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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

my memories of baseball home opener as a kid

Even though it has been more than twenty years since my last opening day at Fenway Park, the memories are still fairly vivid of the day. I was a “paper boy” who sold a local paper as a kid from the age of eleven through the age of thirteen and I had the chance every year that I was a paper boy to sell newspapers in Kenmore Square on opening day.

Even though I wasn’t a big fan of baseball, I actually liked the experience due to the fact I was able to play hooky from school with my parent’s permission and actually got rewarded for it by putting a few dollars in my pocket and getting free tickets along the third baseline each year. It was an energizing experience on multiple reasons.

To begin with it was among the first situations I had to deal with large crowds with out my parents watching over me like hawks, even though my father was actually one of the people in charge of the paper boys which were not all children, as a matter of fact most of them were adults and I was one of the few kids that the paper allowed to be there since my father would be there to keep an eye on me somewhat.

For an eleven year old to have a relative free run of an area that stretched about half a city block working the crowd of baseball fans long before anyone proclaimed the fans “red sox nation” it was mesmerizing yet electric. It was all of the Red Sox fans and their families who were on planned days off or were playing hooky from work and school to show their support for the ultimate underdogs on the home opener.

After a couple hours of selling newspapers amongst a sea of Red Sox Jersey’s and baseball gloves that looked like it was a family heirloom that had been passed down through generations of hard core Red Sox fans, I was able to do what few other eleven year olds have been able to do and that is walk into the game as exhilarated as all of the other people there but not having paid for a ticket and essentially got paid to be there to watch the home team in action.

Everyone who lives in a city with a baseball franchise that has hard core fans on their first outing to their home teams opening day is lost in all of the traditions that the fans have in and around the ballpark. The very first time a fan is there you are indoctrinated into a culture all its own for which you learn to appreciate as you come to understand the team and the teams past. Even that cannot hide what goes on after everyone has found their seats and got situated for the game.

Of all of the traditions that happen on opening day that first timers have the most trouble is the tradition that the fans yell at their favorite players when they fail to get on base or fail to make that catch that looked like it was right to him as if the players could really hear them through a sea of thirty five thousand voices, then on the next at bat acting as if the last at bat was a warm up while spilling his beer all over himself of the person in front of him as he gets up yell, especially since almost everyone around you is doing it.

All of the other traditions are easy to get use to due to the traditions being more like a team event that every fan young and old participates in, this would include the Wave, the fans in the bleachers keeping track of the strikes using the large red letter K’s on the back wall of the bleachers and all of the little things that go on along the dugouts especially the fans trying to hang over the dugout roofs for autographs or to heckle the opposing team.

All in all the indoctrination of a first time home opener coupled with being paid to play hooky to be indoctrinated is truly a memorable experience that few kids get to do no matter which franchise you favor it will be something that someone can tell their kids and their grandkids.

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