As a Bostonian, I grew up a bleacher creature of Fenway. If you played left field for any AL squad in the late ’80s and remember an eight-year-old undressing you with witty comments about how your uniform looked followed by a barrage of curse words—I’m not sorry. And it could have been any eight-year-old boy or girl in the greater Boston area because that’s how we raise them. Fenway is easily the best ballpark. But everyone feels that way about their home field. And they’re all correct.
That time is almost upon us. After Lord Stanley’s Cauldron and Larry O’Brien’s Ball have been hoisted and doused with champagne, the sports landscape clears and we get ready for some baseball. Sure, the mitts have been out for a few months—but we haven’t yet been able to focus. And then suddenly it’s all we’ve got. Sure, they try to fill SportsCenter with stories of whiny franchise quarterbacks and Olympic steeplechasers’ hard luck stories, but it’s about to be all baseball all the time. One sports network even invented a silly awards show for that one day in July, during the all-star break, to give them some programming on the one summer day when there’s no baseball. Well, I for one, am excited for the unwritten rules regarding bat flips and dirty slides.
Baseball is the background to all summer activities. I have even been known to listen to a Sox game on the radio while sitting outside with a cold beer. Forget background, baseball is summer. And there is no sport more boring on television that is so amazing in person.
There is nothing more American than cutting out from work for a day at the diamond. Sitting there, baking in the sun with peanut shells covering the floor while six tallboys deep is what I dream about all winter. I love watching that guy shuffle through the aisle only to step in whatever that synthetic nacho cheese substance is while trying to make it through—and not giving two shits.
The characters you see in a game are the flavors that have been missing in my pandemic life. The old guy in a towny cap keeping score with a short pencil. The Italian ice teenage vendor who is making a couple bucks for college beer money. My favorite thing in the world is when a young boy or girl, wearing their own little league jersey for another team, catches that foul ball in their mitt and the crowd erupts in joy. Nothing better.
The malaise of the ballpark seat lean is as close to a happy sloth as one could be. With everyone turning their heads together with each pitch, the leap up out of that stadium chair with tens of thousands jumping up in unison at the sound of a wood bat cracking a dinger is heaven.
That communal joy of laughing at the visiting fan getting shouted down by that female season ticket holder who’s got all the great chirps and can whistle loud enough to herd cattle is what I’m looking forward to this summer. The voice of the announcer that can only be used to announce the name of a player that is so muffled, everyone has to check the Jumbotron to see who’s up. The dad explaining the pitch counts to a child for their first time at the diamond. The glimmer of Oil Can’s necklace or the frustration of Johnny D not being able to reach the cutoff man are the summer memories that stick with us to this day.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some baseball.