Monday, June 08, 2009
Writing a review of my first trip to Fenway this weekend would be like asking young Bob Sturm to write a review of The Empire Strike Back, or college-age Bob Sturm writing a review of Achtung, Baby.
What, did you think I was going to rip it?
The fact is, this sports weekend, which required no missed days of work, was a perfect 10 of 10. When you are a husband/father you don't have an open calendar to come and go as you please, so therefore you must make these very rare "guy-trip" weekends count. And, to see two games at Fenway Park inside one of the most beautiful weather weekends in a city that I absolutely loved was setting the bar very high for future trips of the type.
About a month ago, I was watching Rangers baseball and looking at the schedule pondering how long they could keep playing well. Everybody mentioned the tough stretch that was lurking, including the first-week-in-June gauntlet that was Yankee Stadium for 3 and Fenway Park for 3. Then, knowing that I have wanted to go to Fenway Park for years, it was just a matter of logistics. Cheap flight? Check. Finding tickets? OK, I cheated here. Knowing a few people with Red Sox ties didn't hurt, but paid face value. Buddies who were willing? Not a problem at all. We could have filled a plane ourselves.
So, it was on. They (the buddies) left Friday morning, but I stayed and played radio on Friday. Went to the Airport for the 4:50pm from DFW, and landed in Boston in time to see the Rangers bullpen shutting things down in innings 8-9 on Friday night.
Saturday: Left the hotel around 10 am and embarked on the trolley tour of Boston. For a history buff, it was gold, with stops at all the many historical landmarks (Mother Goose's grave? Of course! Cheers? Eh. Old Ironsides tour? Wasn't sure I would be into it, but I enjoyed it. Running up the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument? Done.) The day was sunny and about 72 degrees, and from 10 in the morning until about 4 in the afternoon, we tried to see all Boston had to offer on what had to be one of the 10 most beautiful days of their year.
Lunch at the North End At Fiore - as I was instructed that if you did not get Italian Food at the North End, you are screwing up your entire trip. I did not want to risk doing that, and was pleased with the outcome. A few more tourism stops, and we were ready to get to Fenway.
Random observations from Saturday Night at Fenway Park:
* Obviously, this game will be long remembered around town as the game were Jon Lester was flat-out awesome. I don't want to say you just forget about winning a game like that, but when Lester is that good (did you know his WHIP before Saturday was about 1.7?) then you have to know that the odds are not in your favor. We all know the Rangers know how to strikeout, and they did it with great regularity against Lester with 11 in all. He was awesome. And to those of you who asked me if I started cheering for the Perfect game, the answer is "of course". I know we all love our teams and all, but the prospect of a Perfect game is enough to cut across all lines of loyalty. Sorry. There have been 15 in baseball history and if I am lucky enough to attend #16, I don't care who gets it. Once the Rangers went 1-2-3 through the 5th, and were down 4-0, it seemed reasonable that he would make a run at history (he already has a no-hitter to his credit). His pitch count was low, his command was amazing, and his speed was electric. Michael Young broke everyone's heart with a clean double in the 7th, but it was an unforgettable outing for the lefty.
* I thought Derek Holland was pretty good, too. He battled. A balk here and a crucial 0-2 mistake to Mike Lowell there, and Holland took a few lessons on a night on a big stage. Overall, I enjoyed watching him work.
* All of these things really happened to around me: The two people sitting right next to me got engaged - complete with the scoreboard proposal; The clever peanut vendor who throws you the bag missed his target 4 seats down from me and hit me right in the face as I was looking down at my scorecard; two seats were open in my section for 6 innings. In the 7th, a couple showed up with 3 kids, and squeezed in 2 chairs. I kid you not.
* Sweet Caroline in the 8th-inning stretch was somewhere between awesome and ultra-awesome. Check this out here ...
* The park is smaller than you think, and never has the cliche "there isn't a bad seat in the entire house" been more true. Unless you are right behind one of the poles. Those seats might suck.
After the game, walked back from Fenway down Commonwealth Avenue to the hotel near the Boston Commons. An absolute pleasure of a street with trees down the middle and a grassy mall for pedestrians. It is a bit of a walk, but you are just soaking in the city, so it goes by fast.
Left for the park on a most beautiful of days (again! 2 for 2!) and took the daytime walk back down Commonwealth. The atmosphere around the ballpark is similar to Wrigley Field or some of the grounds in England for soccer - just alive with activity and chatter and the build of excitement for the upcoming game is certainly alive and well.
Random Observations from Sunday's Game:
* This game was about the Rangers eating and spitting out the pitches of Matsuzaka all over Fenway Park. Not sure if the gyro-ball is not catching on like they thought, but he wasn't fooling anyone (much like the rest of his year) and they were sad to see him go when he did. 10 hits, and a few other well hit balls that we caught in the gaps.
* Meanwhile, Padilla got back on the hill, and despite a bit of a shaky start that was not helped by Kinsler missing a double play ball in the 3rd, he settled in and rolled easily through the second half of his start. Innings 5-7 were quite effecient, and while it appeared early like he was being worn down, quite the opposite was happening. Kevin Youkilis said it, "He's a good pitcher," Youkilis said. "We all sit around and wonder how he has a 5.00 ERA, because he's got great stuff. He's one of those guys that can dominate a game at any time. There's not much you can do."
* For the second night in a row, it seemed like the little things really aided the winning team. The Rangers were beneficiaries of some curious (or stupid) baserunning from the Red Sox about 3 different times.
* Nelson Cruz is wonderful. What a hitter, and not a bad arm, either. Although I think the throw was Saturday night. Very happy that lady luck smiled on the Rangers with that kid. I actually had a chance to share a moment with his family on Saturday night since I recognized them so clearly from all the tv time they got at Yankee Stadium. I wonder how many players have missed the cycle by just a single. It has to be a short list.
* I found myself wanting to walk around the park during the Sunday game. It was sunny and beautiful, and some of the standing room spots are perfect. I like having a seat, but for quite a while, a tall guy can enjoy many perspectives by wandering around.
Here is my standing vantage point in the 3rd inning:
* Darren O'Day is so dominating right now, that it is tough not to get carried away with your expectation levels for the kid. What the heck is wrong with him that the Rangers could pick him up for free?
* My naked eye indicated that Omar Vizquel was safe.
* 2 out of 3 at Fenway? Brilliant! I had no idea they had not won a series there since 1997, but to be part of it in a small way was so much fun.
At 11:00pm, I was back at DFW Airport. Certainly tired, but very pleased with the memories.
Let me end this by saying the following: If you have ever considered taking a trip like this - following your team to one of those great historic landmarks in sports - DO IT. It is such a great experience. It is so nice to see baseball from the perspective of a city where everyone in the city knows the details of the game when you talk to your waiter or receptionist at the hotel. Boston lives baseball, and to allow yourself to swim in that pool for 48 hours is nothing short of amazing.