sky.  I craned my body to see under the overhang of Fenway, reverberating the collective gasp and wonder of the crowd.  I saw the left fielder gaze skyward and journey towards the monster with no intention of catching the ball.  If it stayed fair it was gone.  My fellow Maineiac watched Ross off contact.  He watched as Ross gazed at the ball, pimp-flipped his bat, and started his victorious trot.  After that, the walls came down.  Everybody screamed and thrusted their arms skyward.  A friend of mine dived on top of our crew of a dozen from a row up and five seats over and ended up in my arms parallel to the ground.  We hugged and high-fived and facepalmed.  We were euphoric and can-you-believe-that? We watched as Cody got a Gatorade bath and an interview from Jenny Dell.  We chanted his name and he rode off into the clubhouse, a conquering hero, a vanquishing warrior.  
“Jillian’s and memories”
  • After the game, our crew of a dozen Mainers descended onto the streets of Boston and marched victoriously through the denizens to a local establishment, where we proceeded to imbibe and discuss the memories we would have of this night together as a dozen strong and the walk off moment we witnessed.             

2 comments:

  1. Great recap Brandon! Reading it made me feel like I was there again and it made me giddy (and I could actually smell sausage in my living room...weird). A couple of things to reinforce/add.

    I want to emphasize the fact that Brandon is not exaggerating the reaction of Cody Ross to a fly ball that was clearly the CF's ball, but certainly in the area where the RF should have backed up. HE DID NOT MOVE AN INCH. He barely looked up. In fact he stared at his shoe tops for about 3 seconds once he realized that Jacoby was going to make an easy catch. He did his best Ted Williams outfield impersonation, he was doing everything but practicing his swing. It happened within the first 5 minutes of the game starting and it blew my mind. It's one of those things that you can't see when you are watching on TV.

    Secondly, in all of the excitement (beer buzz) we left out a few of the details of the bottom of the 9th. Pedroia actually hit into a fielder's choice that eliminated Crawford. Then AGon got a single to RF with one out. Then the table was set for the Ross heroics.

    It was fun to watch a walk off celebration in person. It was a first for me. We also witnessed what is sure to be the next fad of walkoff celebration which was a gatorade shower. Alfredo Aceves created a gatorade shower by launching all of the gatorade in the water cooler over the top of the celebrating mass of Red Sox players. It created an almost surreal image of the celebration for the fans in attendance.

    Amazing time had by all.

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  2. One more thing...I've been to Safeco field, Wrigley and Coors Field. As you would expect Wrigley Field came the closest to matching the exciting atmosphere of Fenway. It has the old style subway cars, the stadium in the middle of a city neighborhood and the vendors. Now I may be biased, but Wrigley is not equal to Fenway when it comes to atmosphere, but it's certainly a close 2nd in my experience.

    In a bit of an upset Coors Field is actually a close runner up to Wrigley for 2nd place. In fact I thought long and hard about putting Coors before Wrigley, but I just couldn't do it. Coors Field had a lot of bars right outside the stadium that created a great pre and post game buzz that was on par with Fenway and Wrigley. The only thing missing was the vendors and the smells of the ballpark.

    Safeco is a distant 4th place for me. It was a beautiful park with great amenities, but it didn't have any "atmosphere". There was a big crowd, but it just didn't seem to create any excitement. The only excitement was the fact that there were a lot of Red Sox fans there for the game and they brought there own noise and excitement.

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