It starts with a face staring down at me just as my kinetic movements stop. The patriarch, with silver hair and a voice that immediately inspires total respect and, well, fear for my life.
"How would you like to go to a baseball game?"
"Dad, I just played on yesterday and practice is tomorrow."
"No, up in Boston. To see the Red Sox."
Pow! I probably could have lit a fire with my smile. I was so dizzy from the mere thought of it that I felt like I was spinning off the ground. The major leagues!
It was 1975. Baseball consumed me. I played probably four times a week. The practice field was also the game field, and it was on the way to my father's favorite bar. So I was always early and one of the last to get picked up. But I loved to play, so I was always enthusiastic to be there, staring down a fastball, swinging away on a curve, fielding, throwing. It's the only sport I ever played, and I loved it completely.
Now Dad was going to take me all the way (30 minutes) up to Boston, the Big City, to see my one and only home team, the legendary Red Sox. My father had tickets to the championship series between the Red Sox and the Oakland A's, with Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson. What a formidable foe for the home team. Here was a chance to go to the World Series.
Dad and I made it up Route 95 toward Fenway Park. It's everyone's version of the major league park, and when you're 12, it's colossal. You step through the door and you are forever changed. I had been to several Pawtucket Red Sox games--the Triple-A version of the team--but when I walked into Fenway Park, my jaw dropped. Look at all the people! Look at the size of the field! I think as I look back on that initial entry into the world of the Sox, that was truly the most pure feeling of wonderment that I have ever experienced.
Fast forward to 2004. I'm lying in bed and it's 3-to-nothing in the fourth game of the World Series. The Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. We are up by three games and poised on the brink of winning our first World Series since 1918, the last time Babe Ruth wore a Red Sox uniform.
I've got hundreds of stories about the misery of losing clutch games, or erroring our way back home after being poised to win the big one. As I watch the screen, they are all starting to fade. They are disappearing from my mind as I feel this foreign but familiar glow; it's kind of a cramp in the center of my stomach. But it isn't settled; it's floating, almost like butterflies. I'm watching the players run to the middle of the infield, and I'm staring, and the butterflies are floating, and I'm reading the score, and I'm watching the players jump and hug and smile, and ... I realize that the feeling I'm having is one that I haven't felt in 28 years: the astonishment of a young boy going to Fenway Park for the first time. The pure, innocent wonderment of an introduction into the world of the Boston Red Sox.