Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game...

Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don't care if I ever get back. Let me root, root, root for the RED SOX!! If they don't win it's a shame. For it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game! PLAY BALL!!

Yes, folks. I just nerded out right there. But I can barely contain my excitement! Maybe I should start from the beginning. I was born and bred in Red Sox nation. I went to college in Boston, a short walk from Fenway Park. In fact, I could see Fenway from my freshman year dorm room and spent many college nights visiting the bars surrounding the park, scooting down Landsdowne in my stilettos, basking in the bright ballpark lights with friends whose names I barely remember. In theory, I've always rooted for the Boston teams, but never followed baseball much, and never bothered to go to a Red Sox game during my Boston years. To be honest, during my first two years at college they weren't very good. It wasn't until my junior year that the Sox picked up their momentum. They got good. Really good. That year, they came back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees to win the ALCS and then went on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years!

I remember those playoffs like they were yesterday. I watched all the games. For the first time in my life, I genuinely cared. A little late maybe, and if I wasn't from RI, I could have easily been called a bandwagon fan. I think I was always meant to be a Red Sox fan, I just never felt that excitement before, never realized how much fun it could be. But when the Sox beat the Yankees, I joined the festivities in Kenmore Square. It was insanity! The following week, we were back in Kenmore Square celebrating their WORLD SERIES WIN! You can maybe understand why now, after all these years, and after falling in love with a team that I was born to love, for better or worse, finally having the opportunity to attend a game was a pretty big deal :)

Last weekend, it finally happened. My first Red Sox game! My first trip INSIDE Fenway Park. The Sox were playing the Minnesota Twins, and the forecast was clear... until a couple days before when suddenly rain threatened our perfect day. I packed my bag prepared for anything, and included a towel and umbrella, as rain was imminent. When we arrived in Boston, the skies were blue, but it didn't last long. We managed to pillage some of the food stands before the weather took a turn for the worse. Since I write a food blog and not a sports blog, I guess discussing what I ate wouldn't be such a bad idea ;-)

A Fenway Frank is an obvious choice. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Have a Fenway Frank. It legitimately was better than a regular hot dog. At least better than the ones I've had. It was plump and juicy, and probably tasted even better because it was a FENWAY FRANK and I was at Fenway Park and life was good :) It cost $5. As expected, everything costs more at a major league ballpark. The bottled waters were $3.75 and beers ranged from $8 to $8.50. I also got some fries. Not half bad. They were fluffy on the inside and piping hot. Not soggy at all. Those were $4.50. Grand total for my Fenway Frank and fries: $9.50. The most expensive hot dog and fries of my life, I think.

A couple innings later, I headed back into the concourse for more food. This time, I opted for a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. It smelled so nice and smoky, it was hard to resist. For $9 you get a soft bun piled high with juicy pulled pork, lots of pickles and coleslaw. I added more BBQ sauce from one of the condiment stands and headed back to my seat. I must say, the pulled pork sandwich is probably the messiest option, definitely not easy to eat on your lap, and even with multiple applications of hand sanitizer, eventually I had to suck it up and go wash my hands. It was crazy juicy though, which is why it was so messy. The juices soaked into the bun. This contests with my eating-a-falafal-sandwich-on-the-NYC-subway experience as my messiest-food-to-eat-on-your-lap. At least this time I had a plate to catch all the juices and renegade coleslaw, haha.

It was the top of the 3rd. Before I had even started digesting my latest ballpark food find, the rain started. It sprinkled at first. But soon it was coming down harder, and along with thunder and lightning, a rain delay was in the cards. A 2-hour-and-7-minute one for that matter. It was insane. Torrential downpours. Thunderstorm. The concourse reminded me of a sardine can awash in blue and red. Plastic cups filled with expensive cheap beer filled fans' hands. There was nothing to do but wait. And eat. And drink. And wait. After what felt like an eternity, good news. Pitchers were sent back into the bullpen, and the grounds crew was starting to gather onto the field to roll up the tarp. I watched on, the rain now trickling instead of pouring. It was exciting, the rain delay was over and the game would be back on in a matter of moments.

After hours of waiting, the game started up again and I could devote all my attention to the events on the field. The game was going great and I was loving the whole experience. Chanting "Let's Go Red Sox!", participating in the wave several times, taunting the lone Yankees fan sitting in our section (who goes to a Red Sox-Twins game sporting a Yankees jacket? You're just asking for it!), singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch and "Sweet Caroline" during the middle of the 8th inning, just like I had waited years to do. The Sox were in the lead and the skies were clear (for the time being). By this point I searched out some nachos, hoping to add one more notch to my belt for Fenway food, but most of the food stands were closed already since the game was nearing an end and none of the spots open served nachos. Blasphemy! I'd also love to point out that the park stopped serving alcohol after the rain delay (they would usually serve it till the 7th inning), so after we returned to our seats (we were in one of the Right Field Boxes in case you care, not far from Pesky's Pole) we noticed that instead of carrying trays filled with plastic cups of beer, now the fans were returning to their seats with giant Dunkin Donuts coffees! It was such a funny turn of events... I guess it was time to sober up ;-)

In the bottom of the 8th, the Red Sox took their 2-0 lead even further, slapping two more runs onto the scoreboard with a double by Ellsbury. This game was in the bag. Rain started lightly sprinkling again as closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon headed to the pitcher's mound. "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys was screaming over the loudspeakers, and I was so proud to be a Red Sox fan, and a former Bostonian. The game ended with a shutout, and I excitedly high-fived and cheered with complete strangers, all united in the home team win. Even though we suffered though a pretty irritating rain delay, in the end we were the victors and had a wonderful time cheering on our boys in red and white.

Also noteworthy, I felt like the most popular person at the game at times, believe it or not. I can't even tell you the number of times I was stopped by other fans to tell me how much they loved my shirt (and even to take pictures of it), and heard comments like, "I do too!!" Not only was my shirt funny and *cough* true, but it was the same colors as most of the Red Sox shirts and hats that everyone else was wearing, so I fit right in, the perfect non-Red Sox shirt to wear at a Red Sox game. I also had a woman chase me down to ask me where I got my Red Sox hat (it's dark blue with a pink "B"). I guess they didn't sell that exact one anywhere at the park, and I had to let her down and tell her I bought it somewhere else (Target to be exact!). In any case, I felt pretty special!

I never did get my nachos, but on the way out of the park, people were giving away lots of snacks on the street, including pita chips and hummus! It's like they knew I needed a snack :) All in all, we had a wonderful time at the game, and I can't wait to return! Good luck, Red Sox! I hope you have a great season!!


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