More than a visit to Fenway Park
Warm red sunlight washed through a gap in concrete that widened as I mounted Fenway Park’s third base steps for the first time. Black against this tsunami of light, shimmering seats stretched in a circle around home plate out to Pesky’s Pole, the Boston ballpark’s right field foul marker.
On the other side of the groomed diamond, the Green Monster rose out of left field grass. A roar of 37,000 fans hit my 10-year-old ears.
It was a dream come true.
“Do you want a Fenway Frank?” Uncle Pat’s question disrupted the moment.
“Isn’t that too expensive?” my automatic reply came.
“Nah. I’ve got this. Anyone else?” he said, turning to my two brothers, Jonathan, and Joshua.
We stood at the top steps overlooking the bright field as Uncle Pat went for hot dogs.
Baseball. I lived for all of it.
Grass stains; sweaty hats; sunburned cheeks; soggy sunflower seed shells; dirty scraped hands; rich leather gloves under mattresses (to break them in); and the crack of a curveball against wood was my childhood theme.
But in this obsession a disparity arose.
My seven brothers and I were homeschooled in a small weathered duplex in Northampton, an affluent and artistic community in Western Massachusetts. Five of us were crammed into one bedroom.
To feed his hungry brood, my father toiled long hours at a nearby printing shop for $13 an hour. Mom, who stayed home to teach, stretched his earnings at thrift stores and expired-food markets. Our staple was peanut butter sandwiches and a lot of powdered milk. We ate well when friends dropped off overflowing orange grocery bags from the Survival Center.
Baseball was an escape.
More than an activity, it was a chance to disconnect from home life and interact with others my age. But on traveling teams and summer tournaments, teammates came from middle or upper-class homes and brought a snooty attitude with them. They didn’t have a clue.
“He doesn’t even have enough for milk money,” a teammate laughed once at practice, referring to an acquaintance at school. I stayed quiet on the bench, ashamed; silently crying later in the outfield.
I chased fly balls extra hard that day.
“Hey, you there?” Uncle Pat waved a hand in front of my face, with a comical grin, holding a hot dog. Jonathan and Josh were stepping down the grandstands to our seats.
“It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? I remember the first time I came here,” he said.
Yeah. It was awesome. He didn’t know how awesome.