I love baseball. By age seven, I was trading and collecting baseballs cards with the relentless fury of a Wall Street trader. I’d buy several packs of Topps cards at a time (Fleer or Donruss on occasion, too), and surgically tear them open one by one. A single, brittle and stale stick of pink gum came in each pack, and I’d stuff them in my mouth until it looked like I had a cheek full of chaw. The flavor lasted about five minutes, if that. It didn’t matter.
I coveted all the stars and rookie cards, but when it came down to real baseball, I backed one team: the Boston Red Sox. My grandparents were devout Sox fans and I have fond memories of watching weekend games at their house as a kid. We’d sit in the living room, gathered around the TV and either cheering or throwing our hands up in disbelief. There might’ve been some cursing mixed in too. Just saying…
My Uncle Jim, a hardcore fan, took me to my first game and I recall the sense of awe that overwhelmed me upon entering its hallowed halls. I’ll never forget that feeling of being so small in the presence of something so big, and being surrounded by thousands of like-minded people gathered together for one purpose -- watch the Sox win.
It was a day game and I stopped in my tracks when the field came into view. It’s a stark contrast, this vibrant green oasis surrounded by cityscape. There’s the Green Monster!Is that the dugout, where the players are? I’d fallen into a blissful state of sensory overload. We found our seats on the third base side and settled in. My uncle shouted to a concessions worker and before I knew it I was holding an ice cream sandwich and a bag of peanuts. Then the players came running out onto the field. Jim Rice! Dewey Evans! The sun was shining and I had my Red Sox cap on. It didn’t get any better, but then the game started, and it did.
I don’t recall if the Sox won that day, and I guess that’s kind of my point. In this era of uncertainty in baseball and all professional sports, when we no longer know what parts of the game -- if any -- to hold sacred, I find solace in a place like Fenway. Performance-enhancing drugs and scandals be damned; I still feel like a seven-year-old every time I visit Fenway Park, and that place will always represent something pure to me.
Words by Mike Horn // Images by Justin Cash