Monday, September 05, 2011

Number One on My Bucket List

A few years back there was this marvelous movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson called "The Bucket List". It was about two men with terminal cancer who decided to do a number of things before they kicked the bucket. It started me thinking of what would be on my bucket list and what I could do to accomplish those things.

Not surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was to see the Red Sox play at Fenway Park. Although I lived in the Boston area for eight years, I never made it to Fenway. When you live in a place, it seems like there will always be time to do things there. You regularly pass by landmarks and think, "Some day I'll have to go there." But some day never seems to come. Life gets in the way.

And then I moved to Arizona and it was a bit longer than a ride on the T to get to Fenway Park. I did manage to see the Red Sox play at Chase Field when interleague play scheduled them against the Diamondbacks. But Chase Field isn't Fenway.

This past spring I started thinking about going back to Boston for a visit. We were coming up on the Fourth of July and, with the severe drought we had, there was talk about fireworks shows being cancelled. That reminded me of what the Fourth is like in Boston. There's no place better to celebrate the Fourth than on the Esplanade with the Boston Pops and fireworks over the Charles River. So I started searching the Internet looking for travel packages that might get me there.

I didn't find any fireworks packages, but I did find Red Sox Destinations. Now that might be a way for me to get to see the Red Sox play, along with a stay at a good hotel, eating fresh seafood, a chance to visit with old friends. I took a look at the dates. I pondered. I saw that there was one trip scheduled for the Yankees series at the end of August. There couldn't be any openings left. But there were! I slept on it. It would be expensive with airfare and hotel and meals out. And then I clicked and made the reservations.

So I spent last week in Boston, saw two Red Sox games, had a VIP tour of the park, a session with a Red Sox player, and lunch at the park. It was wonderful!



I got to the park early enough to see batting practice on the first day. It was hard to believe that I was actually there. I've watched so many games on television, seen so many pictures, I almost had to pinch myself to believe it was real. The Sox lost, but it was okay.



Day two was packed with activities. The tour was fun and I learned a lot about the history of Fenway. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. The intention is to have it put on the National Register of Historic Places at that point. That will keep it just as it is. Newer parks may be shinier, have bigger broadcast booths and more luxurious seating. But Fenway has character. Sure, it shows its age, but there is no place that feels more like baseball than Fenway.


 And I was there. I walked on the field. I stood next to that old manual scoreboard. I went inside the scoreboard that doesn't have air conditioning or heat or running water, so you can imagine what it's like for the guys who sit inside it every game and post those worn green and white numbers for the fans to see.

The players aren't immune to what it means to play for the Red Sox at Fenway Park. We had the pleasure of meeting Jarrod Saltalamachia before our lunch. He signed one item (in my case, a baseball thoughtfully provided as part of the package) for each of us, then did a question and answer session. He was thrilled to be there, thrilled to have Varitek as a mentor, and he practically burst with pride and pleasure when one member of the tour asked how it felt to be the future of the Red Sox. He's a good kid and, from what I've seen, the first catcher who stands a chance of taking Varitek's place when Tek retires.

The second game couldn't have been any better if it had been written into a movie script. Beckett pitched. Ellsbury hit his first home run over the Green Monster. Big Papi launched one over the fence in center field. And Pedroia put on his laser show in the field. What more could you ask?
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