The Moment I Fell In Love With Baseball

Recently, my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Charles Steinberg asked me to tell him about the moment I fell in love with baseball.  This was my response…

I can’t recall the exact moment I fell in love with baseball; it’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember.  I don’t remember my first time at Fenway either; it’s always felt like home.  What I do remember is my first Red Sox shirt, a cartoon of the Green Monster that kind of scared me, holding a baseball bat, towering over the field.  I remember childhood Saturday’s filled with catch in the park, and games of Strat-o-Matic, the baseball board game I played with my father.  I remember choosing my favorites for my team from his seemingly- endless supply of player cards – always Ted Williams – I would cry if he wasn’t on my team – and holding the cards in my hand, looking at old photos of men who were now immortalized, legends from games long over.  I remember reading the statistics on the cards, and not knowing what they meant.  My father would explain them to me with stories of the player’s greatest games: Pudge willing the ball to stay fair, Williams hitting a homer in his last game ever, every postseason game the Red Sox had come so close to conquering, to no avail.  We had every set: the Hall of Famers, every Red Sox team and various others, even the Negro Leagues, which my father explained were for African-Americans who weren’t allowed to play in the Majors until Jackie Robinson came along.

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If you look closely, that’s a Green Monster shirt

Long before I became a woman who watched or listened to every Red Sox game, I was a little girl who needed to learn about the history of her team.  I wasn’t very good at playing sports, but I loved stories; I was drawn to the stories of this game.  I wanted to play in the Majors and dreamed of standing on the field at Fenway, the first woman to play for the Red Sox.  I knew I wasn’t fast enough as a pitcher, hitter, or runner, but I also knew that baseball is about dreams.  And if I couldn’t play, I had to know all about those who did.  A voracious reader, I had to know about Jackie Robinson’s journey to Ebbets Field.  I needed to understand how Harry Frazee could sell Babe Ruth and Fenway Park to the evil Yankees, even then, my mortal enemies.  I wanted to understand how we could come so close to winning a World Series, and whether The Curse of the Bambino was real – it certainly seemed real enough.  Without living through most of them, I understood the shame and pain of decades of failures and losses, and the shock and frustration of almost getting there but not.

At some point in my middle school years, I became a fanatic.  I don’t think it happened overnight, but I found myself needing to know the outcome of every game and who our players were.  I began to wait for Opening Days, the real start of spring in Boston, and I was, and am, a tough critic.  I shouted at the field or television when a pitcher couldn’t seem to get it together, or an outfielder dropped an easy pop-out.  I wept when Johnny Pesky died, and became outraged when I read that most members of the 2012 team did not attend his funeral; only four, including David Ortiz, showed up.  In 2013, I saw just how much baseball meant to the city; in a time when people were afraid to leave their homes, they were still going to Fenway Park.  Living in Israel that fall, I stayed up until sunrise to watch every game.  Sometime after 6 AM on what was already October 31st in Israel, Koji threw his final strike and I screamed, waking up everyone in my apartment.

I don’t remember when I fell in love with the Red Sox, but I know why I love them.  In a world where money and power seem to play a role in everything, the Red Sox still feel like old-time baseball.  Maybe it’s our beautiful ballpark, still standing strong for over one-hundred years, the oldest in baseball, overflowing with history.  Maybe it’s players like David Ortiz, the mentor to end all mentors, who I like to think would’ve done his best to bring Tony C back from the brink the same way he healed us after the Marathon Bombing.  Maybe it’s how everything changes but is somehow always the same at Fenway.  Or maybe it’s none of those things, and I’m simply another insane member of Red Sox Nation.

All I know is that there is a feeling when you walk onto Yawkey Way, down into the concourse, and up the ramp to your seats.  In that moment when you emerge from the tunnel and see the big green field gleaming in the sunlight, there is possibility in a world where so many things seem impossible.  In this safe haven, this time capsule, the world is far away, and there is just a game.  A game with nine or more innings still to be played.  There are great moments, home runs, stolen bases, epic catches that haven’t been made yet.  There is a chance for a new player to become a legend.  There’s a chance for another championship – no one celebrates a World Series championship like Boston.  All of those things wait for you at Fenway Park, and you get to be a part of the magic.  I am awed and humbled by it every time.

You don’t have to pinpoint a moment in time when you know that you will love something forever.

– Gabrielle

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