Fan Depreciation Night
Thursday, June 18, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 15
Marlins 2, Red Sox 1, 5 innings
When I went to Tuesday’s game, I noticed as the attendance was announced that it was the 499th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park. As luck would have it, I missed Wednesday’s game, in which there were several fan appreciation giveaways – including free hot dogs and burritos, tape measures, and even $10 gas cards for everyone in the section I had just sat in the night before – to celebrate their 500th straight. That was the one game of the series that I missed, and then I was back on Thursday night. This time my seat was back out in the bleachers, so of course it was raining again.
When I have a weeknight game, I leave work at 4:30. I’m about 20 miles from the T station, and then it’s 10 stops to Kenmore. I usually arrive between 6:15 and 6:30, depending on the traffic. I hate getting there less than half an hour before the game starts, because I like to get something to eat and be in my seat when they start announcing the lineups. But this time the traffic was terrible. The highways were actually OK, but once I reached the city streets surrounding the T station, it was one big gridlocked mess. I finally made it to Fenway at 7:00. I had missed the pre-game ceremonies, but there was enough time to visit the ladies’ room, grab a slice of pizza, and head to the seats before the first pitch. It was already raining and I was carrying the pizza, so I didn’t even bother going to my bleacher seat. I went into Section 2 in the right field grandstand and found a dry, unoccupied seat.
Jon Lester needed 20 pitches to get through the first inning. He gave up a hit and threw a wild pitch, but he did end up with two K’s. In the bottom of the inning, Kevin Youkilis gave the Sox a 1-0 lead when he blasted a solo homer. As the grandstand started to fill in at the end of the inning, I decided that if I was going to sit in “borrowed” seats for the night, it should be somewhere closer to the infield. So I walked along the back of the stands until I came to Section 15, behind first base, where I found an open spot in the standing room area.
No sooner had I found my new vantage point than Lester allowed a game-tying homer to Dan Uggla. And two batters later, Ronny Paulino went deep, giving the Marlins a 2-1 lead. Lester wasn’t sharp, and he had a lot of baserunners and needed a lot of pitches, but he managed to keep Florida off the board after that. The problem was that Ricky Nolasco completely stymied the Red Sox batters, setting them down in order in the second, third, and fourth. At the end of the third, I noticed that there were two seats in the back row of the grandstand that had been empty the whole time, so when the fourth inning started, I moved in and sat down.
The rain got heavier as the night went on, and it was coming down hard in the fifth. The forecast called for heavy rain all night, so there was no sense going into a delay when the game wasn’t official yet. As the Sox got ready to hit in the bottom of the fifth, I figured this was going to be their last chance to at least get one run and tie the game. So when Big Papi led off the inning ahead 3-0, I hoped he’d get the green light. Nolasco had been around the plate all night, and Papi was finally back to hitting fastballs again. He did swing, but he popped it up, in between the second baseman and the centerfielder. I pleaded, “Drop it! Drop it! Collide!” like I do for every pop fly, and this time it worked! The fielders collided and it dropped out of one of their gloves. Papi was safe on the error, and one out later, Jacoby Ellsbury replaced him on a fielder’s choice. Ellsbury was on one of his streaks where he steals every time he reaches base, so I was ready with my camera. He made it to second with 2 outs, leaving the game up to Jason Varitek. Tek worked a 2-2 count, but then struck out to end the inning.
Much to my delight, the umps let the game continue into the sixth. The Sox were only down by one run, and it seemed like even though the game had been frustrating so far, it was only a matter of time until they did some damage against the Marlins bullpen. Lester allowed another single to lead off the inning, but then with a 2-2 count to Uggla, play was halted and the umpires signaled for the tarp. Everybody booed.
I knew they have to wait at least ½ hour before calling a game, and I held out hope that there’d be a break in the rain later on. I called my parents and they said that on TV it seemed like they were willing to wait as long as they had to, to get the game in. While we waited, the Yankees/Nationals game was played on the scoreboard. I couldn’t see the scoreboard from the back row of Section 15, so I moved around to the Section 21 grandstand, behind home plate. The Nationals ended up winning, prompting cheers from the Fenway crowd. When that game was over, they switched to the Orioles/Mets game. Again the New Yorkers lost, prompting more cheers. When that game ended, it switched to the Tigers and Cardinals. I looked at the out-of-town scoreboard and thought, “I hope we’re not still here when the Oakland/L.A. game starts!”
The longer the delay lasted, the more convinced I was that they knew they’d be able to continue at some point. I would never even consider bailing early, but I actually didn’t mind waiting, because I was looking forward to moving down to the box seats behind the plate and I was confident that I’d be rewarded with a win. It was just about 9:00 when they delay had started. There was a scary moment after 10:00 when two umps and a Marlin walked from the visitors’ dugout to the home dugout. Were they going to inform the Red Sox that they were calling the game? We booed them just in case. Fortunately, they walked back 10 minutes later, as we cheered. By 10:30, people were starting to get restless. There were only a few hundred people left in the stands at that point, and they started doing the wave, from the sparsely-populated first base seats to the equally-vacant third base seats. That’s when the Cardinals/Tigers game ended, and sure enough the scoreboard switched to the west coast contest between the A’s and Dodgers. Around 11:00, a couple of Marlins jogged out to the Green Monster to visit the historic spot in what was likely their first trip to Fenway.
I called my parents again, and this time my father told me that according to the radar map online, the rain would start to lighten up in about 15 minutes, after which time they could probably start. That was encouraging. “These are the real fans,” I declared. “They should come out and give us some of the leftover fan appreciation gifts from last night!” But I didn’t even need a gift; really I was just excited at the prospect of watching the rest of the game from a great seat behind the plate. It was now two hours into the delay, and it had gotten to the point where every time one song being played over the loudspeakers stopped, someone would yell out, “Play ball!” and then when the next song started up instead of the game, they’d all boo.
Just as my father predicted, the rain was down to just a light mist around 11:20. That’s when a couple of players headed out to the bullpens. The security people who had stood on the warning track all night started to move around, looking toward the dugout and canvas alley. Everyone cheered, and made a beeline for the good seats behind the plate. I picked one out and wiped the rain off. That’s when the announcement came: “Tonight’s game has been called due to the forecast of continuing rain.” BOO! I was so upset. Here, the very next day after fan appreciation night, this is the way they treated us! Even if they didn’t end up winning, they owed it to us to at least try! People who left early yesterday were “rewarded” with a commemorative baseball, and I sat loyally through a 2½ hour rain delay without so much as a tape measure? It was a travesty, a sham, and a mockery… a traveshamockery!