New SoxSpace: What The 2013 Boston Red Sox Meant To Me
I sat there until the lights went out.
A year before, I had flown to Texas to watch the birth of the 2011 Red Sox, traveled to Fenway Park for 40-some odd games during the regular season, and then flew to Baltimore to watch the season come crashing down around me. A year later, there I was, sitting in Fenway Park for the final home game of the 2012 season, watching as the Red Sox let fans walk around the bases to show their appreciation for sticking it out after such an abysmal year. I didn’t partake in the opportunity to walk on the field. I’m sure it was a joyous moment for some of the fans who got to do it, but there was nothing joyous about what I was feeling that night.
It was depressing enough to know that baseball season was over, but I just sat there and pondered where this Red Sox team would go from here. How do we rebound from a 69-win season? I sat there until the lights went out, and security finally had to ask me to exit the ballpark.
That offseason, the Red Sox made some additions that, to me, ensured that at least they would have a team worth watching for 162 games. But I don’t think anyone looked at that team at the start of spring training and said, “World Series or bust”, unless they were being sarcastic. No offense to them, but there were just too many question marks.
Can Jon Lester rebound from the worst season of his career? How will John Lackey pitch coming back from Tommy John surgery? How will a 37-year-old David Ortiz coming back from an Achilles tendon injury perform? Who is the closer? Will Mike Napoli’s hip be an issue? Can Shane Victorino put together a season that’s worth anything close to $13 million? Which Jacoby Ellsbury are we going to get, the 2011 version, the 2012 version, or somewhere in between? Why are we paying Stephen Drew over $9 million when we already have a strong defensive shortstop who can’t hit? Is Clay Buchholz the Cy Young candidate he was in 2010, or the fourth starter he was in 2012?
Had this team never had the season that they had, 2013 still would have been special for me. For the first time as a baseball writer, I took in Opening Day at Fenway Park, perched high above home plate in the press box. It was one of my proudest accomplishments, but I never really got to ask those aforementioned questions about this team, because a week later they would all seem irrelevant.
April 15, 2013. Everyone will remember where they were that day. I’m only 24. My parents’ generation always talks about where they were when President Kennedy was shot. I remember where I was on September 11, but I was too young to really understand what was going on. This was the day, for my generation, where time stood still. When I first heard the news, my heart sank. All of our hearts sank. We all knew people who were down there. We all knew someone who was running in the Boston Marathon that day, had ran in it before, who was a spectator that day or had been in the past. Are my loved ones safe? Was anybody hurt? Who could have done something like this? Why would anybody do something like this?
It didn’t matter if we knew any of the victims personally. The people of Boston took this cowardly attack very personally. If you attack one of us, you attack all of us. And the courageous acts of all of the first responders reflected that notion. These were not uniformed members of the military who were trained for what to do in a situation like this. These were your everyday inhabitants of the city of Boston, who, instead of running for their own safety, ran towards the blast areas to aid the victims just moments after. These were people who had just ran an entire marathon, and kept on running to the hospitals to donate blood. These were not decisions, these were instincts that showed the true heart and character that the city of Boston embodies.
When Fenway Park opened its gates for the first time since the tragedy, I was there. I had no fear of gathering in a large crowd so soon after what had happened. I felt that I needed to be there. I remember driving down Storrow Drive when the song “Coming Home” came on the radio. The lyrics, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home. Tell the world that I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday,” hit me really hard, because Boston is my home, and Fenway Park was where I belonged during a time like that.
During the pregame ceremony, which honored the victims, the first responders and all of the law enforcement who brought both of the suspects to justice, the NESN cameras focused on me in the crowd for a good five seconds or so. It may not seem like a lot, but five seconds is a long time when you’re just panning the crowd. I was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Believe in Boston” in the Boston Marathon colors. I was standing on my feet and clapping for the police officers being honored on the field, while behind my sunglasses were tears. The t-shirt that I was wearing was one that I helped design. All of the proceeds from the t-shirt went to The One Fund, and Sully’s Brand was able to donate more than $50,000 from t-shirt sales.
The Red Sox were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, when Daniel Nava connected for a three-run home run to take a lead that they would not relinquish. “Boston, this is for you!” was the call by NESN’s Don Orsillo. It was Boston’s seventh consecutive victory, but the victory on the field paled in comparison to the victory for the entire city, coming together in the aftermath of a tragedy to show those responsible that you did not shake us, and you certainly did not break us. We are here, and we are Boston Strong.
I remember a few weeks later, walking to Fenway Park from where I parked my car. While crossing the street, a gentleman beeped his horn and yelled out the window, “Hey! Get out of the street, you [expletive]!” And as I looked down to notice that I was, indeed, in a crosswalk with the safe to cross sign shining bright on the other side of the street, I smiled. I smiled because I knew that Boston was back to normal.
As the months went on, sports radio continued to doubt this team, because that’s what they do. But I believe that the true fans of this Red Sox team knew that they were a team of destiny. When they clinched the American League East, I remember being overjoyed and excited for postseason baseball in Boston for the first time since 2009. But I also remember thinking, “This is what’s supposed to happen. This team was destined to be here.”
While some were just waiting for that moment when the Red Sox were going to fold, the rest of us were just enjoying the amazing ride that was the 2013 Red Sox season. In my eight seasons of covering the team, and my twenty-four years of being a fan, I have never seen a team that had so much heart, so much fight and so much resiliency. Even the most pessimistic Red Sox fans couldn’t shut off their televisions if the team was trailing in the ninth. They instilled a confidence in all of us that no matter what the situation was, there was no such thing as an insurmountable lead, no opposing pitcher too tough, and no opposing team who proved to have a will to win that exceeded that of the Red Sox’s.
Through the month of October, the Red Sox turned every doubter outside the city of Boston into a believer. No one could ever take away the accomplishments of the 2004 and 2007 World Series championship teams here in Boston, but they didn’t have to go through David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer twice, Adam Wainwright twice and Michael Wacha. If, and when, Scherzer takes home the honor later this offseason, the Red Sox can say that they defeated a Cy Young Award-winner four times in one postseason, and that’s not counting Wainwright, who was the National League wins leader, and a runner-up for the award in 2010, and Sanchez, who had the lowest ERA in the American League this year.
When the Red Sox were a win away from winning the World Series, and had the chance to do it at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years, I knew that I had to be there. I didn’t care how I got there. I just knew that I had to be there, and I never would have forgiven myself if I wasn’t somewhere inside Fenway Park for the final out that would crown the 2013 Boston Red Sox as champions of the baseball world.
I was one of the lucky ones. I ended up with two standing room tickets, thanks to the great relationship that I’ve had with the team since I was just eighteen. The tickets were waiting for me at will call, which didn’t open until 5:30pm. I was standing in front of the gate at 4pm so that I could be the first to get my tickets and get a good spot to stand. After a while, it seemed a little silly to be standing there that early, since a line didn’t really start to form until about ten past five, but I didn’t care. Better safe than sorry.
I got my two tickets and ran up to the State Street Pavilion standing room area, while my poor mother, a lifelong Red Sox fan, did her best to keep up. We were the first ones there. I don’t know what it was, but I just knew that tonight was the night. I had been on NECN all week doing TV spots, first predicting the Red Sox winning the World Series in six games, and then that very same morning, basically guaranteeing a victory in Game 6. I don’t know what possessed me to be so confident about it, but somebody up there must’ve been feeding me lines to make me look smart.
By the seventh inning, fans were no longer paying attention to the score, which was essentially frozen at 6-1. Instead, we were counting outs. When the Red Sox were one out away, I stood on the ledge that standing room fans use to park their hotdogs and beer, and held onto a rafter above my head to take a cell phone video. It was another strange, but fortunate, coincidence that the only cell phone video that I took of Matt Carpenter’s seven-pitch at-bat against Koji Uehara was the final swinging-strike that ended the World Series.
I screamed at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I hopped down and hugged my mom so hard that I’m convinced that I cracked one of her ribs. It was just a feeling of pure elation and joy. I was so happy that I even hugged a guy that, during the second inning, I almost got in a fist fight with because he stole my spot when I went to the bathroom and refused to give it up.
It was the celebration of winning a World Series, but more importantly, it was the celebration of an entire city. It was the celebration of a city that had endured so much heartache as strangers, but came together to heal as one big family. It was the celebration of a team that gave this city something to smile about when nobody thought that they could. And above all, it was a celebration of a team that gave the city of Boston something to believe in once again.
I watched that team celebrate from the State Street Pavilion seats, until my mom suggested that we went down to field level. As we headed down closer to the party, she probably thought that I was going to stop somewhere around the dugout in hopes of catching a glimpse of the World Series trophy or one of the players. Nope.
I kept on walking past the crowd that remained, and climbed the stairs to my season ticket seat in Section 10 that I’ve called home since I was nine years old. I needed to see all that was going on in that ballpark, and soak in every moment from the only view that I’ve ever known. It was then, and only then, that I started to get emotional. For the second time that season, tears streamed down my face. But this time, they were happy tears. It was a moment that I never thought I would get to see, and a moment that I will never forget for as long as I live.
I feel bad for people who aren’t passionate about something, because they will never get to feel the emotions that I felt that night. It’s something that, hopefully, I’ll get to tell my kids about some day. I am so thankful to the Red Sox for giving me the opportunity to have been there, and to have shared such an amazing moment with one of the most important people in my life.
And I sat there until the lights went out.