The game album for this was spectacular. First, the Home Run Derby in the first inning--I had a perfect view of the plate. A little while later, the sheets of rain falling over Fenway Park. Our view in general from the Loge Box along the third base line. Adorable pictures of me and my fiancee at the ballpark.
EXCEPT I FORGOT MY CAMERA.
Say it with me: AAAAAAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Luckily, I will be returning to the same seats on Thursday, and will be sure to bring my camera. Still, there are lots of things I wish I could have captured that Thursday probably won't duplicate--like the rain delay.
I know. Looking at a rain delay doesn't seem like the most compelling activity. But as we huddled under our umbrella, watching the downpour...things were strangely poetic.
Jason Varitek had strolled out, bat in hand, to begin the bottom of the second. Just as he reached the batter's box, the mist that had been visible in the lights became a solid curtain of rain, and Jason looked at the pitcher, and then the umpire. Everyone froze for about two seconds, while the droplets began bouncing on the warning tracks and slowly, the crowd rustled into activity, putting up umbrellas, donning ponchos, heading for the grandstand beneath the roof.
The first base umpire moved first, walking from behind the bag toward the home plate umpire. The Devil Rays began melting off the field toward their dugout, and Varitek headed back to his own. Red-shirted grounds crew leapt out of Canvas Alley and began weilding the giant tarp, unfolding it alone a balletic exercise.
And then we sat.
The rain intensified, until a guy a few rows down from me finally just took off his soaked T-shirt and sat there, letting the drops bounce off his skin. The jumbo-tron broadcast highlights from 2004 to keep the masses at least somewhat appeased.
It was then, watching the footage of Bill Mueller's single, Mariano Rivera falling to the mound, Dave Roberts coasting into the plate, leaping and pirouetting midair, that I found myself suddenly and completely overcome.
That happened right there, I thought to myself as the rain soaked the tarp, raising a ghostly outline in its puddles of the infield. That happened right where we are.
Is this really something I've never realized before? I don't know. I don't know that I've ever really sat at Fenway and thought about that--most of the time, sitting at Fenway, I've been thinking more about the game at hand. In a way, at least at first, the rain delay forced me to just sit and look at the ballpark, watching the footage of David Ortiz muscling that single into center field, trying to find the exact spot where that ball landed, trying to imagine, even for a second, what it must have been like to be in the ballpark that night. What I would have done if I'd been there. If I'd have screamed, cried, both, or just stood there in shock and awe. While that footage played and the rain poured down, I thought about it, pictured the ghostly form of David Ortiz running toward first, the ball falling in, the Yankees outfielders giving up their chase, tried to imagine the bedlam.
When I was done, I had goosebumps the size of gumdrops.
Which was all well and good for the first hour and a half.
After a while, the rain slowed to a trickle, then dried up for a moment, prompting the re-emergence of grounds crew and a cheer from the stands. The crew chief signaled for the tarp to be rolled up, but no sooner had the crew laid a hand on it than the rain began again.
That, I will say, was frustrating.
Even more so the second time it happened.
By then, the screen had switched over to footage of the only other game going on at the moment, Detroit vs. Cleveland at Cleveland. Whoop-de-frigging-doo. I started getting irrationally angry with my fellow patrons for cheering every time the rain subsided even a little bit. I called people frantically on my cell for weather reports. I began to fear that the game--tickets to which were supposed to be Steve's birthday present, and he hadn't been to Fenway since high school, for Chrissakes--would be called, and THEN WHAT?
Really. I was havin' issues.
Finally, though the game resumed. It was now approximately nine o'clock pm. It was the bottom of the second inning.
Who needs sleep?
It wasn't till the bottom of the fifth that things really started cooking again, when the Sox fired up the merry-go-round (meaning, once again, a game I attended was not close. Just once--just once I want to see a walk-off home run. Seriously. Before I die). Most impressive about this rally was Edgar's score from third on a wild pitch, which took some cojones grandes, and as far as I can tell, it was Edgar's decision to run. It was also a lucky one, with Trot Nixon up against a lefty. Meanwhile, the beer drinkers who had moved into the empty seats next to me (to the consternation of the extremely annoying suburban family behind us) doubted my declaration that Trot couldn't hit lefties.
"Sure he can," slurred my closest companion. "He's gonna hit it right over that wall."
"Nope." I told him.
We argued back and forth like this until Nixon walked, making me look like kind of a jerk, but not as much of a jerk as if he'd, say, homered off a left-hander. Which would have made me kick myself even harder for not bringing my camera.
A little while later, for some reason, the jumbo tron showed golf.
"Is this...golf?" asked the beer-drinker to my right incredulously.
"I'm sorry," he continued. "I don't mean to offend anybody? But golf...golf is gay."
The way he said it...I burst out laughing. A little while later when he got up to get more beer, I said, teasingly, "What, you leavin'?"
"Nah," he said, gesturing to his buddy. "My friend...he's stupid. He likes golf."
Even later, the beer drinker tried to get a chant going, but failed. He sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment, then said, to no one in particular, "Fags."
On one pop-foul into our section, I saw a guy catch it while a little kid with a glove was reaching for it. While the guy stood with his arms over his head for the camera, the kid buried his face beneath his dad's arm and cried. I mean, he bawled. It was awful. I was like, give the kid the ball, you asshole.
But then, when the guy tried to give the kid the ball, the kid wouldn't take it. "No. You caught it." He kept saying. The guys with him--the guy who caught the ball and his father, who had looked fairly sheepish while the boy cried--didn't get it. At all.
"Come on, take it. Chrissakes," they kept saying.
"No!" The boy said, vehemently. "I don't want it. You caught it."
There's a story in there somewhere.
I scratched my head when, after Matt Clement walked Julio Lugo to begin the sixth, Francona immediately yanked him. Especially after Myers put two more men on and Carl Crawford stole third nearly uncontested.
"Francona's gonna get barbecued for this one," I said, repeatedly, as the inning unfolded.
But the inning ended with a truly sexy double play--Myers to Renteria to Olerud. It was a beaut.
When the Sox struck up the carousel again in the bottom of the seventh, the stands began to clear out in earnest.
"Fags," said the beer drinker, to no one in particular.
I had begun, meanwhile, to watch things other than the plate--I watched the fielders, their surprisingly precise movements, the way they'd sway in unison on the pitch, then return to their habitual between-pitch fidgeting, this guy drawing circles in the dirt with his feet, this guy windmilling his arms, this guy cracking his neck and snapping his gum.
People often decry this dawdling between pitches and between plays as a fault of baseball, a way in which the sport is boring and useless. Maybe if you're watching on TV, it's worse. But watching at the ballpark...last night I saw there is nothing more beautiful. They're like dancers; they have the same stylized, subtle muscular movements. The different permutations of the ensemble enacting this pantomime are tantalizing--now a man on third, scratching with his feet around the plate like a dog marking his territory. Now two men on, first and second, leaning and jumping toward the next base with the pitch. It's like a dance. Like something that exists only for itself, not as part of a game with strategies and a greater outcome.
We got to see John Papelbon. That was pretty cool.
By the time Abe Alvarez relieved him in the top of the 8th, it was nearing midnight and the park was a ghost town. The lightbulb went on over my head. I begged Steve to come with me, but he wanted to stay in our seats. So I went by myself.
I couldn't believe it--the guy let me through. He let me right through, and I walked right down and there I was, sitting three rows behind home plate for the top of the eighth.
I've always known they were the best seats in the house. But I never knew to what extent.
The difference between our seats for the game and being in those home-plate seats was almost as big as the difference between watching the game on TV and actually being there. The pitch came right at you--you could see Varitek's tricep flex as he gloved it, and the smack of it in his glove was vivid indeed. When Travis Lee singled to right center, the crack of it off his bat was like an explosion--you could hear the way the impact resonated in the wood. You could hear the scratch of his cleats as he took off for first base.
It. was. incredible.
Unfortunately, as I sat there, my pupils fixed and dilated, nearing Baseball Overdose, a curious feeling overtook me--one I was nearly powerless to overcome. I had to tell people I was sitting here. I had to tell everyone I knew.
I actually contemplated--yes, really--calling someone, anyone, everyone, and telling them, "Look where I'm sitting! Look at meeee!"
I was mortified. How many times had I bitterly condemned those who do just that at seemingly every game? Just moments earlier I had felt extreme empathy for the security guy who, though he'd let us riffraff into the seats out of the goodness of his heart, now found himself babysitting, telling person after person not to wave to the cameras, put the phone down, dammit.
But it was there. I settled for text messages to Kristen and my dad, but oh, it was there. I can't lie. I felt a MIGHTY NEED, right then and there, to embarrass myself on television. Truly, it was terrifying. Like I didn't know myself anymore.
But then the screen gave us the helpful message that the last train was leaving Kenmore Station in, oh, about fifteen minutes, and we left among most of the last of the Fenway faithful before the game was over. Which sucked, but apparently before it was over Abe and Mike Timlin had conspired to attempt to blow a nine-run lead, which I don't know to be impressed about, or pissed about, or what.