Posted by: Mike Cornelius | May 13, 2010

A New Fan’s First Game

Thanks to some good friends Wednesday afternoon found me in the right field box seats at Fenway Park. In its ninety-eighth season, “Friendly Fenway” is the oldest ball yard in the majors. With a compact capacity of less than 38,000, a minimum amount of foul ground and a fairly small upper deck instead of the multiple tiers of seats at more expansive parks, Fenway has a deserved reputation as a place where a fan feels close to the action no matter where he or she is seated.

At the same time, it suffers from all of the defects one would expect from a stadium built almost a century ago. The narrow, low-ceilinged concourses can be claustrophobic and getting to or from one’s seat before or after a game can be a slow and tedious shuffle. While the park of course has luxury boxes, these high-profit seating locations are few in number and lacking in amenities compared to any stadium built in the last generation or three. Red Sox ownership makes up for the missing revenue to some degree by the fact that all of the regular seats have been paid for at every game for years. The Boston nine boasts the longest streak of sold-out home games in major league history. Those seats themselves however, are sized for a time when Americans were, well, smaller. It’s a very good idea to go to Fenway with folks who you don’t mind being really, really close to.

Then there is the fact that it apparently never occurred to stadium architects of the early twentieth century that fans might actually want to look at the action. Wednesday afternoon our seats were down the right field line, just past the foul pole. Sitting in my seat, staring directly forward, I was looking at the “379” marker noting the footage from home plate to the outfield wall in left center. If I wanted to watch the interplay between pitcher and batter, I had to swivel about sixty degrees left.

For all of that, there is no question that Sox fans love their park. Within the last decade, both a proposal to tear down the yard and build a modern replica on the same site, and a proposed new stadium in South Boston died under overwhelming fan objections.

And so once again I was back in Fenway; getting a sore neck in order to see Tim Wakefield deliver his knuckleball to the Blue Jays lineup, but also confident that if I yelled at J. D. Drew in right field, he would surely hear me.

The game turned out to be a fast moving pitcher’s duel between Wakefield and Toronto’s Shaun Marcum. The Boston hurler became just the fourth active pitcher with at least 2,000 strikeouts when he fanned Vernon Wells to end the fourth inning. As the news was flashed on the giant message board high above center field, the fans rose as one to salute the longest-serving member of the Red Sox. They would not stop until Wakefield came up to the top dugout step to acknowledge their acclaim.

Unfortunately for Boston, that feel-good moment did not carry through until the game’s conclusion. In the fifth two doubles plated a run for Toronto. Then in the seventh with one man on, Travis Snider sent a Wakefield knuckler soaring into the Blue Jays’ bullpen in right, making the score 3-0. Meanwhile Marcum was silencing Boston’s offense, limited the Sox to just three base runners over seven shutout innings before giving way to the Toronto pen.

Finally in the ninth the Red Sox awoke, giving hope to the faithful by scoring twice off of Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg. But the final out was recorded with the tieing run on base, and Toronto escaped with a victory.

As a lifelong fan of Boston’s arch-rival, one might assume that I would revel in that result. But Wednesday was different, and as we made our way out of Fenway I found myself thinking that a better outcome for the Sox would have been nice. For the special aspect of the day was the presence throughout the afternoon of the young fan seated to my left. My friends’ son, dressed in full Red Sox regalia, had been allowed to skip a day of second grade to see for the very first time in his life the Great Game played in person.

On the way to the game he was asked how many people would be present. “A million,” he guessed. In truth, from the perspective of a seven year old it must have seemed like at least that many as we made our way through the throngs on Yawkey Way. A pre-game visit to the sizable souvenir store resulted in the cap from his little league team being replaced by one with the elaborate red and white “B” on its front. Once in our seats he gazed wide-eyed as his heroes took the field, and defied all expectations of what a seven year-olds’ attention span should be. He demanded to know exactly what was going on when Wakefield’s milestone won the standing ovation. At the last, as fans stood hoping to witness a ninth-inning comeback, the little guy scrambled up to stand on his seat, straining to see the action over all of the tall adults surrounding him. And predictably, along the way he sampled a decided majority of the food offerings at Fenway.

After the young fan’s first ever game was done, and we were all away from the tumult, his father asked him if he had had a good time. “No,” was the instantaneous response. Surprised, the father asked him why. “Because the Red Sox lost,” replied the son. “Well, except for the fact that they lost, did you have a good time,” Dad asked. “Oh yes!”

So even the seven year-old understood that the goal is to win. But win or not, even the newest, youngest fan also understood that nothing beats an afternoon at the ballpark.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Hi Mike, Great post! I, too, have struggled to actually watch a game from the right-field stands in Fenway. And nothing like bringing a little kid to his first game. My soon-to-be seven year old son has never been to a major league game, but he has been to around four minor league games. He loves going, and he really gets into it. And that’s what baseball is all about.
    Regards, Bill


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: