Right before spring training starts, the questions we’ve raised in the offseason taper off, and spring training battles slowly start to take shape. Major media outlets are trying to field any lagging fan questions, players without homes scramble for a job, or continue to pout and lament over their perceived value.
One of the things I tend to do around this time of year is always go back to some of the reasons why I’ve worn this team like a red badge of courage for so long. In my short 31 years, I never suffered though the ultimate let down from the Impossible Dream, I never got to cheer the most famous fly ball ever to just stay fair, or got to give Bucky Dent a very special middle name.
Thankfully for me, big moments in Red Sox history didn’t pass me by, or wait very long to get a chance to pull me in. I cheered for Hendu, and lamented through 7 year old tears my disappointment in Gedman, Schrialdi, and the Steamer.
In 2004, I felt betrayed when Nomar sat on the bench, looking disinterested and lost. I remember watching Derek Jeter and even Pokey Reese give up their bodies in a memorable matchup at Yankee Stadium that ultimately signaled the end of screaming NOMAAAAAH! from my seats. I watched Tek punk A-Rod, and Mueller save the team from what could have been a crushing defeat, yet suddenly become the season’s turning point. Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS showed me the ugliest side of devotion to a team. Fans walked out of Fenway by the 6th inning, like zombies without the urge to feed; I even spotted a pair of fans toss their hats away, fueled by sadness and probably the fact the park ran out of beer (or at least told us that). I lost a full week of sleep, and probably a promotion at work because David Ortiz wouldn’t let me give up.
While 2004 was the zenith and the deifning moment of what it was to be a Red Sox fan, one random memory still sticks out in my mind.
In 1999, I finally entered a very prestigious group known as “Red Sox Season Ticket Holders”. While my bleacher assignments have shifted into right field 10 years later, I started way out in centerfield, watching Pedro Martinez single-handedly carry team filled with Mark Portugals and Jose Offermans.
On May 12th, I went to the Sox vs Mariners game instead of my late software design class. Pedro Martinez completely dominated the Mariners; Pedro struck out 15 Mariners, including the Hall-Of-Fame version of Ken Griffey Jr three times.
It was that game that first got me truly fascinated with the real nuances of baseball: the things we may not all have learned in little league and high school. Whenever I’m pouring over mountains of Pitch FX data, trying to figure out what’s going on, I always remember that day, because now when I think about that performance, I really know why Pedro was such an unbelievable talent, and why i really feel lucky that I got to witness what he could do in person as many times as I have.
Every spring, this is when I start to get really excited. Even with all the ups, downs, stomach punches, and random hugs from strangers on Beacon Street when they finally won, I wouldn’t trade this fanbase for any other. And now, I get to share my experiences, analysis, and rampant, sometimes completely and unabashedly biased fandom with all of Firebrand’s readers.
Have you had a big Red Sox experience that reminded you why you love the game as much as we all do? Share it with us, as every spring, we hope to add another to the list.