|30 in 38|
After Game 30 in Boston on Sunday, September 9th, the four of us left Fenway and headed back to Middlebury, where it all started, and where the fall semester would begin on Monday, the 10th. The writing of this post has been sacrificed for all of the obligations that the school year entails. I apologize to our readers for the delay.
The delay, unintentionally, has lasted 38 days.
The time back at school has provided some distance in perspective that I believe will be helpful in my writing now. I hope that this post reflects that perspective.
That perspective motivates my decision to start this post with our "Thank You" section. The following is a list of individuals toward whom we are indebted for their help in making this trip possible. These are the people who collectively defined our trip, and whose willingness to provide support was a constant source of energy and motivation for us. Looking back, it is hard to believe how lucky we were and how much of a collective effort was put into our journey.
To each of you, thank you so much.
I grew up going to games at Fenway Park. It was my first, and for quite a while my only, major league ballpark. Home to my beloved Red Sox, it represented the abstract ideal to me as a youth. If you had asked me for my favorite place in the universe, I would have said Fenway Park for most of my young life. No experience brought me more joy than the first sight of the field through the concrete tunnels at Fenway, like a first glimpse of heaven from earth.
Until this trip, I really knew no other ballparks. I had been to the old Olympic Stadium in Montreal a few times, and Camden Yards once, but remembered little of either. I had never compared them to Fenway. Fenway was the best because it was mine, not because of any attempt at objective evaluation or comparison. I adored it uncritically.
Day 38 taught me that there is indeed something remarkably different about Fenway, something remarkably special. It is, in my opinion, the greatest ballpark in the major leagues.
Why? Let's start with the obvious: Fenway has the most natural character in design of any major league ballpark. From the Green Monster in left, to the Triangle in center, to Pesky's Pole in right, to the intimately tight confines in which the whole thing is built, Fenway's design exemplifies the uniqueness of venue that every park seeks in some form or another.
But I knew and appreciated all of this before the trip. I already loved Fenway for these reasons, as any baseball romantic would after attending a Red Sox game. What then, was the source of the newfound appreciation I gained from this trip? In short, it was the uniqueness of the baseball atmosphere.
Back in May, I put a short post up on this blog after reading about the death of Red Sox PA announcer Carl Beane. I referenced one story from the article, about how Beane reacted to the pressure he felt to bring a more fast-paced, high-content atmosphere to Fenway. "I know what Fenway is," Beane had said. "It's a baseball park, not a rock concert, not an amusement park, not an NBA game." At the time, I thought Beane's comment was insightful and meaningful. Looking back, I realize that it was borderline heroic.
strip clubs.) Squads of energetic teenagers are hired to dance on top of dugouts and shoot t-shirts to the crowds between innings. Ballpark emcees pop up on the scoreboard about ten times per game to promote an event or interview some uninteresting fan. When the crowd is supposed to cheer, music blares and "Noise Level," meters start bouncing on the video screens. And every half inning the scoreboard introduces some new form of visual entertainment, from the "Kiss Cam" to the animated character race to the game where you see how long you can keep your eye on one of three rapidly scurrying hats.
So what Carl Beane was responding to was in fact a pressure so significant that it has come to dictate the ballpark experience almost universally. I appreciate Fenway's resistance to that pressure so much more after this trip. Fenway has scoreboards, but their use is limited: high-definition instant replays of the game, player photos and statistics, and historical highlight reels between innings (some of the best, by the way). There is no music cranked in during the game, there is no ballpark emcee, there are no races or hat games, and there are no gimmicks or giveaways. If you don't like baseball, there isn't much to do. If you do like baseball, however, it is ideal. The acoustics of the game dominate, from the crack of the bat to the pop of the mitt, and the visuals of the game and the park are made so much more beautiful by their being the exclusive object of attention. There is one act on stage at Fenway Park, and it is baseball.
Fenway in many ways remains the ideal to me. It is alive with history, beautifully constructed, and pure in its purpose. The atmosphere is energetic and attuned due only to the unprompted interest of the fans, and the scoreboards accomplish the perfect integration of old and new. It is a park which pays higher respect to the game of baseball than any other, and for that, I am glad to call it my baseball home.
Here are some closing stats and reflections from the day and the trip. We also hope to put together a final comprehensive reflection at some point in the future, and that will be posted on this blog. (And a note to all those wondering, the four of us are still friends. We even hang out sometimes. Against all odds!)
Games watched: 30
Games to go: 0
Fan Atmosphere: See above (low day on a high spectrum)
Food and Drink: Fittingly, the fare is just right for baseball: Fenway Franks, Kielbasas, and Italian Sausage. It's pretty good, too.
Thuuz score: 61 (special thanks to Thuuz for helping me out on this one)
Total Rain Outs: 0
Total innings of baseball missed: 0
Total outs of baseball missed: 2 (debatable--we arrived in Oakland before first pitch but did not get into sight of the batter until after two outs in the top of the first)
Total outs of baseball seen: 811 (or 813)
Total page views on the blog (as of 10/17/12): 12,885
Total individual cost (for me only, all costs included): $2,900
Total miles traveled: 15,011
Miles to go: 0
Lasting memory: With the Red Sox losing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Cody Ross was at the plate with a runner on first and nobody out. On an 0-2 pitch, he cranked the ball directly down the left field line, high and deep. If it was fair, it was gone. I sprang from my seat (which was on the first base side of home plate, a perfect view of the ball as it went down the line), and had a rush of emotion. Could my baseball dream really be capped off with my favorite team hitting a walk-off home run? Could that be the last play of baseball I would see in my most unforgettable summer of baseball fandom? I looked down from the ball and half-expected Cody Ross to be waving it fair, for there to be a "2" in front of the "7" on his jersey. As I gathered my arms to throw them up in the air and never let them down, the ball hooked left and went over the wall in foul territory. Ross struck out, and the Red Sox lost. But that moment, I felt like I touched perfect.
My Final Top 5 Stadium Ranking:
1. Fenway Park, Boston
2. Wrigley Field, Chicago
3. Camden Yards, Baltimore
4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
5. AT&T Park, San Francisco
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