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The Most Beautiful Green

Rachel Bottino's Fenway Experience

I walk up the cement steps, moving in slow motion. The dark, cool walls are high on both sides of me, obscuring my peripheral view. All I can see is what is right before me. With each step, my eyes take in more. First I see nothing but blue sky, followed by tall tiers of seats. All of a sudden my ears begin to pick up on all the sounds around me. At first, itís a low rumble, but with each step passed, it becomes a steady roar. Before I know it, Iím seeing grass and itís the most beautiful green Iíve ever seen. I stop and just stare, absorbing everything. Iím in Fenway Park and there isnít a better feeling in the world.

Fenway Park My eyes focus on the field before me. The perfectly cut grass, the smooth tan dirt, the bright clean bases. Everything is so fresh, untouched in preparation for the game. Not wanting to turn away, fearing that I havenít looked at it long enough in order to remember it, I reluctantly turn and head towards my seat.

While on the way to my section, I pass the fans that are part of the reason why baseball is so great. I count at least ten Martinez jerseys. I canít even keep track of all the Garciaparras. Little kids wearing baseball caps too big for their heads are wildly cheering, even though the game has yet to begin. I pass a heavy-set man balancing two mini pizzas, a basket of nachos, and a cup of beer, no doubt his pre-game dinner.

I arrive at my seat going over all the things I have just seen. I look out to the field, which is now dotted with players. THAWCK! THWACK! I hear the sound of the pitcherís throw as it makes contact with the catcherís glove in the bullpen. To the right of me stands the Green Monster. Surprisingly it looks much smaller in person than on television. Behind me the big screen TV is playing a tribute to all the Red Sox greats. My eyes move back to the field as all the legends are named. I look at the pitcherís mound and think thatís where "Smokey" Joe Wood and "Lefty" Grove once stood. I look at first and see Jimmy Foxx. Bobby Doerr is on second and Frank Malzone is on third. Behind home plate is Carlton Fisk. In the outfield I stare in admiration at the grass in left where Carl Yastrzemski once stood. Fred Lynn is in center field and Dwight Evans is in right. I see Ted Williams up at bat, as he easily slams in a home run. I hear the wild cheers of the fans that were lucky enough to witness these players in action. So much history is embedded in that field that I could go on forever about how many spectacular events occurred here.

Loud music is now blaring throughout the park, diminishing my historic vision. My eyes are drawn to several rows ahead of me where a group of middle aged men, all with beers in hand, are yelling, "Play ball." "Play ball," I repeat to myself, thinking of how many generations of baseball this classic saying has spanned through. Just as I think this, a vendor passes by me yelling, "Peanuts and Cracker Jacks." I just smile.

Iím standing now. The National Anthem is being performed and the crowd is on their feet. As I listen to the woman singing, my eyes roam all around the park and I begin wondering how many times the National Anthem has been sung here. The song is near complete and the crowd doesnít even wait for it to be finished before they unleash their anxious roar. Itís time to play ball.

My heart begins to race as the players take the field. This is my first time ever watching a game live, and all of a sudden it hits me. I look down at Carl Everett in centerfield, how close he is to me. Nixon is in right and OíLeary is in left. Garciaparra is in position at shortstop. Wakefieldís on the mound warming up and Varitek is behind home plate. Daubachís on first with Offerman on second, and Valentin on third. I canít believe Iím seeing all of them live. I canít stop smiling. Seeing the Red Sox, my hometown team playing, is absolutely amazing. I try to put into words what I feel, but I canít.

I lean forward in my seat and focus all my attention on the game as the Red Sox start off the inning. I no longer observe the fans around me, or hear their cheers. Iím completely absorbed in the game. I intently watch each pitch, wondering if it will be a fastball, knuckle ball, curve ball, or a change up. I keep a watchful eye on the man on first, daring him in my mind to steal second.

Just as quickly as it began, the top of the first ends, and now the Sox are up to bat. I observe the players on the opposing team, not knowing them, but automatically hating them. We Red Sox fans are extremely loyal to our hometown team. We always have been. In the early part of the century, baseball was everything to Boston, and still is. It brought many of the immigrants together, for everyone found common ground in this wonderful sport. People quickly became addicted to the "great American pastime," and our deep dedication is what distinguishes us from all the other fans in the country. Of course fans from other cities are dedicated to their teams too, but Boston fans have a certain fanaticism that separates us from the rest. I canít really explain it, and I donít think that any other fan can either. We just feel it. Itís in us.

Nomarís up and the stands are going crazy. I watch him perform his batting rituals. He taps the front of his helmet, adjusts his gloves and wristbands, taps his toes, and makes the sign of the holy cross. For about a second I think about how odd his habits are, but my attention quickly goes back to the game. The pitch is thrown and Nomar makes contact, sending a line drive down center field. Itís a base hit and the fans go wild.

The bottom of the first ends, and the other innings gradually play out. I attentively watch each one, maintaining my focus. Before I know it, itís the seventh inning stretch. "Take Me out to the Ball Game" is being played, though I can barely hear it because the whole park is singing along, butchering the classic tune. I join in, belting out the lyrics along with the fans. Iím completely captivated by the atmosphere around me. Being with so many people who share the same passion for baseball is amazing. Just as the song ends, some commotion over in right field catches my eye. A teenage fan has just jumped the wall and is running across the field. Everyone is cheering for him, egging him on. He runs and tags first, then dashes for second. As soon as he hits the bag, he rounds the corner and heads toward third. The crowd is going crazy, amazed that he has made it this far without being tackled by security. Now heís sprinting for home and does a huge belly flop on home plate. The stands explode with cheers as the fanatic fan is led off the field in handcuffs by security. For a few brief moments, he is the hero of every fan in the stands and everyone wants to be him, the one who was lucky enough to run the bases at Fenway Park. No doubt thatís why he did it. He knew he would be admired by all.

The game is starting up again and the crowd settles down. I check on the middle-aged men in the rows ahead of me. By now theyíre all drunk and donít hesitate to show it. One of them, who is now being referred to by his buddies as the "Italian Stallion," is catcalling every woman that walks by. The women just laugh, knowing he is completely drunk. His friends get a real kick out of all rejections heís getting. Over to my left two young boys around the age of ten are dancing on their seats. One of them is really getting into it. He just took off his shirt and is now whipping it around his head, while doing stomach rolls. The crowd loves it. Again I think of how insane Boston fans are. We love our sports, we love our city, and we love our teams. There is nothing we enjoy more than going to a home game and being with our fellow fans. Thatís what Boston is all about, the love of the game, and the love of the faithful fans.

As the bottom of ninth approaches, I become sad. The game is almost over and so is my experience. I start to go over all of the game's events in my mind, re-playing all that I can remember. Just as the last out is made, I wrap up my thoughts. The game is over. Everyone is standing now, gathering their belongings, talking about the plays made during the game. The players are clearing off the field and the clean up people are moving in. I remain in my seat though, still observing the park. I scan all the sights once more. The Green Monster, the stands, the field. I stop at the field. The perfectly trimmed grass in the outfield is now dug up in certain spots where intense plays were made. The dirt in the diamond is no longer smooth. Cleat marks have punctured the surface and the dirt is disrupted where players slid. The bright white bases are now scuffed with the dirt left behind from the players who tagged them.

The crowd is thinning around me, but still I watch the field. I imagine the greats out there one more time. Gradually I head towards the exit, my eyes fixed on the field the whole time. My heart begins to race again. I assure myself that Iíve just watched a Red Sox game in Fenway Park. Despite all Iíve seen, Iím scared now, thinking this is all a dream, that Iím not really here, that Iíll wake up any minute and it will all be gone. Itís not a dream though. Itís the best day of my life.

I inhale deeply, breathing in the smells of the park once more, breathing in its history. I force myself to turn away. Itís time to leave. Lost in my thoughts, I slowly make my way back down the cement steps.

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Article copyright © 2001 by Rachel Bottino. Printed with permission of the author.