Field of Dreams

August 11, 2009 | By | 1 Comment

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I had a bit of a lonely start to college.

I wasn’t used to living in the city and I missed my old friends. I really wanted to see a Red Sox game, but I didn’t have anyone to go with. So, I decided to go by myself.

There were a host of reasons why it should have been easy to find a ticket. The season was almost over and the Sox were out of playoff contention. It was before they began selling out all the time. The game was on a weeknight. I was alone. But there was even more of a buzz than usual around this game. I had no idea why. When I got to the window, I was surprised to learn that there were only two seats remaining. I chose the one in the last row of the bleachers. Centerfield.

Eventually, I realized why there was such a stir. Roger Clemens, who was now pitching for the Blue Jays, was back in town to face his old team.

The Sox were losing by a score of 2-1 until the bottom of the ninth. Jeff Frye hit a single off of Kelvim Escobar to score Michael Coleman and Troy O’Leary for the walkoff win. Clemens bid for a victory against his old club had been foiled. And, even though the game didn’t mean anything, the fans went crazy.

I was a little more reserved – embarrassed even. Don’t get me wrong – the game was awesome. Still, it was the kind of feeling you have when you’re eating at a restaurant by yourself. Even if the food is delicious, it’s just not the same.

After the game had finished, I went down to the fence above the bullpen to get a better view. There was some question as to whether the game would go into extra innings, so a relief pitcher had been warming up. Because the game was now over, they had begun the process of putting their gear away.

The bullpen catcher was a young man who had just received a September call-up to the majors. He only ended up appearing in one game that year – his first ever in the major leagues. He saw me leaning over the rail and flipped the ball that the pitcher had been warming up with. I had no idea who he was, but I made a mental note to remember the name “Jason Varitek” should he ever make it with the team in the future. It was like a scene right out of the movie “Field of Dreams”.

I had always wanted an official major league baseball. I wanted to hold the ball and examine the stitches. I wanted to look for the words “Major League Baseball” and see what color font they decided to use. I wanted to wind up and throw a pitch with not just any baseball – but a real baseball. I wanted to know what it was like to be a pro.

What I hadn’t realized was that there were two other kids standing right next to me. They had been calling for the ball and, even though it was tossed right at me, it may have been intended for them. A row of fans started jeering at me to give the ball to one of the kids. Suddenly, I was confronted with a very difficult decision. If I were to give up the ball, I didn’t know which kid to give it to. At the same time, I felt deeply ashamed. I felt ashamed that there was a row of people yelling at me and that I had taken something that may have been intended for someone else. I felt ashamed for not acting in an age appropriate manner. I felt ashamed for being alone and wanting the ball so badly in the first place.

One of the kids put his head down and walked away. The row of fans that had been barking at me gradually filtered out toward the exits. I don’t think anyone was around to see me hand off the ball to the young fan who had remained.

By this point, I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go home. As I shuffled out of the stadium and walked down Landsdowne Street, it just so happened that I directly passed the boy and family of the boy whom I hadn’t given the ball to. They all looked at me. I felt like Peter must have felt after the rooster crowed for the third time. They didn’t know that I had given the ball to the other kid. Just as I felt like the entire ballpark had been looking at me earlier, I felt the weight of their collective stare.

As I walked home, I was full of sadness. I was sad that I didn’t have any friends. I was sad that I didn’t have anyone to share the experience with. I was sad that I cared so much about this stupid game and ashamed about everything that took place after it was over.

I did get to hold the ball for a few minutes, though. I got to see the ending to some careers and beginning of some others. I saw a man do the strangest dance in between just about every inning and I witnessed my team beat its new nemesis in walkoff fashion.

I can’t decide if my memories from that night are more positive or negative. All I can say is that there is something beautiful about baseball and being young and growing older. I lied when I wrote above that the game hadn’t meant anything.

Looking back, I think I would tell myself that it is okay to deeply care about things. It is okay to love the park and the atmosphere and the players and statistics. I would say that I was proud of myself for giving up the ball. And… I would tell myself that no matter how old I get, it is okay to still have dreams.

I wonder what that young fan ever did with that baseball. Even though I didn’t get to keep it, I can tell you one thing:

The font color was blue.

September 18, 1997; Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox

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  1. Wendy says:

    Wow, you really need to work on your impromptu stories for situations such as this. “My kid is in the hospital and I’m bringing him this ball.” “I only have 3 months to live.” Or if all that failed, stick your elbows out and make a run for it. :o)
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..Life is Funny – Ode to Bellybutton Lint =-.

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